The Cabinet Project is a new collaborative and distributed exhibition conceived as part of the ArtSci Salon series. In addition to foster dialogues between art and science, the exhibition is intended to make the often overlooked creativity and the humanity existing inside science laboratories visible, thus reversing popular assumptions about science as inaccessible and intimidating, and reconnecting the university with the – social, architectural, natural – fabric of the city.
Despite being in full sight, many cabinets and showcases at universities and scientific institutions lie empty or underutilized. Located at the entrance of science departments, in proximity of laboratories, or in busy areas of transition, some contain outdated posters, or dusty scientific objects that have been forgotten there for years. Others lie empty, like old furniture on the curb after a move, waiting for a casual taker. The ceaseless flow of bodies walking past these cabinets – some running to meetings, some checking their schedule, some immersed in their thoughts – rarely pay attention to them.
The neglect of these cabinets seems to confirm well-established ideas about science institutions as inward facing, recluse spaces, where secrecy reigns, and communication with the outside world is either underappreciated or prohibited. But at a closer look, this is not the case: those seemingly ignored and neglected cabinets have fascinating and compelling stories that speak to their mobility, their past uses and their owners; laboratories in their proximity burst of excitement and boredom, frustration and euphoria, their machineries being constantly fabricated, rethought, dismantled or replaced; in these laboratories, individuals, objects and instruments come to life in complicated ways. These objects, human relations and stories are forming complex ecologies that are very much alive.
The Cabinet Project intends to make these ecologies evident, by exploring and bringing to life historical, anecdotal and imagined stories evoked by scientific objects, their surrounding space and the individuals that inhabit it. In turn, these stories, connections and dialogues will reveal how the scientific institution and the city are far from separate, but engage in intimate relations and exchanges, sharing spaces, history and people.
I consider the interaction leading to the exhibition and the exhibition itself part of the same artistic process, because it provides evidence of the human and material ecologies animating scientific institutions and their relations with the world. By travelling to the spaces where the objects exhibited are used, and produced, rather than to a gallery, the audience will get a vivid sense of these ecologies, and will be urged to reconnect science and its instruments to the outside world and the city.