Shapes of Knowledge, curated by Hannah Mathews, Monash University Museum of Art, February 9th - April 13th, 2019

Project: Objects of Longing (2018-2019), with Dandenong Primary School

Acknowledgements: Objects of Longing has been generously supported by Gandel Philanthropy, Creative Learning Partnerships – A Victorian Government Initiative and Dandenong Primary School.

 Objects of Longing began in Term 3 2018 when grade 3 and 4 students went behind-the-scenes at MUMA to learn about what museums collect and why. Following these visits, artist-led workshops at the school encouraged the students to research, develop and communicate their ideas about collecting during playtime. Working from a temporary Museum of Anticipation set up by Maxwell in the school’s yard, students took on tasks mimicking museum and collecting processes, donning different t-shirts to become researchers, documenters, museum attendants and collection managers. For instance, ‘Search’ t-shirt wearers chose from a range of recording devices to document students playing as a form of research, while ‘Test’ t-shirt wearers (derived from the word pro-test-or) used found objects for play and as narrative devices. 

Out of this process, a collection of materials was formed consisting of items individually tagged and catalogued by students in the Museum of Anticipation and later categorised into three groups: Role Play, Agriculture and Medieval (initially titled Weapons). Grouped by the students according to each object’s use during play, these student collections, or ‘Objects of Longing’, are among the creative outcomes of Maxwell’s time with the students and staff at Dandenong Primary School that can be seen in Shapes of Knowledge. In the gallery, they are displayed alongside artworks from the Monash University Collection that were first encountered by the students on their visit to MUMA, and which informed various stages of their research. In Term 4 2018, students participated in a series of workshops to develop a theatre piece based on the activities and outcomes of their work in Term 3. In collaboration with artists Daniel Jenatsch (sound), Georgina Criddle (writer) and Rebecca Jensen (choreographer), Maxwell and the students devised Objects are a Limbic System Embrace Their Logic, a thirty minute live work featuring costumes and scenography produced in collaboration with family members. Performed in MUMA’s Ian Potter Sculpture Court in February 2019, the play captures the students’ imagination and creativity in a delicate and magical configuration of dialogue, movement, costumes and props, and celebrates Maxwell’s belief in the idea that the ‘environment is the third teacher’. 

Other elements in Maxwell’s display include videos of student interviews, documentation of student research and footage taken from the first performance of the theatre play. Costumes used in the play can also be seen in the gallery, along with a series of didactic panels that reference the work of Stephen Willats, a British artist also interested in pedagogy and the everyday as a site of investigation.

Public program: Performance of Objects are a Limbic System Embrace Their Logic

Saturday 23 February, 2pm. Ian Potter Sculpture Court, MUMA | Monash University Museum of Art