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December 3, 2018

When Museums Fit in Boxes: Mariana Castillo Deball and “This Is Not a Bomb”

The plastic molds made for the portable museums were modeled after the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library.

The plastic molds made for the portable museums were modeled after the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library.

Jad Dahshan / The Chicago Maroon

On November 28, two “portable museums” were delivered to the Oriental Institute (OI) and the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC), with a third to be donated to the Chicago Cultural Center on December 8. Named “This Is Not a Bomb” (TINB), the nearly identical miniature museums are the culmination of a quarter-long project between the 2018 Tinker Visiting Professor Mariana Castillo Deball and the students taking her autumn course, “The Audience, the Archaeologist, and the Art Historian.” 

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Among other things, the T.I.N.B. museums contain "Egyptian arms, Teotihuacan masks, Phoenician figurines, American brains, [and] Jimmy and Bimmy from the land of Double Dragon".

Jad Dahshan / The Chicago Maroon

The studio course is built upon the techniques used to study archeological objects, as well as researchers’ interpretations thereof. As an artist, Deball’s practice draws heavily on research in archaeology, anthropology, and ethnography, and the course was designed with a similar framework. The portable museum presented to the Oriental Institute was cast in plaster, so that only by its destruction may its meanings be discerned. The T.I.N.B. museums contain replicas of real, imaginary, and parafictional artifacts created by the students, such as “Egyptian arms, Teotihuacan masks…and the possessions of an extraterrestrial Chicagoan,” according to the group’s signed donation letters to the aforementioned organizations. The museums themselves are modeled after the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library. 

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The museums also contained miniatures of "the ugliest nuclear chain reaction monument ever made" -Henry Moore's "Nuclear Energy", behind Mansuetto.

Jad Dahshan / The Chicago Maroon

Describing themselves as a “random confederation of unlike-minded vagrants,” the group explains in the letters that the “honor” of the T.I.N.B. museums will last “until the end of the world,” and that the above institutions are responsible for their protection. The gifts were well-received by OI Head Archivist Anne Flannery and SCRC Assistant University Archivist Eileen Ielmini. Throughout the quarter, Flannery had collaborated with Deball and her students, giving them access to the OI Museum’s archives to draw upon for their project.  

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Though identical to the other two, the portable museum donated to the Oriental Institute was cast in plaster, concealing its contents.

Jad Dahshan / The Chicago Maroon

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Pictured above: "the possessions of an extra-terrestrial Chicagoan" (Sun Ra).

Jad Dahshan / The Chicago Maroon

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Deball, TA and phD in Political Science Tania Islas, and students Fan Ge, Magdalena Glotzer, Maggie Hart, Elliette Oliver, and Alex Warminski transport a portable museum across campus.

Jad Dahshan / The Chicago Maroon

Mariana Castillo Deball: Petlacoatl is currently on display at Logan Center.

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