Yesterday Stuart Candy, on his Skeptical Futuryst Blog, drew readers’ attention to a dark, elaborate scenario that played out on UK television last year. “Derren Brown: Apocalypse” is a two-part special that Candy describes as “Orson Welles’ 1938 Radio Play War of the Worlds meets The Truman Show.” Brown leads the hapless “star” of the special to believe that the end of the world has arrived–faking Armageddon to make one complacent and somewhat self-centered individual more appreciative of his real life.
I’ve long thought that some of the most compelling stories flirt with us, being transparently ambiguous about their orientation as truth or fiction. This approach to audience courtship made me lose my heart to the Museum of Jurassic Technology. And I wish I could see this new installation by Mark Dion at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which creates in loving detail the office of a vanished curator (who never existed).
Nina observes that museums too often settle for broad generalizations rather than delving into specific narratives. I think another thing that weakens many museum narratives is a ponderous insistence on authoritative truth. I find stories more compelling (and engaging) when they invite me to use my critical facilities, attention and maybe some research skills to challenge the narrative they present. I like a exhibit that I can disagree with, question, or even suspect is an outright fake. Sometimes uncertainty keeps life, dating, and museums more interesting.