A Workshop on Making Deviled Eggs

Disremembering Reality!


Paris En Scène (2013)

The first time I was stupefied at what qualifies as a museum was when I visited the vomit-inducing Health Museum in Hyderabad and was surrounded by decomposed foetuses begging for formaldehyde. Two decades later, I read that the place was still running without power supply, stinking of sixty-year-old decomposed bodies and the artifacts were accumulating dust mounds and grime. It sounded like the perfect place to observe how bodies putrefy over time! Over the years, I have stretched my definition of a museum, but nothing has challenged my finer feelings as much as this Health Museum! I am inclined to think, the Living Dead museum in Pennsylvania is more happily dead.

In fact, the museums that I find positively mind-boggling these days, such as the International Spy Museum in DC, the Homeless Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Bad Art in Massachusetts, may never qualify as museums in Hyderabad. There is also the Museum of Toilets in Delhi that sounds irresistible.

I am happy to note that exhibitions in museums are progressively becoming dramatic art forms. They are as much about the exhibits on display as they are about artistic expression, storytelling, and immersion. Few days ago, I was in the Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec, where I travelled to La Belle Époque in Paris. The music played on the headphones, and the narration spontaneously changed depending on which boulevard I found myself in. I walked into playhouses and cafes, explored the circuses and theatres, visited les salons d’artistes, and climbed to the first level of the Eiffel tower to catch the view of the city during Les Expositions Universelles! The exhibition, Paris en Scène (1889-1914), has over 250 artifacts on display, from theatrical costumes to photographs and film clips, and posters and paintings, and sculptures, and artistic technology and automobiles. But, as I stopped to look at them, I disremembered that I was in a museum. I was window-shopping in a real city!

This brings me to my present rumination on what constitutes as a museum. In my view, the sole purpose of museums is to immortalize ‘ideas and objects’ (artifacts). Immortalizing is not just about collecting and preserving artifacts to eternity, but is about making them larger than life. This is done by weaving narratives around them, and by simulating and augmenting their reality in our world through presentation. In a museum, I see what I cannot see anywhere else; or I see what I see everywhere else in a way that I can only see in a museum! As it often happens when one interprets the world to induce awe and wonder, one either creates or uses an art form or an artistic tool!

The Ultimate Dinosaurs exhibit in The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto has some of the rarest dinosaurs and prehistoric animals from South America and Africa. When the dinosaurs are viewed through a tablet or phone, their bones suddenly appear covered with flesh and skin, and they move as if they are alive! The PaleoLab in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburg lets us see how dinosaur fossils are prepared for exhibit! One can also pretend to be a preparator and remove fossils from rocks, and clean and repair them using the hammers, chisels and brushes that scientists use.

Apart from the Paris exhibition, the Musée de la Civilisation also has a Game Story exhibition showcasing video games from the 1950s to our times organized by historical periods (some spanning two decades, and some five or six years). The exhibition feels no different from a video game parlor, except that I was time-travelling as I played games from different eras; and the variety of games and technology, and their advancements over time felt staggering.

This brings me to my question. Is a museum a museum if most of the exhibits on display are available for sale in regular stores? The Cartoon Art museum in San Francisco has a lovely collection of new and old comic books, arranged in different rooms by themes. The display resembles the 'Recommended by Staff' sections in bookstores. When I visited it a few weeks ago, the museum was celebrating the 75th anniversary of Superman. As I waded through the various eras and delighted in Superman’s many avatars over the seven decades, I also found myself quickly adding a lot of those books to my wishlist on Amazon. For the first time in my life, I could afford to buy museum artifacts and bring the exhibition home with me. The exhibition at the museum ended day before yesterday, but some part of it is on my bookshelf for my own private viewing pleasure.

Mostly Hit & Slightly Miss


Hit & Miss (2012)

This is not a self-contained story, as the channel will have us believe. It is a story that was unfortunately shelved! You can tell because its plot holes need filling. And the best way to fill plot holes is to narrate the story linearly (from beginning to end), instead of the narrative chosen by the makers (narrating the characters' life at present, and having us deduce the past). So here goes: 

Ryan is born into a family of wanderers and grows up in fairgrounds around the country. His early life is fraught with domestic violence, especially by his father and brother. His mother is both a victim of and silent witness to this abuse. The violence worsens as Ryan grapples with his gender identity.Over the years, he goes from boyhood to manhood as naturally as he is forced to, and briefly dates a woman and falls in love with her. 

But of course, this isn't natural, and he is ready to make the switch to being a woman. He leaves his girlfriend and becomes Mia. There are no official records of Mia's existence. This comes in handy in Mia's line of work as a contract assassin. Having grown up in a violent environment, Mia takes to her job like a chicken crossing the road, and uses a multifarious approach to her hits. She is an honest-to-goodness sociopath, in her element.

One day, quite out of the blue, she receives a letter from the woman she briefly dated, and learns that she is the father of a 11-year-old son! The woman then dies of cancer, and leaves Mia responsible of her son, and the son's three misfit half-siblings, aged sevenish to sixteen, in a rural farmhouse in Yorkshire. The children, although overwhelmed, don't want Mia in their lives, but she sticks on as she contemplates her role as their new mother!

Riley, the eldest daughter, fills her mom's shoes quite naturally, and takes care of the kids. She presumably ran the house while her mom was sick too; which means having an affair with John, her landowner, a grown man with a pregnant wife and a 11-year old son. It's a give-and-take relationship. He lets her family live in the house without rent, and she feels some misplaced affection, perhaps of the paternal-kind. It's dark. 
Riley remembers Ryan from when she was a kid and he used to live with her mom. But, she is not happy to have him back as Ryan or Mia or the new dad or mom, and makes it very apparent! In the mean time, Mia gets cosy with the rest of the family; has a fling with a neighbour who is confused about whether he wants to date a transgendered person or not; and is covertly her kickass-assasin self. Every once in a while Riley or her stepson make cruel jibes at her, and she runs away to her secret hideout and has a crying fit. Full life.

John, the landowner, isn't pleased with Mia's presence. Mia is oblivious is his affair with Riley, but generally thinks of him as a sleazebag and they exchange a few blows. John threatens to evacuate the family from the farm house, and puts the house up for sale. Needless to say, he is hesitant to sell it to Mia. Mia's boss comes to the rescue and buys the house for her, of course, with strings attached; although we will never know what because the series got shelved.

In the mean time, Riley becomes pregnant; John wants her to have an abortion; and when she refuses to do so, things get crazy; he almost kills her, and she most definitely kills him with Mia's gun! Riley, Mia and Mia's boss discard the body! There is an investigation pending, and a well-meaning but mentally handicapped uncle takes blame for the murder, and is put in jail, but this storyline never gets resolved because the series got shelved.   

In an unrelated incident, things go wrong with Mia's latest hit. As a result, her so far helpful boss suddenly turns against her and is about to kill her, when her son comes to her rescue. Things end abruptly, and we will never know what comes next because the series got shelved

There are other side plots, like Mia's relationship with her boyfriend, her relationship with her estranged family, her step son's business relationship with her boss, and the fate of the wrongly arrested uncle, that will never get resolved because the series got shelved.

ps: The unfinished story is still worth watching because everything about it so far is superlative. I could watch it many times, and therefore highly recommend it.