Greater Together - Curating A Tale of Today: Nate Young and Mika Horibuchi

Oct 7, 2020 / by Kekeli Sumah / Direhaus Museum

Curator, Kekeli Sumah and artist, Mika Horibuchi contemplating placement of Horibuchi’s artwork in Addie’s Room at The Richard H. Driehaus Museum, 2020.

The ideal exhibition is greater than the sum of its parts. Such exhibitions become bigger than the catalogue, the program, the wall didactics—even bigger than the art or the artists themselves. These exhibitions activate our curiosity by asking us to dig deeper, even as they become a touchstone for future generations. In this way, great exhibitions become signposts for an ever-increasing audience of academics, artists, and museum goers.

With this goal as my horizon, my work as a curatorial fellow is to curate an exhibition that keeps our audience engaged, while staying true to the artists’ vision.

A Tale of Today: Nate Young and Mika Horibuchi is an exhibition that brings conversations on art and architecture to the forefront. By centering the interior furnishings and details of the Nickerson Mansion, Nate Young and Mika Horibuchi offer us another way to think about exhibitions within the context of house museums.

In some ways, curating this museum exhibition is a dream come true, since it grew out of my architectural thesis work at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. While at the School, I became interested in house museums as a building typology, because they housed “scripts” that flickered—in one moment we think of them as lavish homes yet, in the next moment they suddenly become museum exhibition spaces. Our sense and experience of house museums like The Richard H. Driehaus Museum are special, because in them we experience these ‘flickering’ scripts.

My use of the word “script” within an architectural context is an appropriation coined by French sociologist Madeleine Akrich who used it as a metaphor to describe the “messages” inscribed in objects by designers to users.

I believe house museums are at the intersection of three unique scripts, “houseness,” “museumness,” and most importantly “homeness.” I also believe that house museums have a unique opportunity to make interesting and original kinds of exhibitions. A Tale of Today: Nate Young and Mika Horibuchi, is my attempt to learn and look at the existing “script” of the Nickerson Mansion in order to curate something new and interesting.

Even with this dream goal, I knew I could not do this alone. In putting together this exhibition, I feel especially honored to have Nate Young and Mika Horibuchi as artists who are willing and able to make work that meets the context. It’s been a rewarding experience getting to work with these talented Chicago-based artists, who bring their thoughtful and creative perspectives to what the possibilities of display and exhibition can look like at The Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

Mika Horibuchi explores the building as a museum, by investigating the collecting practices of the Nickerson family. Interested in how narratives are framed and how objects are displayed, she uses painting techniques to draw our attention to how the mansion communicates “homeness” as well as “museumness.” On the other hand, Nate Young uses the space to present the narrative of his great-grandfather, who journeyed from the South during the Great Migration. In thinking about his exhibition, Young had this to say, “I think about the space the body occupies. I want the viewer to be aware of the body in relationship to historical context.”

In these unprecedented times, where we oscillate between a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and a growing movement for racial justice, the body has become increasingly important. Can a museum become a home if nobody is present? Although, the uncertainty of these times may have caused us to practice physical distancing, it cannot extinguish the human spirit or our desire for social connection.

So, as we adjust our exhibition timelines, rethink and reschedule our programs to meet the City’s requirements, we are excited to finally presentA Tale of Today: Nate Young and Mika Horibuchi to you—our audience—so that together we can animate the museum as a home through beauty and solidarity.