Teylers Museum Haarlem

March 1994, the exhibition “Nr. 36 Passage de Venus, expedition hollandaise pour Réunion” was held in the Teylers Museum in Haarlem, a museum generally known as a natural history museum. The museum is typified by a certain intimacy: to view the exhibits, curtains must be pushed aside and later closed again. The intimacy is reflected in the details of the captions, which capture the spirit of the museum staff who have examined, described, and categorised the exhibits.

Passage de Venus, Expedition Hollandaise pour Réunion

The exhibition Nr. 36 Passage de Venus, imitates and exaggerates this love of detail and the intimate character of the museum. The hierarchy, however, is reversed: the material is not sought in the museum’s prize exhibits such as the electrostatic generator and the drawings of the old masters but rather in the very smallest of objects: in the captions and the cards. The museum has been transformed into a décor.

Ne cherchez pas à distinguer le vrai du faux

The reader is further perplexed by the texts which are too poetic, too intimate and sometimes too shocking to be ‘real’ museum cards, thereby questioning the objectivity and reliability of the authentic cards. In highlighting the linguistic aspect, a thread is woven through the museum. Where today museum cards strive towards a certain objectivity, entirely obscuring the identity of the author, this exhibition underlines the strictly personal and emotional character of a message.