Ulises Figueroa begins his process in April 2015. Consistent with topics in his previous works, such as science, taxonomy, and education, Figueroa invites María Teresa Ferriz, as a collaborator since she is a neighbour who set up a pick-up and drop-off library outside her home and who was a librarian for many years at the Natural History Museum.
They devote six months to design a strategy to promote reading and awareness of natural sciences among children and young people in the Santa María la Ribera borough. The project aims at implementing a “scientific” cabinet about the animal kingdom, integrating numerous visual narratives. To link this project with the community, the cabinet implements reading and learning dynamics for children in grammar schools in the area. This takes place at UNAM’s Geology Museum, emblematic institution in the barrio, between February and March 2016. During that time, approximately 800 children from nearby grammar schools participate in the didactic activities. To encourage the children’s imagination and creativity, playful techniques are applied to introduce their young audience to scientific knowledge through reading.
Summary of the proposalta
“The project was developed based on conversations with María Teresa Ferriz, a resident in Santa María La Ribera, who established and, with her daughter’s help, manages a pick-up and-drop-off library located on the street in front of their home. The project functions as a book exchange center, where anyone can take and/or donate books. During my conversations with María Teresa, we discussed the possibility of a joint collaboration where we could pursue our own interests, I as an artist and she as a professional librarian and storyteller firmly committed to promote reading in children. Fortunately, we found a common interest in the animal kingdom. She had been a librarian at the Natural History Museum in Chapultepec, and I have used animals as a frequent subject matter in my work. Therefore, a natural result of our discussions was the idea of creating an animal cabinet that may promote science and art among children, by means of reading.
Since then, while increasing the children’s book collection, we have discussed different design options for the cabinet that is centered on the animal kingdom as a topic, either from a scientific or from a literary perspective. Since the beginning, María Teresa has expressed her wish to organize readings with groups of children in that space, similar to the storytelling dynamics. Therefore, the project has three reading levels: literary, scientific, and artistic. I will be responsible for the artistic aspect by building the animal cabinet. To that end, I have obtained stuffed animals, skeletons, and insects on loan from the Natural History Museum, the Geology Museum, and from a taxidermist. Building on that collection, I will be able to increase the number of animals with my own plastic or rubber animals, and bones. Even more importantly, I will make a sculpture model representing the animal kingdom using beeswax, lard, and animal dyes and pigments.
The possible exhibition of this cabinet at UNAM’s Geology Museum will contribute to increasing the number of pieces to be exhibited, with the added advantage of having help from the museum’s trainees. I am basing the cabinet’s design on a baroque concept, that is, on a certain degree of saturation, and the use of chiaroscuro, and of theatrical elements, so that the essence of this style may permeate the whole composition. The cycle of life (birth, reproduction, and death) will generate the discursive line of the composition. My aim is to instigate a powerful, contrasting, playful, and dramatic sense at the same time, where the traversing of fantastic animals in children’s literature and the unfolding of the animal in the human being may dislocate the formal logic found in a science museum to advance a divergent—not opposing—path to increase the interpretative and sensitivity possibilities in the discourse.”
Aiming to define the co-participative frameworks for his project, Ulises Figueroa begins his research at the Santa María La Ribera barrio. Walking through the barrio Ulises Figueroa finds a pickup and drop-off book box, promoted by María Teresa Ferriz, resident at the barrio. Based on their shared interests, Ulises Figueroa y María Teresa Ferriz hold working sessions to define the project to be developed, to achieve the promotion of science and children’s reading as the outreach platform to impact the community. In addition to the visual display of the cabinet as an artistic project, they design a structure to allow a didactic interaction centered on the animal kingdom and its evolution. They propose multiple activities involving the dissemination of scientific knowledge on animals, their evolution, and specificities of certain species. These efforts are all supported by a scientific bibliography, children’s literature, as well as objects and images. The visual impact of the cabinet will play a central roll in the process to motivate children and to generate creative and fictional actions that may strengthen the knowledge platform.
Ulises Figueroa shares his first proposal of didactic dynamics and the use of the space to build the animal world cabinet. The artist analyzes the different collections to select the elements to be used in the cabinet. As a centerpiece, he proposes an animal evolution tree made in beeswax.
31.- After two months of the animal cabinet exhibit and numerous exchanges, the project at the Geology Museum comes to an end. During that period, around 800 children from local elementary schools participated in the didactic activities. Imagination and creativity were encouraged in the participants by means of a playful approach to scientific knowledge and through reading.