Probably the most interesting course I took while in university was Rodrigo Ampuero’s workshop, in 2007. The subject of that semester was as divorced from the core of my degree (graphic design) as my classes got, and I say that in a good way. During that semester we learned about museography: the design of exhibition spaces. It was a fascinating enough experience that I sought to do an internship related to that, but it fell through in the end.

The whole class took a trip to the Museo Naval y Marítimo de Valparaíso (Valparaíso Sea and Navy Museum), where we took a look at their exhibitions, and were asked to conceptualize one new exhibition space. Two classmates, Natalia and Juan Pablo, and I, spent all those months butting heads and working overnight. I’m pretty sure we were on the brink of hating eachother. I’ve never been very good at teamwork, but the three of us ended up quite invested in our work and in our chosen subject, so we had long arguments. While most of our classmates’ proposals were about showing the underwater fauna of Chile, we arrived at the idea of displaying the ugly side; that is, all the damage that us humans are causing the underwater fauna and flora, with statistics and shocking images.

It all started with a brainstorming session we had one day, after we got our butts kicked in class. We were taking a very conservative approach, so we were asked to be bold and completely rethink our stance. During this brainstorm we came up with four radical concepts, two of which I sketched: the ones we called ‘clinical’ and ‘house of horrors’.

Ojo al pez concept sketch

These concepts were radical enough that we were told to tone them down. They focused on aesthetics, particularly of the gut-wrenching kind. We wanted to deliver a horrific message, and we wanted to do it through the senses first.

What we finally arrived at was much a more sobered-down take on the subject. We narrowed down our message to: over exploitation of marine resources, contamination, climate changes, introduction of species to non-native habitats, and human invasion of natural habitats. We conceptualized five ‘corridors’ in the exhibition, for each of these subjects, each of which would follow the same structure: a ‘cover’, which was a 4 meters-tall projection; a question on its feet, inviting the visitor to discover what it’s about; an introduction to the subject, in the form of data related directly to Chile and its inhabitants, anchoring the to-be-discussed issues in the local reality; raising the problem, showing some basic data in visual form; further developing the problem, with more data and shocking pictures; wrapping up the problem, by portraying the ways in which the problem in the seas affects the human race; and finally, an ‘epilogue’ in the form of a video that exhibits some initiatives to tackle the problem. Of course, this wasn’t necessarily going to be the way the visitor would want to go about the exhibition, so we still accomodated free exploration, by jumping from corridor to corridor.

Above, a crudely realized tour of the space of the exhibition, which we called Ojo al pez (Eye on the fish). Here is the poster board that was exhibited at the end of the semester (in Spanish), detailing much of the ideas, and our approach. Also, here are some more preliminary sketches, and one poster with data for the exhibition.