New "name cloud" exhibit of Paul Bowles and literary & artistic friends drawn to Tangier
Can't stop curating?
Well, I do have to stop - we're getting on the ferry to Spain Friday morning! Friends have joked that I'll still be at it tomorrow morning, mounting yet more exhibits while my wife waits in the car. Not true; I stopped this afternoon.
At the French Consulate's 14 Juillet reception after we arrived in 2010, a Moroccan friend introduced me as the "nouveau conservateur" in what people in Tangier only knew then as the "Musée de l'Ancienne Légation Américaine." I joked that I was no conservative... I was a Democrat!
But the point is that conservateur or curator was the way people thought of this position in this city. I thought that was a bit limiting - how about our research library? Our seminars? The Arabic literacy program? Etc. I also didn't like that ancienne thing - made it sound like we were closed.
Over the past four years, I've waged a branding campaign, using our award-winning logo on business cards and throughout the building, and our no-longer-new appelation of TALIM to convey the message that though we have a museum, we are much more than a museum. Now, it's quite common to see references to "TALIM" in the press, and it always pleases me to hear us described as an institut.
That said, it has really been fun, that curating stuff. In 2010, when we mounted what has become one of our biggest attractions, the Paul Bowles Wing, replete with musical soundtrack and illustrated story of Bowles' treks through Morocco for the Library of Congress, someone asked me who had curated the exhibit. I replied, well, that I had. That was the first time someone described what I had done as curation. It felt pretty good.
A couple of years later, when we put on Dorothy Weems' one-woman show of her mother's stories during the Legation's wartime years, the actress referred to me as her "producer," just for organizing the venue and helping her with rehearsals. Not to worry: I'm not about to embark on a Hollywood career at this stage. But "producing" what was a very memorable recreation of a special period in the place where it all happened was a joy. I learned later that it was called, in academic circles, "site-specific performance." And how.
It's been quite a whirl, these past four years, and Marie Hélène (who has worked tirelessly, helping me in everything I do, plus teaching French in our women's literacy program and helping shepherd the other volunteers) and I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.
So it's not adieu, but only إلـى الـلـقـاء.