An American Trilogy
Jens Hoffmann's presentation will revolve around a recent series of exhibition based on iconic American novels of which Huckleberry Finn (2010) was the final installment in a trilogy of displays that were looking at American history through the lens of literature. The series began in 2008 with The Wizard of Oz, an exploration of L. Frank Baum's book, and continued in 2009 with Moby-Dick, inspired by Herman Melville's famous novel. What connects these books, in addition to their crucial place in the American literary canon and the larger public consciousness, are a number of elements that have a particular relationship to the making of exhibitions. All three describe a journey, be it Dorothy's trip along the yellow brick road, Ishmael's expedition on the Pacific Ocean, or Huck's voyage down the Mississippi River. These journeys can be understood as (and indeed were intended by their authors to function as) metaphors for intellectual and emotional growth. Each exhibition was designed as a journey, with a clear point of departure, in which visitors could potentially assume the role of one of the primary characters and wander through the land of Oz, sail the waves of the sea, or raft down America's mightiest waterway.