“The Mobile Museum,” Habitat Contemporary Gallery

Museum collections have long been considered important for the preservation of cultural and scientific knowledge. Carefully curated, the objects held by these institutions are elevated to a special level of significance by virtue of inclusion. Their legitimacy is rarely questioned. Personal collections are rarely held in the same esteem. But mere “things,” those important and less important bridges to people and places, form an equally important archival record of meaning for their owners.

Enter the Mobile Museum. A collaborative partnership that has been evolving since 2017, the Mobile Museum invites reflection on the nature of objects — their identity, history, and meaning in the context of place. Using personal possessions and narrative to amplify human connection is at the heart of this project. The Kansas City iteration of the museum unfolds as an artist residency at Habitat Contemporary Gallery through Jan. 7.

Put simply, the project involves the exchange, or merely the release, of an object by participants who also share a story associated with that object. This could be a personal memento, a souvenir, or other item that holds significance for the bearer. During planned collection events, visitors hand over a variety of things both purchased and found: chotskies, toys, glass, bits of nature, jewelry even. The artists document the contribution and its story. A continually changing assortment of objects are displayed on a table, along with a card referencing the story attributed to each item. Upon exchange, the objects undergo a perceptive transformation as possession shifts to a new owner.

The Mobile Museum emerged from the partnership of artists Aleksandra Walaszek and Samuel Stevens.

Walaszek and Stevens met while attending an artist residency at the Baltic Gallery of Contemporary Art in Ustka, Poland. The pair reconnected in California in 2017, and the conceptual foundation for the project began to take shape during their subsequent travels through Mexico. Returning to Poland later that year, they formalized the Mobile Museum project in Wroclaw over a period of several months. The inaugural exhibition featured some 100 objects presented at Dizajn BWA Wroclaw Gallery.

In this latest iteration Walaszek and Stevens collected items over several sessions in Kansas City, during events at Habitat Contemporary gallery and the Kansas City Artist Coalition. When the collection and exchange of items concludes, the artists will utilize the Habitat Contemporary gallery space to develop a site for public engagement with the collection.

“The Mobile Museum” continues at Habitat Contemporary Gallery, 2012 Baltimore Ave., through Jan. 7; closed Dec. 31. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday – Saturday. For more information, 816.308.3628 or habitatcontemporary.com.

C.J. Charbonneau

C.J. Charbonneau (she/her) is a writer, curator, artist, and advocate based in Kansas City. She holds a master’s degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and is the co-director/co-curator of plug, an independent artist-run space.

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