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Caitlin Cass's history of haplessness at Karpeles Manuscript Museum

Museum of Failure

At the Museum of Failure, an exhibition chronicling the “iconic fits of human striving,” artist and archivist Caitlin Cass has assembled a display of artworks and artifacts to “honor, ridicule and commiserate” seminal figures of purported “great moments in western civilization.” Like a tongue that won’t quite firmly fix in cheek, Cass’s charming serial discourse proceeds to beg the viewer’s indulgence as she expounds on historic personages and events that incongruously shaped the modern world. Like an interesting lecture, her clever cartoon stories of how “the best and the brightest have failed” muse dourly over the lives of Nietzsche, Rorschach, and Nabokov, as well as the Alexandria library fire that propelled civilization into the Dark Ages. Here, too, a viewer may witness the filmed penultimate moment before a would-be aviator plunges off the Eiffel Tower. Proffering a less than impartial history, Cass invites the viewer to engage her with individual responses to her maze-like chronology writing in the “ink of the abyss” on three-by-five cards as the “grace of prophetic irony” is met not with hope but “meh.”

Cass’s “maestoso doloroso” is on view until April 30 at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum.

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