I felt academic fulfillment for the first time in a couple years this past week.
For an anthropology class called Introduction to Material and Visual Culture, I was given an assignment to visit a museum. There, I was to observe and analyze how space and context shape the narrative presented to the viewer. I spent a little over six hours in the Victoria & Albert Museum over the span of two days just sketching, watching, and exploring the beautiful space. In particular, I analysed the Jameel Prize 5 exhibit, housed right near the Cromwell Street entrance. The exhibit (which I highly recommend!) features the works of eight Jameel Prize nominees that focus on the cross section of contemporary art and Islamic traditions. The Jameel Prize is awarded every two years for this specific type of design and is organized by the V&A in collaboration with Art Jameel. Guided by the premises of the assignment, I actually thoroughly explored and dissected an exhibit, rather than an article or paper about one, for the first time. From examining the aesthetic of the space to the texts on the walls, analyzing the predominance of artist voice in the presented narrative (something that isn’t too common in most museums), and just people-watching, I was able to truly soak in the exhibit. Kind of like a good sponge cake and tea.
All in all, it was really invigorating to complete this assignment. From visiting the museum (even taking the tube at peak hour and being squashed like a measly bug) to sitting down at my desk and organizing my thoughts, I actively enjoyed learning from this academic assignment. I had almost believed that that was no longer possible, and it’s great to be proven wrong. For me, it’s prettyeasy to get stuck in major-focused (economics) work and a state of mind purely set on absorbing as much information as possible in the shortest amount of time. In the process, I slowly lose the desire to gain any knowledge from academic assignments as I associate it only with struggling and consuming time. Studying abroad has put me in a different mindset from the get-go; my brain automatically matches studying abroad with words like “short-term”, “growing as a person,” “trying more new things,” etc. This consequently makes me more ok with focusing on classes outside of economics, like my anthropology module. My academic brain has been (more or less) reset, and I hope I’m able to carry this improved mindset of enjoying the learning process back to Northwestern later.