From March 4 until June 18, the contemporary art exhibition Wampum World: An Art Installation by Renée Ridgway exhibits at the Albany Institute of History & Art in Albany, New York. This multimedia exhibition is an artist’s interpretation of the changing meaning of wampum from culture to culture and time period to time period. It combines video installations and the artist’s watercolors and collage works with objects that the artist has selected from the museum’s collection of Dutch colonial materials. No physical wampum is exhibited in this exhibition.
According to Netherlands artist Renée Ridgway, “Wampum World is about wampum, which is made from shell. Historically, it had manifold functions for Native Americans in various aspects of their societies and is still considered sacred today. In contrast, Dutch settlers, having recognized the value of wampum for Native Americans, used wampum in exchange with European goods in order to procure beaver pelts, as part of the seventeenth-century trade triangle ‘beaver, wampum, hoes.’ Metal coinage was not readily available in the New World, therefore wampum served as currency. Wampum World visually elucidates this historical exchange system and present day usages of wampum from various perspectives.”
The Wampum World transmedia platform augments the exhibition as a tool for interactive storytelling. It contains video clips with interviewees, photographs, and archival documents. Interviews are with people from various fields who share their knowledge about wampum. These interviews enable various personal anecdotes and stories to surface, whether based on oral histories, archival documents, or history books. When the visitor clicks on various tags of videos, texts, and images, a unique “wampum string” is created by beads that reflect each of the viewed pages of user history. Eventually the transmedia platform will showcase documentation from the exhibition and users will be able to contribute to the site.
Renée Ridgway is an artist, free-lance curator, writer and educator based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Since completing her studies in fine art at the Rhode Island School of Design, (BFA) and Piet Zwart Institute (MA), she has exhibited widely in the Netherlands and internationally (Manifesta8, P.S.1 MoMA Hotel New York, Centraal Museum Utrecht, Museum De Lakenhal, Gouda Museum, Conflux Festival), made numerous public presentations at various conferences and forums and taught at several universities in the Netherlands and abroad. As an artist Ridgway’s work incorporates a range of media in her installations: video, audio, texts, textile, drawings along with contributions and feedback from many of her collaborators.