The Waterloo community was invited to spend a day at the museum as the Knowledge Integration (KI) students hosted KIX — the annual Knowledge Integration Exhibition. A record 759 people, including current students, alumni, faculty and subject matter experts visited KIX between March 13 and 18.
“I think this week has been incredible, the strong quality of the exhibits and that we are able to do this in person again, bring in prospective students and connect with people across campus has been amazing,” said KI professor Rob Gorbet.
There were five exhibits in total, each connected to one of the seventeen United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“From the homey feel of the brain exhibit to the virtual reality immersion of Change Your Mind, KIX teleported us into all kinds of creative spaces,” said Romina Ghaisi, a fifth-year science and psychology student.
Leaving with “new knowledge, new perspectives and new inspiration” was the goal of the exhibits. Designed purposely to draw in viewers and challenge ideas, everything from main topics to sub-objectives, didactics, interactive activities, and aesthetics went through multiple iterations before the final museums were put together.
“There was a lot of design going on,” said Nyah Schafer, a KI student and one of the creators of the exhibit, Following the Money. Their focus was social media and machine learning. Visitors, or ‘Users,’ engaged with information about social media addiction and profit margins before reflecting on their own social media use.
Users got to ‘Become the Algorithm’ in a program created by the group, which uses a combination of analog and digital inputs as users influence two lines representing profit and wellbeing. The wellbeing of the viewer is impacted as they are shown different content as is the profit created and one is maximized at the expense of the other.
“Social media is marketed as a way to connect with people but in reality is a very easy way for companies to make money. I want people to realize that even though it is a fantastic way to connect, at the end of the day they are a business in a capitalist society trying to make money and that’s all,” Schafer explained.
Critical interaction with various forms of media was a theme present in several exhibits.
“Our main takeaway would be to become a better consumer of art and really appreciate the artist and all the creative intentions behind [the art]. As well, reflecting on what art is to [the viewers] and how it impacts them as well,” said KI student Lauren Rankin, who worked on Activism in Abstract.
Art in its multitude of forms — paintings, drawings, music, television, books and photographs — was curated in this exhibit to highlight how artists can push for justice, support causes, and raise awareness through their work.
The merging of art and activism, of expression and social change, was first presented to viewers through Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. His famous 1937 anti-war oil painting and also one that visitors would probably be most surprised to learn about.
“People have a hard time understanding abstract art when all the answers aren’t given to them. Our exhibit encourages people to find the answers that make sense for them,” said Hayden Chan, KI student and one of the creators of Activism in Abstract.
“How does this painting make you feel?” was one of the questions guests were asked about Guernica. The responses on the graffiti wall opposite the painting were varied but contained mainly negative emotions such as scared, strange, worried, and chaotic.
At the end of the exhibit visitors were invited to create their own art via making a sticker to add what they are passionate about to the eye-catching, ‘Sticking up for what you believe in’ wall. Themes of the stickers created included climate change, peace for Ukraine, transgender rights, respect, anti-racism, LGBTQIA+ rights, and mental health.
Good health and well-being, SDG 3, was one of the core SDGs for three exhibits.
In Keep Your Marbles, visitors stepped into a home to learn about brain health. “The idea behind all our design choices was really that the information we leave the user with would be actionable, we want them to feel inspired,” said KI student and one of the Keep Your Marbles designers, Maya Treitel.
In the kitchen, the focus was on antioxidants and testing out different combinations of food to learn about creating antioxidant rich meals. Off the kitchen was a home gym leading into a study space filled with green.
“We talk about how natural elements such as sunshine or nature in your work environment can help reduce stress and in turn improves memory and can help brain health,” Treitel said.
On the way out, guests took a quiz to receive a personalized brain health prescription.
The neighboring exhibit, Change Your Mind, also connected to SDG 3 through teaching guests about psychedelic drugs with the hope of breaking down the stigma surrounding psychedelics. Through virtual reality and interactive displays the ways in which supervised use of psychedelics can be beneficial to mental health were explored.
Mental and physical wellbeing were presented in a unique way as visitors were given the stage to test out their stand up comedy routines in What’s So Funny? The vibrant green walls of this exhibit welcomed people in to learn about how humor brings people together and strengthens relationships.
“Our exhibit topic really came about by chance. The topic of humor was brought up initially as a joke, but we realized that there was actually a lot to explore there that would make for a unique exhibit that no one had done before,” said KI student Erika Bruulsema who worked on creating the exhibit.
The fact that the idea for a museum about humor started as a joke is hilarious in itself.
“My favorite part of the exhibit is the TV that my group member Elias built,” Bruulsema shared. “We didn’t end up seeing the final product until right before KIX so there was a lot of anticipation for how it would turn out, but it worked exactly as planned and visitors really enjoyed playing around with it.”
The TV played five different clips from shows and movies, with guests seeing the evolution of humor throughout the decades by flipping the channel. Other forms of humor, such as memes, were analyzed for guests to discover the origin of these internet jokes — which usually involve several layers of context.
With a new appreciation for the value of humor, an understanding of activist art, knowledge about machine learning, psychedelics and brain health, visitors exited the museum with a new, multidimensional outlook and a question, “What’s next?”