The Contemporary presents Only When It’s Dark Enough Can You See The Stars, a project with New York-based artist Abigail DeVille at the former Peale Museum located at 225 N. Holiday Street. Opened in 1814, the Peale Museum is the first building in the Western Hemisphere to be built and designed as a museum.
Only When It’s Dark Enough Can You See The Stars, a new body of work, including installations and performances, focuses on DeVille’s ongoing research of the Peale Museum’s building and the unruly nature of history. Founded as an arts and natural history museum, the original vision for the Peale Museum, by its founder Rembrandt Peale, was to create an institution that was simultaneously entertaining and scholarly, and to be used as an instrument of democracy. The building operated as such until 1829, going on to become many firsts including Baltimore’s first City Hall and the location of several of Maryland’s first public schools for African-American children.
Much of the building’s timeline had to be unearthed for this project, rediscovering facets of its past that had fallen through the cracks of time. In her work, DeVille’s investigations lead to the construction of narratives, environments, and experiences which reference histories that are often overlooked or forgotten. For this project, DeVille postures the Peale Museum’s site as a theoretical passage through spacetime, creating shortcuts for long journeys across history. Only When It’s Dark Enough Can You See The Stars contributes both original research and new perspectives on little-known narratives and lost years of the Peale Museum’s building, opening the door for conversations on education, legislation, cultural preservation, and art’s ability to challenge our notion of time and history.