Curating carnival as archive of slavery: activating debris
Adiva Lawrence (University of Hull)
Paper short abstract:
Apprehending the legacies of slavery as irrevocable haunting past, this research proposes to examine the potential in the "debris" inherent to the Archive, its excess, in order to think about the their actualisation in curating as strategies of resistance
Paper long abstract:
My doctoral research seeks to understand how visual art is used to build narratives about the history of slavery in museum exhibitions. In order to study these questions, I adopt an approach that combines an analysis of the politics of art and curating, with an understanding of its theoretical, aesthetic and poetic strategies. Drawing on Achille Mbembe's remarks on the "debris" as the excess that archival regulations cannot neutralize, I wish to explore the ways in which curatorial projects can reconfigure the material remnants of transatlantic slavery in ways productive of resistance potential. As other archival practices, curating, despite being a process of ordering, always produces excess. I will be taking as reference point the exhibition "En MAS: Carnival and Performance Art from the Caribbean", curated by Claire Tancons and Krista Thompson in from 2014 to 2018. Claire Tancons explains that she needed to engage in a conversation about carnival beyond the ethnographic, and defend a genealogy grounded in the history of slavery. The project appeared to seek to record scenes of carnival in an unruly way, reflecting the unruly practice of Caribbean carnival. Museums acted solely a second hand showcase for the remnants of experience. By seeking to answer the question "Why should Carnival enter the museum?", I wish to propose that the lived experiences of the haunting past of slavery that "excesses" the exhibitionary and curatorial orders can be assembled to threaten their stability.
Shadows of the present: generative ambivalences across art, heritage, and materiality