Authenticity tales: art objects and history
(University of Coimbra, Portugal)
Paper short abstract:
Telling a story has been the other side of History since its beginnings, and in both (stories and history) some objects enact as reference material. Those objects might be presented in a museum-like environment or manoeuvred in performances; they can be acknowledged as art or validated by antiquity. In any of these scenarios Authenticity is deeply intertwine with what is being done and told. But do we grasp the subtle yet different notions of authenticity coming together from art history theory, heritage practices, the tourism sphere and the people who claim it for their identity status?
Paper long abstract:
This paper grew from the experience of working as a guide-interpreter in one of the major exhibitions of art objects of the 21st century so far: the version of "Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th centuries" presented in Lisbon in 2009 (conceived in 2007). As an art historian I was faced with an awkward situation, one where publics expected a certain story to be told, and not so much the story of each object. The offer being made (and eagerly consumed) where the one we might call "first globalization", in which the identities both of the Portuguese and the peoples they encountered were diluted by a sort of global imagination. The paradox ambushed us in the corners of perception. Objects as authentic signs of the encounters actually mean that we had impoverished them of any verbal ability other than the euphoric one. They are agents of today's perspective on what that moment had been (the prelude for our post-globalized condition), struggling to maintain their legitimacy as art and history at the same time they are exhibited in such an ideological charged atmosphere.
Material traces: questioning authenticity in cultural heritage