Click the star to add/remove an item to/from your individual schedule.
You need to be logged in to avail of this functionality.

Accepted Paper:

Curating a Museum of Others: contemporary art and curatorial resistance in the Pitt Rivers Museum's Australian art displays  
Christopher Morton (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

In 2017 the Pitt Rivers Museum changed its Australian art displays to include photo artworks by Bidjara artist Christian Thompson. The paper explores the curatorial tensions in the redisplay and the wider issues it raises about integrating contemporary indigenous art in the anthropology museum.

Paper long abstract:

In June 2017 the Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM) changed a case in its Australian art displays to include three large photo artworks by Bidjara artist Christian Thompson. From 2009 the display had contained copies of ground art designs painted around 1901 by the anthropologist Sir Walter Baldwin Spencer (1860-1929), along with information about Spencer and other expedition members. The PRM had been working closely with Thompson since 2011, and had curated an exhibition of his work, made in response to its historic photograph collections, in 2012. So when in 2016 he launched a new series of artworks titled Museum of Others that directly referenced the PRM's history, several of its key historical figures, and issues of representation, colonization, and power, I felt that we had to acquire this work for the collection, exhibit it, and undertake detailed audience evaluation about the redisplay. However, replacing Spencer's paintings with Thompson's artwork was a highly controversial process within the PRM, with some colleagues resistant to the proposal on the grounds that contemporary art wasn't right for the displays. Was artwork that looked Aboriginal (albeit copies made by a European anthropologist) more acceptable in an ethnographic museum than contemporary art than didn't look "Aboriginal" despite having been made by an indigenous person? Such questions lie at the heart of the grey zone between contemporary art and ethnography for historic institutions such as the PRM, and raise discomforting questions about where indigeneity is located - in an artist's identity or in artistic style?

Panel P041
A Grey Zone: Sites of Contemporary Art and Anthropology
  Session 1 Saturday 2 June, 2018, -