Accepted Paper:

Muddling the Museum: Performance, intervention and being de-colonial  


Alice Procter (UCL)

Paper short abstract:

What does it mean to be disrupt a museum? This paper examines artist-led curatorial practices that engage with contested histories of empire, seeking new approaches to memory and legacies of trauma through ritual, intervention and performance.

Paper long abstract:

In the shadow of Fred Wilson's Mining The Museum, what does it mean to intervene in a museum collection? We may no longer consider them neutral, but their status as post- or de-colonised is still questionable. A museum collection is as much about what it chooses to neglect as what it contains. In exploring these negative spaces, the silenced voices and absent bodies they suggest, we can begin to work through legacies of violence and attempt to restore the lost to their rightful place. Artists who work with and against the narratives enshrined by selective collecting can contest the space simply by being present. By feeling rage, confronting loss, and treating the museum as a place for mourning and commemoration, audiences can be encouraged to examine their own histories and identities. Instead of mining, the artist can muddle, unsettling and interrupting what is taken for granted.

This paper considers the work of artists who enter the museum by institutional invitation, alongside those who enter in protest, to explore what it is to be collected. Drawing on the work of Rosanna Raymond and SaVAge K'lub, it examines the potential of an artist-led curatorial practice in developing a post-colonial museology, and the necessity of blurring the bounds of art gallery and anthropology museum. How can the act of being there disturb and expand myths of national identity in the wake of imperial violence, and what are the implications for our anthropological futures?

Panel P109
Curating with an Anthropological Approach