Accepted Paper:

The Ethnographic Exhibition as Playful Productiveness: Engaging Arts, Crafts and 'Folk' in East Asian Object Collections  

Author:

Martin Petersen (National Museum of Denmark)

Paper short abstract:

Historically, the East Asian ethnographic collections in the National Museum of Denmark have predominantly been constituted through 'arts and craft' and 'Folk' focuses. What repertoires of action are enabled hereby? How can the museum engage with source communities and diasporic groups around these?

Paper long abstract:

Colonial relations, large-scale scientific expeditions and anthropological fieldworks are central underpinnings to the formation of the ethnographic museum. Within this framework, the East Asian collections in the National Museum of Denmark are also significantly constituted through 'arts and craft' and 'Folk' focuses by non-professional collectors. What repertoires of action are enabled hereby? How can the museum engage with source communities and diasporic groups around these historical collections today?

Approaching these questions, the paper surveys recent exhibiting practices in the National Museum of Denmark: first, an ethnographic fieldwork on craftsmen in South Korean shamanism which conceptualized historical, ethnographic objects as 'collecting devices'. The ethnographic object and its biography was here employed as a means to initiate, conduct and collect dialogues - here concretely identifying productive creativity arising from craftsmen's encounters with historical objects. In this manner the ethnographic exhibition was divested of its fixed spatial connotations inside a Western metropolitan, postcolonial museum.

Secondly, in a temporary exhibition centred on Japanese hand-painted photographs from the 1890s, these hyper-aestheticized dream world portrayals of 'Folk types' was employed to enable visitors to playfully and productively immerse in the spectacle of Japanese dreamscapes as photographic objects themselves.

Reflecting on these exhibiting practices within the broader context of the Western metropolitan, post-colonial museum with all its actors, the paper argues that the East Asian object collections enable certain repertoires of action in which source communities and diasporic groups are addressed neither as privileged actors nor as represented subjects but as playfully and creatively productive actors.

Panel P032
Museum Affordances: Collections, Interventions, Exhibitions