(P033)
Curating futures
Location SOAS Senate House - S320
Date and Start Time 02 Jun, 2018 at 16:30
Sessions 1

Convenor

  • Charlotte Joy (Goldsmiths, University of London) email

Mail All Convenors

Short abstract

This panel will investigate some of the tensions concerning how futures are curated and the different ways in which people and things are prioritised within and outside the museum.

Long abstract

This panel will investigate some of the tensions concerning how futures are curated and the different ways in which people and things are prioritised within and outside the museum. The current backdrop of violence against protected sites, the on-going trade in illicit antiques and the perpetuation of unsettling museum practices have all led heritage professionals to pay increasing attention to how people voice their dignity through their relationship to the material world. Whilst this is not new, we are particularly interested in current disconnections between assumptions about the material needs of a future humanity and curatorial practices (in their broadest sense). Are these disconnections more visible in an increasingly digitised world? How does the recent mass movement of people change our curation of the future? Are there spaces (digital and real) where the ethical considerations of future people and future things come in to conflict?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Indigenous dissonance: letting artifacts speak

Author: Jack Davy (University of East Anglia) email

Short abstract

Museum objects are stripped of context, representatives of distant peoples for modern audiences. But these objects often contain obscured information, that gives profound insights into the people who made them. This paper examines how curators can help objects speak for themselves.

Long abstract

In the museum space, curators manipulate objects for their own narratives, adjusting and selecting artifacts for display to better enable modern audiences to relate to specific aspects or elements of the societies or themes that are important to the curator.

This is not why objects are created. They are made for specific purposes in specific place and times. Among them are many objects which do not fit into European functionalist seriations of objects; a polished axe is not an axe, a miniature boat is not a boat, and even those things which appear to be as they are, are often layered in purposes and meanings which are opaque and conflicting to modern curatorial practice.

This paper considers how curators can look at objects anew, wrapping them once more in the context from which they emerge to, once again, tell the indigenous narratives they were created to carry; rather than those the curator wishes to impose. It will, using case studies from diverse contexts, explore how curators can enable objects to speak for themselves, instead of imposing meaning on objects to fit curatorial narratives, in order to let them tell their own stories.

By combining this approach with developments in the presentation of oral histories and digital reconstructions in the museum space, the paper will present a vision of how curatorial best practice can develop as it engages with the struggle of marrying modern audiences and ancient voices.

The Dignity of Heritage.

Author: Michael Rowlands (University College, London) email

Short abstract

I will focus on those heritage movements that defy dehumanising and the inhumane in contemporary presents. Dignity promotes an egaliatraian ethos where a populist zeal counters exploitation of the right to identify and preserve a s ense of permanence.

Long abstract

I will focus on those heritage movements that defy dehumanising and the inhumane in contemporary presents. Relevant to the original 'right to a traditional way of life', heritage is egalitarian where a populist zeal for its protection counters the top down interventionism of state protection . For example ,there is a more global trend at present towards creating a new norm for the protection of cultural heritage in conditions of armed conflict. Museums and other cultural spaces are frequently cited as opportunities for inter cultural dialogue promoting civic responses to protecting heritage. Such initiatives tend to come from those theorising new forms of governance , encouraging the diversification of the Responsibility to Protect (Rp2) doctrine. I take the view that without starting with a more basic understanding of what people wish to protect in given circumstances of maintaining a human way of life, challenging the inhumane, such interventions are guided more by the goals of global collaboration and creating universal norms. What role museums or other cultural spaces may have here is an empirical matter based on what exists in given circumstances,by establishing their local relevance .

Naturalising the Dingo

Author: Jessyca Hutchens (University of Oxford) email

Short abstract

This paper will discuss a methodology being developed to bring an early colonial image, George Stubb’s Portrait of a Large Dog (1772), into contact with subsequent narratives and histories that followed in the wake of this first European attempt to know, categorise, and represent the Australian Dingo.

Long abstract

Tentative, uncertain, the animal in George Stubb’s Portrait of a Large Dog (1772) appears somewhat set adrift, in a familiar yet dreamlike landscape. One of the first images made by a European of an Australian animal, the painting is considered both a hallmark of zoological discovery and yet profoundly inaccurate – supposedly an Australian Dingo, the creature appears closer to a European fox. Yet the image is arguably also prescient – of a fraught, contested and unstable identity for the Dingo that would follow in the wake of British invasion. This talk will discuss a methodology for bringing this object into contact with aspects of the Dingos lived stories in Australia, as refracted through different disciplines and knowledge systems, Indigenous and settler. In contrast to recent discourse on ‘enlivening’ collections, how might we consider this painting as having always existed in tension with the dynamic lives of its subject.

The Role of the Encyclopedic Museum: Re-evaluating the Ancient Near Eastern Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Author: Mariam Farooqi (New York University) email

Short abstract

Art history needs to be brought into modern discourse, not orientalist discourse. To effectively do this, encyclopedic museums need to embrace their stated claim of being safeguards of global culture, and take necessary steps to eliminate outdated 'othering' of non-Western cultures from galleries.

Long abstract

History is often regarded through the lens of our own experiences, and our own selves. What is real became less relevant than what is real to us? Art museums, as a completely Western construct, have tended to regard history in the same manner. As museums grew and evolved, art and material culture from non-Western traditions was given more space at art museums, yet palpable divides between 'us and them' or 'high art and low art' remain. This paper examines the effectiveness of the encyclopedic museum in the context of the Ancient Near Eastern Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The museum's primary function is ideological. It is meant to impress upon those who use or pass through it, society's most revered beliefs and values. The beliefs and values that a museum communicates affect not only the aesthetic experience, but also the visitor's social experience. Since their creation, universal survey museums have gone to great lengths to acquire art from around the world. They are now faced with the challenge to present this art to their visitors in a way that is aesthetically appealing, intellectually engaging, and faithful to the original narratives of each culture of the world. Art history needs to be brought into modern discourse, not orientalist discourse. In order to effectively do this, encyclopedic museums need to fully embrace their stated claim of being safeguards of global culture, and take necessary steps to eliminate outdated 'othering' of non-Western cultures from within their galleries.

Curating the Future Looking into the Past: A Museum in Twenty-First Century Argentina

Author: Florencia Malbran (New York University Buenos Aires) email

Short abstract

The Ingeniero White Harbor Museum, in Argentina, confronts a euro-centric worldview and embraces a politics of difference crucial to citizenship now. Through a groundbreaking curatorial approach, this museum encourages spectators to deconstruct objects, inviting a revision of the idea of progress.

Long abstract

This paper studies the exhibitions of the Museo del Puerto de Ingeniero White in Argentina (Ingeniero White Harbor Museum), an institution directed by renowned poet Sergio Raimondi. I argue that Raimondi's groundbreaking curatorial practice allows us to confront an entrenched euro-centric worldview and embrace a politics of difference crucial to citizenship today, as I analyze how this museum encourages spectators to deconstruct objects, favoring powerful historical reflections, and making the past present. Indeed, the Harbor Museum is a new model of museum, one which affirms its role in the construction of a democracy. Its collections assign significance to objects rooted in the history of the city in which it is located, Ingeniero White, which port was central to the intense export dynamism that impacted on the social and cultural fabric of the country. Argentina, in the period from its independence in 1916 to the First World War, became one of the main exporters of primary products and so one of the fastest growing countries in the world. The museum's exhibitions portray to the country's role as an exporter of agricultural products—a role linked first to trade with Britain and then, towards the turn of the millennium, to the operations of multinational corporations. Rather than simply preserving the past, the museum invites visitors to revise the idea of "progress," showing how change in markets translates into new cultural patterns, sometimes negative. Artifacts and objects are displayed in such a way so as to test categories like "nation," "community," and "identity."

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.