Re-thinking the museum as a contemporary space – part I

28 Jun

Re-thinking the museum as a contemporary space – part I

Contrary to the stagnated and fixated social imagery surrounding the traditional museum, the contemporary museum setting can in fact be a transformative and dynamic environment, particularly if it is enacted as such through the social agency of minority communities. This autonomy operates most effectively in conjunction with an audience perception which too, moves beyond tradition and towards that of plurality and community participation, thus providing a view into a minority community museum setting as a contemporary space; where the museum’s artefacts, traditional objects and art are uniquely juxtaposed with contemporary art and narratives.

With cultural difference continuing to be “one of the most explosive geopolitical issues” of our time, cultural philosopher Nikos Papastergiadis argues that in everyday life, people are constantly dealing with this difference and that “artists are in their various ways exploring its complexity.” (2005:39) According to Hohmi Bhabha, cultural difference in fact pushes against the monophonic national identity and “problematizes the division of past and present, tradition and modernity, at the level of cultural representation and its authoritative address…it undermines our sense of the homogenizing effects of cultural symbols and icons, by questioning our sense of the authority of cultural synthesis in general.” (2006, 155)

It is precisely within the fractured realm of such complexities that the contemporary museum aims to sensitively explore the nuances of identity. To understand the potentiality of such a contemporary space, one must also view the challenges of museum practice through the deficiencies of the traditional museum model, but of which Michel Foucault described as “being proper to the nineteenth century” (1967, 7); its Eurocentric and colonial roots, the power-knowledge imbalance and the representation of the ‘other’ as the observable ‘uncivilised’ peoples. (Bennett 1995, Fyfe. ed. Macdonald 2006)

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