Thinking Research Practice with Museums: Translation, Curation, Collaboration
The co-development of research with public-facing organizations is an increasing feature of the HE environment, particularly in the fields of the humanities and social science. No longer only held to be important for developing vectors for impact and dissemination, collaborative engagement with arts-based initiatives and social-inclusion ventures is now recognized as enabling much stronger development of research enquiry, informing the objectives and the processes of enquiry from the very outset. This workshop is designed to offer an opportunity to exploree the consequences and opportunities that result from these developments, drawing on the impressive new exhibition at the French Migration Museum, the Palais de la Porte Dorée, entitled ‘Paris London Music Migrations (1962-1989)’ to offer postgraduates and early-career researchers, as well as the assembled faculty, the opportunity to reflect on what is at stake in different modes of researching with museums.
- 10.30am: meet at the Palais de la Porte Dorée (metro Porte Dorée) for investigative visit of the Paris London Music Migrations (1962-1989) exhibition
- 12-30: departure for ULIP
- 1-2pm: sandwich lunch and introduction to the second part
- 2-3pm: Professor Martin Evans (Sussex) on his work with the Palais Dorée
- 3-3.45pm: Dr Jenny Chamarette (QMUL) on (Re)building the Black archive in contemporary art
- 3.45-4.30: Dr Cecilia Muratori (QMUL) on Jacob Böhme (1575-1624) and Working with museums as a historian of philosophy
- 4.30-5pm: tea
- 5-6pm: Anna-Louise Milne (ULIP) on Plural Cultures, Plural Spaces: transnational research and local politics and wrap up discussion
- 6-7.30pm: drink and light buffet
- 8pm: Karina H Maynard DJ Set, charting the evolution of the London dance music scene in front of the Palais Dorée (until 10pm)
(Re)building the Black archive in contemporary art
The whiteness and colonial heritage of both the archive and the museum have come under significant scrutiny since the New Museology of the 1980s and 1990s began to untether assumptions about the democratising values of museums. While this ‘turn’ in museum studies has a recognised influence from discourses in critical theory, it is often the case that artists and activists have paved the way for rethinking the monumental structures of the museum and the archive. The values of who and what is preserved in the archive (and indeed the archives of museums), how the ideological and political tensions of preserved objects are acknowledged, and how those tensions then manifest in the operations of display and exhibition, have been explored extensively by artists such as Fred Wilson and Keith Piper, who are sometimes described as participating in a ‘second wave’ of Institutional Critique. In this loose paper, I discuss recent works by installation and multimedia artists Theaster Gates and Kader Attia, who, like the work of Fiona Tan and Rosalind Nashishibi, build upon their forbears, employing deep archival and epistemological enquiry to produce a kind of ‘third wave’ of Institutional Critique. Both Gates and Attia’s work incorporate the spatial dynamics of conceptual and installation art, with moving image installation and participatory arts practice, in order to rebuild an archive only ever present through its historical occlusions or distortions.
Jacob Böhme (1575-1624) is considered one of the most important German thinkers. Yet, he is also known for his challenging prose and difficult vocabulary, so that his philosophical writings are hardly read today, even in Germany. In 2017, the first exhibition devoted to Böhme’s philosophy opened at the Dresden State Art Collections (co-curated by Claudia Brink, Lucinda Martin and Cecilia Muratori), and welcomed around 30.000 visitors. The exhibition aimed at presenting Böhme’s philosophy in a clear and engaging way, but without sacrificing Böhme’s complexity. With this aim, we combined media installations with traditional text panels and with showcases presenting the main editions of Böhme’s works. We also selected paintings that highlighted Böhme’s broad and interdisciplinary reception (prominently, a series of illustrations by William Blake), and combined them with objects from Böhme’s time (such as an alchemical oven, to explain Böhme’s relationship to alchemy). In 2019-2020 three new exhibitions will be devoted to the transnational reception of Böhme: each of these will explore in particular Böhme’s lasting influence in the geographical areas where his ideas found the greatest resonance, namely the Netherlands, England and present-day Poland. In my presentation I will sketch the challenges of curating ‘philosophical exhibitions’, discuss the strategies we employ to explain and contextualise some of Böhme’s most complex ideas, and reflect on working with museums as a historian of philosophy.
Plural Cultures, Plural Spaces: transnational research and local politics
With reference to a 3-year programme of collaboration with the Paris-based Institut des cultures d’Islam (ICI) this discussion will chart the challenges of engaging with a controversial project subject to a relatively volatile political context. How does this environment transform the objectives of a research project? What lessons are to be learnt about methods of documentation and how did the changes in programming and positioning of the ICI over the duration of the project impact on the work undertaken? The discussion will briefly survey the evolution of the ICI, from the original impetus to address a shortfall in places of Muslim worship in the socially challenged area of Barbès/La Goutte d’Or to the creation of a relatively recognisable municipal development of a cultural centre with the particularity that it also houses a purpose-built mosque. This unique configuration was at the origin of the research project and has been the focus of the work so far published about this important development within the framework of Republican secular politics. Working with the ICI in a series of collaborative exchanges reshaped the sorts of questions we explored, however, and this presentation will offer the opportunity to assess what we gained in the process, and the obstacles we encountered. It will also consider the example of two specific exhibitions through which to assess the challenge of ‘translating’ the work of a centre such as towards more remote reception, thus considering how a ‘local’ institutional development, carried in part by the community, intersects with the transnational operations of cultural translation.