Curatorial practice in anthropology: organized space and knowledge production

Date

2012-09-05

Authors

Richardson, Shelby

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Abstract

Much of the curatorial and anthropological literature on museology has oversimplified museum spaces as monolithic colonial entities. However, recent developments in museum practice as a process of collaborative and public cross-cultural exchange are changing the way these spaces are interpreted and used. In this thesis, I examine contemporary curatorial endeavors at a number of museums and galleries in Vancouver, British Columbia, that attempt to revitalize the ways in which the cultural expressions of Indigenous artists and their communities are represented. The artists whose works are examined in this thesis locate their traditional territories along the coastline of B.C. As both separate and similar institutions, museums and art galleries are useful venues from which one may examine and chart ongoing processes of cross-cultural exchange. A curatorial exhibition project of my own: Understanding Place in Culture: Serigraphs and the Transmission of Cultural Knowledge will explore some of the obstacles and benefits of engaging in cross-cultural conversations of cultural representation. The exhibit looks at a selection of prints by Indigenous artists from the Smyth and Rickard Collections of Northwest Coast Prints from the University of Victoria Art Collections (UVAC) chosen specifically because they concern the artists’ perspectives of place as it relates to physical locations, identity, and cultural practice. The relationship between the organization of knowledge and culturally specific attachments to space and place are central to understanding how we think about, and engage with, the world around us. The relationship between places and local knowledge connects the content of the images with the space in which they are to be exhibited: the Maltwood Prints and Drawings Gallery in the McPherson Library at the university. Through interviews with artists and curators, and a review of the literature surrounding these issues, I have attempted to create an argument for the importance of space and place in support of an agentive curatorial practice. As an attempt to decolonize the museum/gallery space, this thesis argues that diverging perspectives of place are essential to the way we understand the world and our position within it.

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Keywords

anthropology of art, cultural anthropology, art history, First Nations studies

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