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Museums, Graveyards… They are the same thing!*: Thoughts on the Institution

A dead object/ artefact is held in a glass case, parallel to the dead corpse cased in a coffin. A certain sense of melancholy and mourning hangs in the air as we cling to people, a past and history which no longer is.

On a recent trip to the Centre Pompidou, in Paris, the main exhibition ‘Historie (s) D’une Collection offered an ‘unprecedented look at the institutional attitude to art in the making, often revealing a mismatch between museum acquisitions policy and current developments in modern art’. Instead what was on offer was a never-ending maze of artworks by the classic white male modern masters. The Western model of an art institution has arguably never changed, impressive architectural buildings act as tombs, as the cultural elite determine what it should be stuffed with. Museums and galleries still present a repetition of homogeneity, in relation to the artworks that they exhibit, is it because this is the culture that the masses want to see? or a successful formula to bring in a substantial audience?  In the Centre Pompidou, similar paintings hung up alongside each other merged in to one long boring narrative. The futurists demanded that their country ‘be free from the endless number of museums that everywhere cover her like countless graveyards’, as the placards designated for each artist sits like a tombstone, commending a history that is dead and gone. Are these objects/ artworks no longer alive or relevant? or are they ‘grim profusions of corpses that no one remembers’. The problem is usually only one historical narrative is presented, often ignoring the crucial culture that was and is being created on the verge- by the marginalised fractions of society.

‘Dead objects’ are displayed in the all-encompassing neoliberal structure- as we, the audience, are forced into the position of consumer. Culture is a commodity and as a result, society is then divided into the defined roles of producer and consumer. With this there is no chance for co-authorship or collective creation, and therefore no new and exciting ideas can come into fruition. Our obsession with enriching a heritage distracts us from the importance of creation and with this culture remains stagnant. And until institutions provide differing cultural narratives where co-authorship and creation should be made essential, the objects will continue rotting in their glass cases just like the corpses.  *The Manifesto of Futurism, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, 1909

‘Dead objects’ are displayed in the all-encompassing neoliberal structure- as we, the audience, are forced into the position of consumer. Culture is a commodity and as a result, society is then divided into the defined roles of producer and consumer. With this there is no chance for co-authorship or collective creation, and therefore no new and exciting ideas can come into fruition. Our obsession with enriching a heritage distracts us from the importance of creation and with this culture remains stagnant. And until institutions provide differing cultural narratives where co-authorship and creation should be made essential, the objects will continue rotting in their glass cases just like the corpses.

*The Manifesto of Futurism, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, 1909


Tamay NehirBy Nisha Woolford