The Beauty of Letting Go – Sven Ouzman

The Beauty of Letting Go: Fragmentary Museums and Archaeologies of Archive by Sven Ouzman

Objects, places, and people have typically “messy” biographies that offer points of attachment for a wide range of sensory engagement. Archaeology’s two strengths, materiality and context, can productively expose significant ruptures in master narratives through archaeologies of archive that ask how objects come to be collected and displayed (or not) and at what cost.”

Imagine a beautifully designed museum where light, airy galleries enter into contrapuntal conversation with darker, more atmospheric niches. Imagine further that these spaces frame and give texture to thousands of objects1 collected from near and far, from long ago and yesterday. Now imagine that, intermingling with beautiful and intact, text-accompanied objects, there are hidden display cases, empty or half- filled with tragic and disintegrating objects, some smelly. The visible manifestation of declining funding? The aftermath of “looting” such as recently occurred at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad? No. The future of museums and archaeology? Hopefully.

Fred Wilson – artist who has used museum collections, juxtaposed in a certain way, to point out colonialist attitude and tropes.

Critique of ‘sight’ as dominant form of knowing – the “sense of reason”

[Aside: Tanizaki – a restaurant famous for its dining rooms illuminated by candlelight – electric lighting as a Westernising force that changing relations to custom and tradition.  “only in dim half-light is the true beauty of Japanese lacquerware revealed” – the things deprived of their agency through too much (Western) light.]

Georg Simmel writes powerfully on the politics of numbers: a “3,” for example, suggests the possibility of an interlocutor and exponentially more connective and disjunctive possibilities than does a binary

Seeing from below (instead of the militarised gaze of seeing from above): “But how to see from below is a problem requiring at least as much skill with bodies and language, with the mediations of vision, as the “highest” techno- scientific visualizations (Haraway 1981:191)”

Object Logic

What do objects want from us?  Fetish, beauty, authenticity

Object rights

Acknowledges the mutuality of “nature” and “culture.”

Specific example of human remains as ‘object.’  What if we called “human remains” simply “humans.”

The right to a life history, agency, and home.

Life history: Example of the drum ancestor – a zoomorphised drum that sometimes contains the bones of ancestors.  Works of art accumulate scars and marks – part of their character and ‘multiple lives’ and biographies

Agency: “bored stone” – technology of multiple uses that is argued over – these objects select us to display them, not the other way around (i.e.: we don’t know what they are, but there is just something about them)

Home: the object’s right to integrate or reject its current surroundings.  Absences of objects is often as important as presence – e.g.: Elgin Marbles

 

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