Conference Panel: Western Museumscapes and the Political Aesthetics of Decolonisation

Carol Ann Dixon will chair a 90-minute conference session on decolonial scholar-activism by African and Diasporan artists, curators and educators working with collections of ethnography and works of fine art in Western museums. This session forms part of the programme for the 6th biennial network conference Afroeuropeans: Black Cultures and Identities in Europe, University of Tampere, Finland, 6 – 8 July 2017.

Session title: Western Museumscapes and the Political Aesthetics of Decolonisation: African and Diasporan Arts Activists Agitating for Change

"Anthropomorphic head" (Benin, c. 14th -16th century), displayed in the Pavillon des Sessions at The Louvre. Photo: Carol Dixon
“Anthropomorphic head” (Benin, c. 14th -16th century), displayed in the Pavillon des Sessions at The Louvre. Photo: Carol Dixon

Overview:
High-profile museums and galleries in the West – such as the British Museum in London, the Pompidou in Paris, and the MoMA in New York – are continuously revising and developing new strategic plans  to ensure that their collections, cultural programmes and exhibiting practices are engaging increasingly diverse global audiences. At the heart of these developments are complex issues about the changing nature of acquisitioning, curation, display and interpretation of artworks and cultural objects described as permanent holdings. The policies and practices implemented by these institutions serve as catalysts for generating and sustaining a rich discourse that invites artists, researchers, curators, archivists, educators, scholar activists and other creative practitioners to question their own roles and responsibilities within such dynamic museumscapes.

In this panel discussion, museologists, art historians, contemporary artists, scholars, educators and cultural  commentators from around the world will come together to discuss these issues with reference to one (or more) of the following questions:

  • What aspects of 21st century curation help to transform museums and galleries into inclusive spaces for display?
  • How are ‘postcolonial’ and ‘decolonial’ curatorial perspectives being advocated and articulated within contrasting Western museumscapes?
  • Do artists, academics and activists with African and Diasporan heritage have a unique contribution to make towards progressing the discourse and practice of museum decolonisation?
  • Which individuals and institutions are currently demonstrating aspects of best practice in relation to anti-racist and decolonial dialogues within Western museums and galleries? How might their positively transformative approaches be re-applied in other cultural contexts, museal spaces and alternative exhibiting environments?
Slave Auction (1982), by Jean-Michel Basquiat, displayed at the Pompidou, Paris, in 2014. Photo: Carol Dixon
Slave Auction (1982), by Jean-Michel Basquiat, displayed at the Pompidou, Paris. Photo: Carol Dixon

Update on the conference presentations and speakers’ details for the 6th July 2017 session:

The papers, presentations and speakers’ details for this 90-minute session are now confirmed as follows: (1) “Rendered Visible: An Artist’s Response to Museum Spaces in Bristol, UK,” by the Bristol-based visual artist Rosalind Martin (Our History, Our Heritage/Olawale Arts, UK); (2) “On some ‘Documents of Euro-African Contact’ (MacGregor),” by Mischa Twitchin (British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Drama Department, Queen Mary, University of London); (3) “#ReWriteTheInstitute and #DecolonizeTheMuseum – Barrel of a Hashtag,” by the Netherlands-based writer and arts activist Simone Zeefuik (https://lazeefuik.com/).

The abstracts for these papers can be read online at http://www.uta.fi/yky/en/6thafroeuropeans/abstracts.html

If you have any queries about this particular session, please feel free to send them via this feedback form on Museum Geographies. Remember to include a reply email for a response to your questions and comments.

To read Carol Ann Dixon’s overview about the previous session on “Memory and Museums” at the 5th biennial network conference, held at the University of Münster, Germany (2015), please click on this link.

Keynotes:

The  keynote speakers who will deliver presentations throughout the three-day event are confirmed as follows:
Professor Paul Gilroy – American and English Literature scholar, King’s College London

Professor Elisa Joy White – African-American and African Studies scholar, University of California at Davis, and Vice President, Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD)

Dr. Henry Mainsah – Marie Curie Fellow, Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick

LL.M. Domenica Ghidei Biidu – Member of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)

Johny Pitts – writer, photographer, broadcaster, and founder of the web space ‘AFROPEAN: Adventures in Afro Europe’

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Published by

Carol Dixon

Carol Ann Dixon is an education consultant and academic researcher interested in African and Caribbean diaspora histories and heritage, cultural geography, museology and contemporary visual art. Her PhD dissertation/doctoral thesis is titled "The 'othering' of Africa and its diasporas in Western museum practices" (University of Sheffield, UK, 2016).

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