Modernity and the Exhibitionary Form
The birth of the art exhibition as a cultural form is coetaneous with the 18th-19th century dawn of European modernity. Given these shared and entangled roots, can the exhibitionary form be used to critique modernity as a socio-cultural phenomenon?
The exhibition is recognized as both the main mediator of contemporary art (Ferguson et al., 1996; Steeds, 2014) and a site for the production of art history (Altschuler, 1994). At the same time, modernity is seen to persist as the ‘dominant frame’ (Bhambra, 2007) and ‘instrument’ (Mignolo and Walsh, 2018) of Western sociopolitical thought. The relationship between modernity and the exhibition is thus a pressing contemporary cultural concern.
Guiding my analysis is the question of how a critique of the modern worldview transpires into, and constitutes a demand for, a fundamental change to the exhibitionary form. By contributing a new perspective on the exhibition as an ideological infrastructure this research will also question the Western-centric foundations of Exhibition Studies as a young field. The theoretical proposition that modernity remains an underlying worldview will be redeployed as a grounded argument for a fundamental reconfiguration of how exhibitions are defined, curated, analysed and historicised.
- Cultural and Museum Studies
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