24 May 2021

Boorstin—Museums and Contexts

Daniel Boorstin
The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1961)

[My notes say:]

pp. 99-102—on museum art objects being experienced out of their context; as "an animal in a zoo" (102)

Sadly (or perhaps not!), the "context" always has an expiration date, revolution or no revolution, museum or no museum. Hence the choice is most basic: to show the objects out of context or not show them at all. I'm not so sure that the affinity with the Tourist mindset can be avoided; it is then left to that old bugaboo, Individual Initiative or what not, to deliver a deeper engagement (assuming there is one to be had!) to the individuals seeking it. Museumization and Tourismization, then, are symptomatic of the absence of this Initiative more so than of the presence of dark curatorial forces.

To be sure, attempts to synthesize the missing context in a laboratory, so to speak, ARE absolutely symptomatic of the presence of dark curatorial forces! Culture that is living must shed its skin periodically, hopefully in a mammalian rather than reptilian manner, but it must happen in any case. Resistance to such processes (I'm comfortable calling them Natural) tends to create bigger problems while failing to address the small ones as it purports to.

[from a post-it, 2017]

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