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Orientalism and the Exhibitionary Order

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Marlie Miller

on 23 March 2015

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Transcript of Orientalism and the Exhibitionary Order

Museums Online:
Ethics, Methods and Possibilities

- Mitchell focuses on Europe’s obsession with the “orient” which constructed colonialist order

- Simply, the exhibitionary order refers to a system in which the “Other” is put on display, resulting in the exotic commodification of native artifacts or traditions for the hegemonic gaze (i.e. that belonging to the white man)

- There are 3 features that define the Orientalist reality:
1. Essentialism: the other is the product of unchanging racial or cultural essences

2. Otherness: the characteristics of the other are the polar opposite of the west

3. Absence: the other is marked by a series of absences

- Orientalism was larger than oriental studies and novels, it was present in how the west began to organize and represent the world

- The purpose of this representation of the non-western world and categorized otherness was to form national identity and imperial purpose

- Through non-western accounts of world exhibitions, the exhibitions were not just representations of the world, but instead the world ordered as an endless exhibit

Orientalism and the Exhibitionary Order
- The accounts of European travels examined help to construct the elements necessary for the order of representation

- The account of 4 Egyptian delegates are shared about how “real” these exhibitions were, but contained some flaws and found themselves spectacles in the exhibit

- The accounts note the order and technique of the exhibit, the curious spectators, the organization, the guidebooks etc

- The exhibitionary process consisted of 3 parts:
1. The visitors found Europeans curious people who stood and stared

2. This curious attitude was connected to subject/object viewing- Europeans as subjects viewing the visitors as objects

3. the effect of this objectness viewing was an arrangement of representation. It reduced the world to a system of objects through the organization to evoke a sense of history, empire or progress (national identity and imperial purpose)

- The world exhibitions were reflectant of the political certainty of the imperial age through their rendering imperial truth and cultural difference in an “objective” form

- This political certainty and imperial truth is illustrated by the accounts of this exhibition
1. The realness of the representations of the orient

2. The model of the orient always remained distinguishable from the reality it claims it represents

3. The distinction between the system of exhibits and their imitated meaning by distinguishing between the exhibits and the plan of the exhibition

- In the Paris exhibition it was not easy to differentiate between the exhibit and real life

- The article begins to close with noting the exhibitions became commercialized, the exhibitions included commerce and buying and a tool to illustrate the reality of the exhibit

- The article ends with a quote on the west from an Egyptian visitor, “the west, it appears is a place organized as a system of commodities, values, meanings, and representations, forming signs that reflect one another in a labyrinth without exits.
Relating back to Benjamin's concept of the aura, is some authenticity or part of the aura lost when an object is removed from its homeland?
This concept of representation and exhibitionary order relate back to Nakamura's concept of racial formation theory where racial categories are created and inhabited and where human bodies and social structures are represented and organized and Harraway's theory of situated knowledge. Are there ways in which those who are represented can take over this power dynamic?
Decolonizing Architecture of Participation for the Uganda National Museum: Social Media Expressions of Ugandan Heritage Sites
- The team was sent to collect data in the form of video imagery and interviews at 10/100 Ugandan heritage tribal and memorial sites
- Through technology enhances documentation, the oral culture and untold stories are beginning to be captured and shared
- The main question is: how can a cross-cultural partnership accurately and authentically capture and represent through social media voices and potentially lost heritage?
- The considerations guiding this project offer an approach that may provide non-Western museums with possibilities to develop what they envision as important for dissemination of their own culture and local heritage, and to re-appraise and re-evaluate the divide between the global North and South by focusing on the theories and processes that can best facilitate access within Ugandan National Museum
- Since the 2010 Kasubi Tomb fires, there is an urgent need to back up what documentation remains
- The collaboration between the Ugandan National Museum and Canadian researchers provide a unique opportunity about resisting colonization through indigenous voices with a global movement of Web 2.0/3.0
- The projects methodology is a qualitative ethnography including interviews and video recording of Ugandans at the 10 sites and their surrounding communities

- This data collected will be analyzed for patterns to capture the heritage of the physical sites and stories of those who live within the site surroundings
- The team has developed 4 core project principles for the intended project outcomes:
1. A Ugandan-based concept of a sustainable Web 2.0/3.0 social media architecture of participation for the museum and its artifacts
2. The development of methodological approaches to accompany the museums web/social media learning
3. An initial museum web/social media prototype for museums in developing countries
4. A web 2.0/3.0 architecture documenting the project
- The team works to virtually represent the museum artifacts
- Project Trailer:
- Two main challenges faced the project:
1. Uganda experiencing a slower decision making pace than Toronto
2. The virtual space created in the web/social media becomes a process rather than a product
- The initial access points of the project will be developed to provide a co-created learning experience around the already existing artifacts
Final Questions:
1. what sort of ethical framework or standard must be in place when representing and/or exhibiting objects from around the world?

2. how does a digital experience support an objective situated stance on objects in a museum?

3. How can Museums adapt to changing ethical standard given if they have a historic permanent collections?
Please take your iPads and Google: Smithsonian Museum Virtual Tour, and click the first link. Please peruse the virtual tours of the museum
Traditional of World's Fairs' Continues...
(not in view: 'Other' pavilions/exhibitions part of Biennale)
Politics of Representation, Nationalism, and the Arts
National Pavilion System
British Pavilion Venice Biennale
German Pavilion Venice Biennale
Canadian Pavilion @ 2013 Venice Biennale - Shary Boyle 'Music for Silence'
Dedicated to those that are excluded, almost criticizing how art institutions classify objects and exclude
'White Cube'
'Salon' Style
Museum as event space (exclusive)
Museum as event Space (Inclusive)
Access and Representation in Museums
Case Study: Art Gallery of Ontario

What to do with them?
How to expand them?
How to get rid of them?
Who should be included?
Who should be excluded?
How to navigate cultural histories?
Activating the Museum
What can be done to react in a meaningful way to changing social perspectives? How to insert a contemporary voice?
How do we challenge history and move the discourse forward?
'Activting' Collections: Weltkulturen Frankfurt
Canadian Pavilion at Venice Biennale
National pavilions: Nationalism & Architecture
Colonialism & Semiotics
Historical Tradition vs. Contemporary Art
Three Areas of Focus Tonight:
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