MWX2018 Open Platform
AbstractThis session will provide an overview of MWX2018 VANCOUVER and include a panel discussion with contributing artists and invited commentators from local institutions that will respond to important issues relating to digital cultural heritage, cultural citizenship and Indigenous knowledge. Human culture manifests itself in systems of artifacts, social institutions and their symbolic forms of expression. Over the past five years, MWX has complemented the main program of the Museum and the Web conference by exhibiting “state of the art” practices of artists pushing the boundaries of new technology. Departing from conventional protocols of exhibition, this year’s instalment extends an invitation to artists and audiences alike to consider how cultural history and heritage can be (re)generated to shape the future. The curatorial programme of MWX2018 VANCOUVER –developed by Vince Dziekan and Kate Hennessy– has been designed to accommodate a series of open-ended engagements for exploring the museum as a space that foregrounds the complexity of cross-cultural communication. The exhibited artworks and specially commissioned projects will demonstrate de-institutionalizing practices (artistic, interpretive, collaborative) centered around themes of cultural content and digital equity. Through composing an engaging and interactive “open platform”, we hope to carve out a space within the conference where the contested issue of cultural authority and “decolonization” can be openly explored and discussed. Acknowledgments – We wish to acknowledge the generous contribution made by the contributing artists, designers, educators and students towards this year’s MWX exhibition. We recognize and acknowledge, in turn, that this exhibition and conference is being convened on the unceded traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.
Keywords: Curatorial practice, Digital cultural heritage, Cultural citizenship, Cross-cultural communication, Indigenous knowledge, Decolonization
NOTE: The following text is the MWX Catalogue Essay (In the thick of it – A Curatorial “Underview” of MWX2018 VANCOUVER) by Vince Dziekan & Kate Hennessy
“Cultural history is not the record of a merely fortuitous sequence of events…
Ultimately we must have recourse to the dynamic, human agents whose
creative inventions and insights as well as persevering determination is the
source of all cultural processes.” – David Bidney, Human Nature and the Cultural Process (1947)
“Within Indigenous contexts, contexts that are never properly ‘post-colonial,’ the sovereignty of the people we speak of, when speaking for themselves, interrupt anthropological portraits of timelessness, procedure and function that dominate representations of their past and, sometimes, their present.” – Audra Simpson, Ethnographic Refusal: Indigeneity, ‘Voice’ and Colonial Citizenship (2007)
Human culture manifests itself in systems of artifacts, social institutions and their symbolic forms of expression. Exhibition display, wall labels and didactic panels, the artist interview and the catalogue essay, all serve as stages that perform the curatorial (Lind 2012). As contributing parts of a discursive system, the act of curating becomes implicitly concerned with the effect of its own agency upon how we come to know the world and produce, communicate, circulate and share cultural knowledge with others within it.
In an analogous way to how an open platform in computing describes a software system based on open standards, the curatorial programme of MWX2018 VANCOUVER has been designed to accommodate a series of open-ended engagements that foreground the complexity of cross-cultural communication. Inspired by ecomuseology, critical heritage studies and cultural theory thinking, the museum has become a critically reflexive space. While the exhibition itself –re-imagined as an itinerary, a set of mobile and itinerant departures– serves as a sort of juncture that interconnects and channels different ways of knowing; and that, by doing so, carries along the promise for opening up spaces of meaning-making that function somewhere between theory and practice, reflective analysis and action.
The exhibited artworks and specially commissioned projects that comprise this year’s instalment of MWX demonstrate de-institutionalizing practices (artistic, interpretive, collaborative) centered around themes of cultural content and digital equity. As “event-structures”, they introduce ways of thinking about cross-cultural transformation and the emergent potential of collaborative, co-creative methods of knowledge production. In contrast to highly abstracted and authoritative forms of knowledge built upon empirical observation and claims of objective neutrality, this approach embraces forms of knowing performed through processes ‘grounded in active, intimate, hands-on participation and personal connection: “knowing how,” and “knowing who”’ (Conquergood 2002, p. 146).
In Vancouver, these dynamic relationships are exemplified in a number of distinctive ways. Mirjana Prpa, Kıvanç Tatar and Philippe Pasquier’s immersive VR work Respire relies on the user’s breath and biosensory response to generate a co-created experience. Heiltsuk artist Shawn Hunt’s “state-of-the-art” collaboration with Microsoft challenges understanding of technological and cultural realities at the “cultural interface”, the contested space that exists between Western and Indigenous knowledge systems (Nakata 2007). The Museum of Vancouver’s Haida Now exhibition provides a transformative example of Indigenous curation and relationship building with Vancouver’s urban Haida community, leading up to the repatriation of cultural property to the Haida Gwaii Museum on BC’s north coast. Short documentaries featuring Haida artists and visionaries such as Jim Hart, Corey Bulpitt, and Miles Richardson were created by students at Simon Fraser University under mentorship of the curators to document the historic reconnection of Haida people with their cultural belongings. The associated ‘Repatriation Monologue’ public event presents an opportunity for extending these conversations beyond the Museums and the Web conference. Illustratively, these projects amplify different types of relationships that exist –and can still be brought into existence– between museums and communities, including “source communities” (Peers and Brown 2007).
By coming together as an “open platform”, we hope that an engaging and interactive space is carved out within the conference where issues of cultural authority and decolonization can be freely explored and discussed. By inviting artists and audiences to speak for themselves, the featured artworks and participatory events instigate –in both direct and more open-ended, speculative and experiential ways– active process of “looking at”, “reading through” and (perhaps most radically) “making with” cultural representation. Departing from conventional protocols of display in order to better perform the practices of artists, designers, creative technologists, educators, researchers and students that find themselves congregating at the “cultural interface”, MWX2018 VANCOUVER prompts us to consider how cultural history and heritage can be (re)generated to shape new visions for our shared future.
Acknowledgments – The curators wish to acknowledge the generous contribution made by the contributing artists, designers, educators and students towards this year’s MWX exhibition. Their committed involvement is an inspiring testament to how perspective and understanding of our historical and contemporary position can be gained by learning –critically and creatively– together. We recognize and acknowledge, in turn, that this exhibition and conference is being convened on the unceded traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.
Bidney, D. (1947). Human Nature and the Cultural Process. American Anthropologist. Vol. 49 No. 3, July-September 1947, pp. 375-399.
Conquergood, D. (2002). Performance Studies: Interventions and Radical Research. The Drama Review, 46, 2, Summer 2002. Pp. 145-156.
Lind, M. (2012). Performing the Curatorial: Within and Beyond Art. Berlin: Sternberg Press.
Nakata, M. (2007). The Cultural Interface. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education. Vol. 36, Supplement 2007, pp. 7-14.
Peers, L. and Brown, A.K. (2007). Museums and Source Communities. In S. Watson (ed.), Museums and their Communities. London: Routledge, pp. 519-537.
Simpson, A. (2007). Ethnographic Refusal: Indigeneity, ‘Voice’ and Colonial Citizenship, Junctures: The Journal for Thematic Dialogue, no. 9, pp. 67-80.
Dziekan, Vince and Hennessy, Kate. "MWX2018 Open Platform." MW18: MW 2018. Published March 22, 2018. Consulted .