This plastic bag has green eyes, a hosed mouth, and an ice-cream swirled coiffe.
Arched ways: semi-circular, pointed, and Venetian Gothic.
I have many relationships to, in and through the museum: I am a director of engagement and learning in Canada’s largest collecting art gallery; I am a museum visitor; and I am a practicing artist, in rotation.
As a director, I manage a team of people who spark, co-create and present ideas, programs, events and learning strategies. Together, we measure and monitor the success of our programs. We do this in many ways. Some of this is anecdotal, feeling, tempered by the people, policy, work place codes of conduct, job descriptions and expectations.
I am also a museum visitor. I like mostly contemporary art, and visit contemporary art galleries, mostly with my children and life partner. When we visit a museum or art show, it is largely based on our past and current likes and dislikes. We pair pre-post visits with ice-cream (more ice-cream for boring art). Outwardly, we chose based on museum reputation, the specific exhibition or artist: we drove, for example, from Toronto to New York to see a show of largescale pencil portrait drawings of incarcerated women who had killed their mothers…
I am also an artist, who negotiates and finds presentation space outside the museum framework while also operating within it. This gives me mostly empathy (I wish I was that good) and a little envy for all the artists I work with in the museum context (I would just as swiftly trade places). I see myself as their co-creator – I tell them, “I am your co-creator.” I measure their success through live engagements, new work, press, exit interviews, public presentations, communications and marketing; their impact on, and interest from, museum colleagues, and their professional successes over time. I measure my own impact as an independent artist by recognition from my peers, critical reviews, who engages with me, and the ability to untangle an idea or pursuit into a tangible, aesthetically pleasing, artwork.
In considering these many roles, what is the relationship of museum work to the role of the university and post-graduate education in Canada to me?
I am a part-time doctoral student in the university. I am new to practice-based research pedagogies in the university, to new university colleagues, university technologies and labs, doctoral level expectations, such as deadlines, academic performativity, mentorship, mentee-ship, collaboration; social media apps, financial commitments and as a part-timer specifically, SSCHRC exclusions, scholarship exclusions, teaching exclusions, the anxiety of being outpaced by my full-time colleagues’ reading and knowledge attrition.
I thought that my primary research question lay within this trifecta I perform simultaneously and also within museum silo -- visitor, artist, administrator. Now I find myself extending this identity to the university in a self-reflective and convivial manner to my museum context. Does the university allow me, at its core, the capacity to respond to my pursuits both from within the museum and from outside it?
What is the role of the museum as a gathering place for creativity and spark for innovation? Or curiosity? What is the role of the university as a gathering place for creativity and curiosity?
What is the relationship of museum work to the role of the university and post-graduate education in Canada as places for creativity, curiosity and innovation for me? How are they different, and how are they the same? How am I different in one context from the other?
“In our view, transforming museum experience means transforming the way the museum interacts and builds relationships with staff, audiences, and communities. Thus, transforming the way people experience the museum has the potential to transform the museum itself, from the ground up” (Cooper Hewitt Interaction Lab, Transforming the Museum, 2021, p.9).
Herein lies the connective tissue between the role of the museum and the role of the university for me. I believe that the university offers me the space and ambition toward a self-knowledge and personal fulfillment. It does so together with the museum. Karl Jasper speaks of the university as aiding both personal development and social development (Peters, 2018). He echoes the social interwovenness that Cooper Hewitt Interaction Lab recognize as essential groundwork for transformational change in museums. I see the university and the museum sharing ambitions for making public the creative process in me, and through me, in all of us. Both “self-realization” as described by Jaspers (Peters, 2018, p.81), and a collective space for learning -- staff, audience and community -- are necessary for my success, and we need each other – museum and university -- for my success.
As a part-time doctoral student, the university may offer me the unique opportunity to stand outside the museum context and to look back into it. It asks me to form a new perspective. It is, philosophically speaking perhaps, the means to achieve a clearer sense of inwardness through the doubling of self (artist-designer-participant), from within the museum (the museum self) as well as from within the university (the university self). In his book, Inwardness, philosopher Jonardon Ganeri conveys the range of metaphors that have been taken up through time by spiritual thinkers, philosophers and artists, to describe the inner self. He considers Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa’s (1888-1935) sense of interiority and the idea of heteronomy as a way to make sense of one’s inner self:
“A heteronym is something else entirely: it is the author writing “outside his own person,” and in doing so, transforming himself into an other I.... Each heteronym, says Pessoa, is “lived by the author within himself.” A heteronym is “someone in me who has taken my place” (Ganeri, 2021, p.73).
In this way, my socratic (Peters, 2018, p.81) me (VanEvery-Albert, p.45) can create an enriched dialogue in me. It also provides a criticality between the academic and practical worlds as described by Kenneth Minogue, where “no one has to come to a conclusion upon which a decision must be based” (Peters, 2018, p. 390). While the intention is to compare the university to the practical world, I am not sure this is a truism of the university. My understanding is that inquiry and knowledge seeking may be circuitous, indeed, encouraged, and at the same time there must be a model of inquiry and exposition to quote, or to cite, to offer incremental knowledge, and some sense of conclusion-making in the university. Susan Stewart’s quoting in On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (1993) are worthy here to think about the self and place; and Byung-Chul Han’s The Scent of Time (2021) to think about the self and durational time. Both more later.
For example, I am framed, set-in motion perhaps, by a six-year doctoral period, offering a time construct for meaningful (truthful) enquiry; I am offered a series of engagement tools and a language vocabulary to take up so that I may add to it/them in due/that time. In the museum me, I follow a parallel set of not dissimilar constructs, set by my seasonal programming, and multi-year programmatic and institutional strategies. However, what I see most exciting in these parallel worlds is the ability to make public and to question the processes in both. There are two ways in which to potentially do this, in my view and interest: to move beyond the one building/house (that Gaston Bachelard speaks of in The Poetics of Space (1964), and to move beyond the idea of a singular linear narrative (that may nonetheless lean too much on quotation).
Caroline Van Every-Albert speaks to the connection between language and world view, citing the work of Willie Ermine to describe how “the language of the people provides another valuable indication of an inner space” (Van Every-Albert, 2008, p.44). Every-Albert describes a view to interiority as plural. Taken further, I may connect the many me’s with the many we’s. Ermine says:
I no longer thought of education in relation to the building, but I thought of education in relation to the world. (Van Every-Albert, 2008, p.44)
Van Every-Albert describes Indigenous ways of being via a metaphysical language that is verb-based, thereby emphasizing the importance of action and relationships to others and to the environment. I too am excited about the idea of moving beyond the building – the architecture of the museum and/or university (and to also not replace one with the other) – to connect to communities through active engagement and embodiment, if still an architecture, then an architecture without walls perhaps. I believe in this way, I too can find a metaphor, or a series of metaphors, to describe the role of the museum, and its relationship to the university and beyond... coming closer to people and their landscapes, perhaps even bring together a range of their artefacts/tools/beings. For me, this is a process that will accept all manner of not yet tangible idea, image and verse. It must celebrate the creative process in the broadest sense, as Karl Jaspers affirms in the idea of the university, where chance engagements and isolated occurrences contribute to a whole, and that our concern with the present moment is an incarnation of eternity (Peters, 2018, p.81). Here I interpret modes of making like intuition and liveness as important components of the creative process whether in the university or the museum. In so doing, I believe it also marks a shift away from linear knowledge or thinking.
In her book, Dear Science and Other Stories, Katherine McKittrick writes about disciplinarity, citation and non-linear narratives as ways to name and free marginalized voices, and to break away from the empire of colonization:
...I learned from her that sharing stories is creative rigorous radical theory. The act of sharing stories is the theory and the methodology. The process is difficult to make sense of in terms of the process and praxis of collaboration as affective possibility... The project is, then, not solely text; it is the unpublishable work of conversing over several years and continuing that conversation. I did not expect to be this patient. The conversation is forever and it is forever rewound very fast and then replayed: “The friendship itself, a form of life that cannot be totally capitalized on and is therefore slightly in excess of work as we know it... Working in friendship could be a way to work outside of productivist demands. Friendship is hard freedom. Maybe friendships effectuate consciousness and liberation and possibility.” (McKittrick, 2021, p.73)
I am emboldened by the links I see between an Indigenous world view conveyed by VanEvery-Albert and black and anti-colonial methodologies offered by McKittrick. Together, in dialogue, they spark an understanding of myself: a way forward de-centered, and focused on reciprocity. This intentional engagement becomes my activism in the institutions of museum and university, and that I occupy as a first-generation settler in Canada. Together and across, they offer a roadmap for friendship building. They also insist on a liquidity, a way of being that moves outside the building/s.
And yet, how am I to be with one foot in the university and the other in the museum? They are both contested spaces requiring deep self-reflection/reconning and transformation. The Copper Hewitt Interaction Lab’s Tools offer a range of activist approaches to work from within, in between or outside the museum, as one chooses. And Burton Clark’s Problem of University Transformation, considers reciprocal knowledge transfer (Peters, 2018, p.498) between the university and an outside firm (in my case, a not- for-profit leading Canadian museum, and the museum sector at large). As Clark suggests, I provide flexibility amidst stability, useful problem solving, both outside and within the university, and together with the university, I can “stress interactive instrumentalism,” the ability to make structured change and to be receptive to change. (Peters, 2018, pp. 498-505). Through me, both museum and university offer a shared space to model, mentor and support experimentation and adaptation, as articulated in the practice-research relationship by Clark: “diffuse in structure and fragmented in intent is overcome by collective entrepreneurship.” (Peters, 2018, p. 508). Here then, in this space, there is the potential for fragmentation, co-authorship and collective futurity. I add the idea of futurity to entrepreneurship: that the ability to measure both work and innovation in both futurity and entrepreneurship is possible. That is, How do I imagine myself in architecture that values entrepreneurship and measures its success in investment capital? Could one measure innovation through a broader lens of good, such as, curiosity? Here I draw upon the invocation of the manifesto by Natalie Loveless in How to Make Art at the End of the World (2019):
A manifesto is a call to action. It mobilizes declarative and persuasive language and works to manifest a different world, performatively. In the case of this book, I offer a hybrid formation: something between the rigor of a scholarly monograph and the heartfelt framing of a manifesto. I do this toward a vision of a university not in ruins (Readings 1997), not abandoned to professional justification and defensive metrics, but of a feminist university of creativity, experiment, and what I will frame in the pages to come as a mode of eros that is committed, cathected, and sustaining. (Loveless, p.2-3)
A manifesto decrees a community of radical practice, in this case, one centered on emotional exchange. While the manifesto calls to mind the declarations of the Bauhaus School (Gropius, 1923); the nearly simultaneous declared Surrealist manifesto of 1924 led by Andre Breton (MOMALearning); and many more, amongst my favorite, Arte Povera decried in Flash Art Magazine in 1967 by Germano Celant, all with which I align from within a Western art school viewpoint, together with a diasporic nostalgia as a Canadian born in the Veneto region of Italy, toward Europe. That said, in nearly all manifestoes there is a common impulse toward an impassioned response, an unreasoned response. The written word and action (whether oral tradition, or through the arc of action-performance art) inter-relate in a contestable art space construct.
Perhaps manifestos are pre-cursers to the concept of practice-based research, which Loveless so poignantly revives and describes in relation to practice-based research here:
The website for Creativity and Cognition Studios, started by Linda Candy and Ernest Edmonds in 1996 at Loughborough University (UK) to explore intersections of art- and technology-based research (now housed at the University of Technology, Sydney), distinguishes practice-based from practice-led research thus: “Practice-based research is an original investigation undertaken in order to gain new knowledge partly by means of practice and the outcomes of that practice. In a doctoral thesis, claims of originality and contribution to knowledge may be demonstrated through creative outcomes in the form of designs, music, digital media, performances and exhibitions. Whilst the significance and context of the claims are described in words, a full understanding can only be obtained with direct reference to the outcomes. (Loveless, 2019, p.5)
I like to think that my practice will inform my research, and that my practice involves situating my work both outside of and inside the museum, and outside of and inside the university. In her paper, Ethical Space in the Intellectual Terrain, Catherine Longboat cites Clare Brant’s concept of time: “Time in the Indigenous world is about doing things “when the time is right.”” (Longboat, 2005, p.76). This wait, in my view, invites my own confluence of museum and university, and for the creative practice-based research to appear out of it in its own time.
As a person long imbedded in the museum family, with an independent art practice largely focused on relational aesthetics and social practice, a practice-research program at the university promises me the space to develop a new personal metaphor/action/manifesto – perhaps shared and inter-linked – with the museum community, freed from empirical linear narratives embodied in the buildings of the university/museum institutions.
It allows for the idea of both the facilitator role and the experience seeking (Falk) collective that I care for in my nuclear family dynamic to flourish there and into my other selves. The role of the university, and my role within, takes aspirational wisdom from celhelh, as described by Lorna Williams in Where We Are in Indigenous Education: a way of moving through the world, where “each person is responsible for their own learning and self-care, finding answers, knowing how to fit into the community, self-knowledge.” (Goulet, 2014, p.16). It recognises that futurity is held in tandem with many false starts and ambitions toward a collective wellness: a relentless and loving pursuit that offers the potential to harmonize the artist, participant and designer in all of us.
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Celant, G. (2020;1967). In memory of Germano Celant: Arte povera. Notes on a guerilla war. April 2020: https://flash---art.com/article/germano-celant-arte-povera-notes-on-a- guerrilla-war/
Falk, J. H. (2010). An Identity-Centered Approach to Understanding Museum Learning, In Curator The Museum Journal, 49(2): 151-166
Ganeri, J. (2021). Inwardness. New York: Columbia University Press
Goulet, L.M., & Goulet, K. N. (2014). Where We Are in Indigenous Education. Teaching each other: Nehinuw concepts and Indigenous pedagogies. ProQuest Ebook Gropius, W. (1923). The Theory and Organization of the Bauhaus. https://theoria.art-zoo.com/tag/bauhaus/
Loveless, N. (2019). How to Make Art at the End of the World: A Manifesto for Research-
Creation. Durham: Duke University Press.
McKittrick, K. (2021). Dear Science and Other Stories. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
MOMALearning. https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/themes/surrealism/ Peters, M., & Barnett, R. (2018). The idea of the university: A reader. New York: Peter Lang VanEvery-Albert, C. M. (2008). An Exploration of Indigenousness in the Western University Institution. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 31(1): 41-55.
glitch24, nov 19, 2021
text, aug 14 (dec, 2021), 2022