Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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November 05, 2007
to nowhere, via nowhere

If you've ever spent time pondering    Augé's notion of "non-place," then Alan Michael Parker's newly published essay about the museum as non-place may provide you with the vertiginous sensation of having the rug pulled out from under you -- twice.

The publisher's tagline for the essay is "When did museums stop working like libraries and churches and start functioning as airports and shopping malls?"

Rug-pull # 1 is the proposition that, if we suppose a contemporary museum exhibition to be a destination place that we reach after we travel through the non-place spaces of airport→superhighway→hotel room→superhighway, then we are deluding ourselves:

Consider the interchangeability of the twenty-first-century exhibition, how the artwork itself can be viewed anywhere in the world, no matter whose money underwrites the show.

Consider the bag checks. . . .

Consider the branding of the museum, the plastic bags with which viewers parade home.

And thus how like the airport and shopping mall the museum has become. . .

The idea of museum as (increasingly) non-place has been noted previously at Radical and the Placekraft blog, among other p p places, no doubt.

Rug-pull # 2 is the notion that the non-placeification of the museum is a Good Thing for the experience of art:

[T]he work of art still offers each of us a state of intimacy . . . a relationship of identity. . . .

The displacement of the Rothko, that is, the very fact that it's not in New York, amplifies the individual's experience, all context effaced.
Art museums have become non-places where our loneliness and anthropological alienation foster intimate relationships to individual works of art.

If I read this correctly, the suggestive idea is that the art viewer in non-place is thrown back on themselves alone in a way that enables a deeper, more direct, one-on-one connection with the artwork.

If true, then theory: In the future, museums will cut out the pretense of spatial privilege, close their doors and install their collections & special exhibitions directly in airport lounges.