Body Reification Practices in Exhibitions and Museums

Apparatus, Identification, Objectification, Subjectivation, Re-creation, Collection, Exhibition
In this pandemic period of our history, which links unprecedented physical restrictions with an unlimited access to the internet, people appear to have sustained a singular interest in personifying the canons of art history and publishing the results of their experimentations on social media. Museums, which had to shut their doors, also use social media to maintain these acquisition modes of works that function by way of a self-recognition in a production from the past. Already before this pandemic period, museums had encouraged this, as is borne out by the numerous outreach and marketing activities that currently continue to invite people to interpret the collections. The visual arts and dance have also regularly offered, since the beginning of the new millennium, performances and other initiatives in museums and galleries by taking the work exhibited there as their subject. The unauthorized and programmed actions that ensued contributed to redefining the function of historical and contemporary works that are on permanent display or occasionally proposed thus question the frameworks of the traditional exhibition visit experience. While the amplification of these artistic, cultural and social practices can now be properly assessed, the public visibility they enjoy plays a role in this as does the recognition of cultural diversity and gender. The latter two contribute to casting a critical eye on the exclusion that is made manifest in an exhibition, as well as revealing the specificities and differences that mark groups and individuals. It would, however, be false to consider these multiple and varied initiatives to be new, because they are not at all the sole product of our period, of its interests, its ways of doing things and its concerns. The stagings that they summon have, on the contrary, been practised in contexts that are sometimes far removed from our own.

The colloquium Becoming the Work: Body Reification Practices in Exhibitions and Museums focuses on this age-old fascination of imagining oneself as a work. The plays of re-creation and doubling, personification and display that unfold there are envisaged as a means to question in which way and to what end today’s practices relaunch those of the past and in which way the past, in turn, informs the present. The mirror, the reconstitution, the scene, the tableau vivant, the selfie and the mannequin apparatuses that are mobilized there form six overlapping colloquium sections. While they regularly and effectively capture the gestures and behaviours of identifying with the works as is suggested by the presentations of the researchers, artists and professionals gathered here, these six apparatuses prompt an open reflection on the function of the heterogeneous components in the practices of objectification and subjectivation. The contributions of the participants, of course, go beyond the sole avenue offered by a single apparatus, some call upon several or primarily engage in a reflection pertaining to ethical, philosophical or aesthetic, historical, social or disciplinary considerations. The distribution according to six apparatuses provides gateways between the presentations, while also foregrounding that which is comparable or distinctive in an identification process with the other. For it is indeed the apparatus that favours, or not, the re-creation types and that determines the relation of the subject to the object.

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