Connecting Arts

Ethnographic museums for several decades have been seeking to understand what it means to be contemporary. Namely, what is their role in the present? Part of this search has involved museums engaging with contemporary artists (including indigenous and non-western artists) in an attempt to give new meaning to their collections and practices. Connecting Arts pushes this endeavor further by engaging diverse creatives (from music, dance, literature, etc) as a way of broadening the sensory engagement with the museum and its collection. Hoping to broadening access to a larger public, Connecting Arts explores artistic or creative imaginations of different cultural subjectivities. What kinds of productive relationships between the embodied or imaginative archive (i.e., literature, dance, music, art, etc.) and the museum’s archive (ethnographic and colonial collections) can be forged, and in what ways can bringing these different archives together help us better understand the world in which we live together? Can exploring a different, more affective or embodied relationship to these objects help us accept and respect different cultural and social subjectivities? These questions are explored through various community events and the ongoing series, Activate.

Activate is a series of loosely tied together projects intended to uncover the contemporary meanings of our collections for different local and global stakeholders. Questions are often asked about the relevance of ethnographic collections. We believe that they are important for a better understanding of how we make meaning in our lives both in the past and in the present. In Activate we foreground the potential of objects to inspire creativity and feelings of belonging, to trigger memory, and to connect people to recent or distant pasts. Activate is focused specifically on working with artists, poets, writers and performers to interpret our collections in new ways and to create new works inspired by them. The project is based on the idea that objects play an important role in how we negotiate our everyday lifeworlds: their meanings for us are based on what aspects of ourselves we bring to them.

Community Project | 2016-2017
Connecting Arts | Series

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Liza Swaving
Programming Research Center for Material Culture