Gemma Rodrigues, Fowler Museum at UCLA
Senses of temporal and location-specific cultural distance pose perennial challenges for comprehending and interpreting African arts. As curators and scholars, how might we restore to objects a sense of their original meaning, while appreciating their open-ended and continually evolving relationships with users and audiences? Drawing upon the speaker’s curatorial experiences in Zimbabwe and the USA, we shall consider these problems from the differing vantage points of museum audiences in Africa and in the West. The presentation will touch upon curatorial strategies for countering misperceptions of African cultural production as timeless, the impact of revisionist, bottom-up "public history" on traditionally top-down (post)colonial institutions, and the emergence of grassroots museums in rural Africa. Ms. Rodrigues will look to Giorgio Agamben's "The Man without Content" to provide a shared point of entry for understanding the historicity of Western paradigms of display within both art and ethnographic museums.
Gemma Rodrigues has recently been appointed Curator of African Arts at the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Her art historical doctoral research at Harvard focused on contested idioms of place-making, including rituals, architecture, and urbanism in Harare, Zimbabwe, in light of recent land reform there. She has organized interdisciplinary conferences on contemporary African art and visual culture, was an Andrew W. Mellon intern at the Fogg Art Museum in Boston, and an intern at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Between 1997 and 2000, Ms. Rodrigues was lecturer in the History of Art at the Harare Polytechnic, and in 1998 she co-founded a non-profit to help Zimbabwean visual artists organize and fund workshops, lectures, and exhibitions.
The lecture series addresses dynamic alternative approaches to Africa’s representation in museum and exhibition contexts of the 21st century. Within African art studies, exhibitions have been one of the primary vehicles of representation, with some of the most important research in the field taking shape through museum exhibitions and associated scholarly publications. Yet the display of cultures has been fraught with the politics of representation. This forward-looking series of lectures will present and envision critical curatorial interventions that embrace multiple facets of traditional, modern, contemporary, urban, and diasporic African experience. We shall seek to complicate conventional wisdoms about what it means to organize exhibitions, and to engage artists and communities in the actions of curatorial practice.
Nov. 15 -- Sylvester Ogbechie, UC Santa Barbara
Curating Africa as a Site of Globalization
These presentations are part of the UCLA African Studies Center Monday Africa Seminar Series (MASS), funded by a grant from the UCLA International Institute. Additional funding provided by the Fowler Museum at UCLA.
Cost: Free and open to the public
Pay-by-space and all-day ($10) parking available in lot 3.
Sponsor(s): African Studies Center
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