Multisensority as Medium: An Analysis of Curatorial Practice
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During the 1990s, two developments transformed the world of museum curation. First, “installation” art became a regular feature of museum exhibitions. Second, curation, in the sense of “installing” artworks, gained in prominence as an independent form of artistic creation. Curators began to focus on integrating all the senses of museum visitors, even their bodies, into the museum experience. Nevertheless, many museums and curators still find themselves relying on the stereotypical “white cubes” and “black cubes” in their curatorial practice. In this Thesis, I suggest new direction for curation based on the theoretical perspectives of Deleuze and Guattari and Laura Marks, among others. Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of assemblages and “smooth” and “striated” spaces offer fresh perspectives for analysing the use of space and the display of artworks in museums. Mark’s idea of ‘haptic’, originating with her analysis of video art, stresses the opportunity for museum visitors to experience artworks in a more intimate and embodied fashion. These perspectives helped inform the conference “Hold Me Now – Feel and Touch in an Unreal World”, held at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 2018. Using the theoretical perspectives advanced at that conference, including Karen Archey’s notion of curation as “practising care” within an intersectional setting and Jack Halberstam’s ideas of the “fray”, I analyse the curatorial choices of two exhibitions at the Stedelijk which followed the conference. I find that although the curators attempted to engage visitors in a multisensory fashion, allowing close approaches to the artworks and productive auditory/visual interaction between them, the exhibitions still left some potential avenues unexplored. In my critique of these exhibitions, and in further theoretical discussion, I suggest more ways in which a ‘haptic’ curator can break away from museum clichés and encourage a more multisensory and autonomous experience on the part of museum visitors.