Ferocious Benevolence: Institutional Complicity and the Possibility for Meaningful Individual Action in the Art World
Cacciatore D'Andrea, G.
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Art institutions have been increasingly under scrutiny for being enmeshed in the systems of oppression that they so often proclaim to stand against. Despite the growing number of thematic exhibitions under the banner of decolonisation, the sector remains overwhelmingly white. This thesis investigates the nexus between efforts at reckoning with colonial legacies and the reproduction of existing inequalities in the arts sector, and explores the possibility for agency that emerges from these contradictions. I do so by honing in on the role of individual art workers who wish to positively contribute to such debates while occupying a privileged social location. In order to do so this study takes into examination the experiences of art workers involved in the exhibition The Golden Coach taking place at the Amsterdam Museum from June 2021. An exhibition that aims at engaging critically with a piece of cultural heritage that celebrates the Dutch colonial era, The Golden Coach allows to observe both dangers and possibilities of such endeavours. Through qualitative research conducted with members of the team working on the exhibition I examine how the interplay between good intentions and complicity unfolds in their daily working life. I propose the figure of the well-meaning implicated subject as a framework that affords a more rigorous understanding of individual enmeshment with power structures, and upon which possibilities for ethical and political agency are premised.