James Clifford
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The times of the curator
in Curatopia
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The museum is an inventive, globally and locally translated form, no longer anchored to its modern origins in Europe. Contemporary curatorial work, in these excessive times of decolonisation and globalisation, by engaging with discrepant temporalities – not resisting, or homogenising, their inescapable friction – has the potential to open up common-sense, ‘given’ histories. It does so under serious constraints – a push and pull of material forces and ideological legacies it cannot evade. This chapter explores the ‘times’ of the curator, in terms of both these times we live in, in which curatorial theory and practice seem to be ever-present, and a sense of the curator’s task as enmeshed in multiple, overlapping, sometimes conflicting times. It is concerned primarily with the later, the discrepant temporalities, or perhaps that should be ‘histories’, or even ‘futures’, that are integral to the task of the curator today. In contrast to the history of museum curating, curatorial work in recent years has been transformed by the re-emergence of indigenous cultures in former settler colonies which suggest the decentring of the West. Drawing on research in the USA, Canada and the Pacific Islands, and analysing several diverse case studies and examples, the chapter explores examples of ‘indigenous curating’, that is to say, working with things and relations in transforming times. In doing so, it contributes to a world-wide debate, which this book is part of, about museums and the future of curatorship.

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Museums and the future of curatorship


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