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Opinion

Museums are not neutral

Museums are not neutral

I will start this text with the photograph that illustrates it. It is an image that I myself made last February at the Museum of Malaga, in the warehouses that are open to visitors (a great initiative). This plate is on a shelf in this warehouse. We should all find it normal, right? The Museum of Malaga (a center that is both an archeological museum and an art museum, which I also like) is understood as a warehouse where the relevant things of the archaeological and artistic past of the city and its surroundings are kept. But what things?

I'm tempted to say, like a Murakami character, "If you don't understand it without me telling you, it means you won't understand it no matter how much I tell you." But all my years of college teaching drive me to dig a little deeper into this image. If someone thought that this plaque should be stored, a demonstration of power (a king and a president of the government), will not the other stones surrounding the piece also have a courtly origin? Of distant or nearby civilizations in time, but almost all objects or works of art (right now I do not know if such a distinction exists) would have been part of the circles of power of their respective moments. Don't you think so?

Hence some curious derivatives. In the warehouse of the Malaga museum I did not find any objective trace of the Francoist period. But in stores where the visitor cannot access there must be some. It can't be otherwise. The problem is that the Spanish state has decided to hide the forty years of dictatorship, trivialize or whitewash them. They have done so in the Spanish Congress and the museums exude this policy of forgetfulness. Traces of the dictatorship are either still on the street or destroyed or hidden in museum warehouses. Museums that are never neutral.

In this regard, in August 2017 LaTanya Autry and Mike Murawski launched a campaign with the name I put on this article: #MuseumsAreNotNeutral. On the networks you can find their website and various deployments on Instagram. Activists (artists, thinkers ... what a drama of definitions) say this: “Because museums are cultural products that come from colonial enterprise, they speak of power. They are political constructions. His ongoing practices are also rooted in power. The very fact that this field has a long history of exclusion and marginalization of people of color in terms of selection, interpretation and care of art and other objects, jobs, visitor services, representation of patrons, etc., indicates that museums are political spaces. Everything in them and about them involves decisions. ”

The avant-garde magazine L'Esprit Nouveau promoted a survey of European intellectuals in 1921 under the provocative statement: “ Should we burn the Louvre? ”The answers were ingenious, now they would be ingenious if we asked if the MACBA (for example) needs to be demolished, but the plates of the past, like the one illustrated in this text, are well protected, so that no one is alarmed.

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