Restlessness of meaning: an exploration of how visual artists are working with museum collections
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This exegesis is an exploration of issues involved in making an exhibition -The Gay Museum (2003) -at the Western Australian Museum. Inspired by the work of artist Joseph Kosuth at the Brooklyn Museum (1990) and curator Peter Emmett at the Museum of Sydney (1994), this project attempts to explore and extend the role of artists as curators in contemporary museums. The project also shows that by re- interpreting objects in museum collections artists can actively challenge and support museums in a period of change and that collaboration between artists and museums as 'makers of meaning' can open up new possibilities for both. The curatorial vision for the exhibition therefore included strategies from contemporary museums - a multi-disciplinary approach and the use of non-linear narrative - and strategies from the contemporary art world -those that explore an aesthetic approach to objects and installation. Research for the project was determined by the expectations, unique histories and political choices that shaped and connected three 'communities' - Jo Darbyshire from the visual arts community, the Western Australian Museum community and the gay and lesbian community of Western Australia. As The Gay Museum project shows, the collaboration between artists and museums can contribute to museums being sites that vibrantly reflect contemporary cultural changes.
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