The Museum Of Everything

A production of The School of History of Art for the University of Edinburgh’s Innovative Learning Week.

Andrew Patrizio on The Museum of Everything

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Exhibition curating is an organising principle. It can be more or less radical, more or less in an official space, more or less temporary, more or less expensive.

It can also be more or less ambitious. On which point, I took this project title, The Museum of Everything as knowingly ironic and comedic – a curatorial folly willfully incapable of achieving the ambitions contained in the name.

This comedic element then seeped into my understanding of Wednesday’s research seminar by Prof Graham Smith on Robert Rauschenberg’s drawings inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. In particular I wondered about the way that Dante’s three-part structure – Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise – is also an organising principle for a citizenry. Dante and Virgil pass through three spaces that might be read as a parallel to a Museum of Everybody rather than Everything.

So what governs the specific parallel spaces in Dante’s populated museum?

Going from the outside in we might note that beyond the museum is the outside space, from which everything or everybody is chosen. This is surely an infernal space, full of objects that are damned and excluded from the Museum.

Limbo or Purgatory is that more illusive and poetic space between works. Here is the liminal territory that is neither the real world nor a treasured object. Such limbo is however absolutely essential to the functioning of the whole. The museum gains its existence from being a grammar of objects, a place of connections, of interstitial space. Curated exhibitions rely on the principle of limbo more than anything else and the curatorial task is to create meaningful spaces as well as select meaningful objects.

The end of the journey is to become a museum object in the fullest sense. This is paradise – to be selected and elevated from the rabble outside, to occupy a higher realm and valued for the sake of intrinsic worth.

No wonder then that the people who enjoy individual artworks with a passion, seeking a state of total transportation, who couldn’t care less about the rabble outside or the semantics of exhibition construction are one or other of those two types of people capable of innocent self- absorption – art historians and children.


Andrew Patrizio is Professor of Scottish Visual Culture at the University of Edinburgh.

Written by rwilliam

February 23, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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