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Chapter 3 Fashioning Women, Defrocking Patriarchy

Abstract

This chapter explores how the discourses of fashion in museum and gallery exhibitions operate both explicitly and implicitly as gender tools of power and privilege. Curatorial statements describe accomplishments of famous designers and couturiers, mesmerizing visitors with dreams of the impossible, the unreal. Behind these rich ornamental fashion designs are wealthy and entitled designers (largely men) who use women to maintain their superiority in these mythical worlds. Women remain nameless and functionless, existing merely as glorious adornments to a powerful male world, to be contained through clothing, expectation, and language in ways that limit, inhibit, and render them invisible.

In: Feminist Critique and the Museum
Chapter 4 Hacking Language

Abstract

Museums are generally viewed as neutral conveyors of historical, cultural, and societal meaning about the world and ourselves. Language is a significant way in which meaning is conveyed in museums, through ‘objective’ statements explaining the meaning and importance of artifacts and exhibitions. Language, however, is a powerful and often invisible carrier of knowledge, contributing to our belief that museums offer unbiased views of the world. Both intentionally and unintentionally, language found in museums is all too often used to maintain society’s hegemonic orders of power. Using a feminist lens, this chapter critically examines ways in which exhibitions’ artifacts are presented and represented through language and the importance of noticing the authoritative uses of language to inscribe patriarchal and colonial views of the world. A critical examination of ways in which language is used, we argue, is necessary if our consciousness is to be challenged and multiple perspectives and diverse stories are to be included in museums.

In: Feminist Critique and the Museum
In: Adult Education, Museums and Art Galleries
In: Adult Education, Museums and Art Galleries
In: Adult Education, Museums and Art Galleries
In: Adult Education, Museums and Art Galleries
In: Adult Education, Museums and Art Galleries
In: Adult Education, Museums and Art Galleries
Educating for a Critical Consciousness
Thousands of diverse museums, including art galleries and heritage sites, exist around the world today and they draw millions of people, audiences who come to view the exhibitions and artefacts and equally importantly, to learn from them about the world and themselves. This makes museums active public educators who imagine, visualise, represent and story the past and the present with the specific aim of creating knowledge. Problematically, the visuals and narratives used to inform visitors are never neutral. Feminist cultural and adult education studies have shown that all too frequently they include epistemologies of mastery that reify the histories and deeds of ‘great men.' Despite pressures from feminist scholars and professionals, normative public museums continue to be rife with patriarchal ideologies that hide behind referential illusions of authority and impartiality to mask the many problematic ways gender is represented and interpreted, the values imbued in those representations and interpretations and their complicity in the cancellation of women’s stories in favour of conventional masculine historical accounts that shore up male superiority, entitlement, privilege, and dominance.

Feminist Critique and the Museum: Educating for a Critical Consciousness problematises museums as it illustrates ways they can be become pedagogical spaces of possibility. This edited volume showcases the imaginative social critique that can be found in feminist exhibitions, and the role that women’s museums around the world are attempting to play in terms of transforming our understandings of women, gender, and the potential of museums to create inclusive narratives.
This is a book about adult education in the sphere of public museums and art galleries. It aims to enrich and expand dialogue and understanding amongst adult and community educators, curators, artists, directors, and cultural activists who work within and beyond the walls of these institutions. The various chapters take up the complex and interconnected pedagogics of subjectivity, identity, meaning making and interpretation, knowledge, authority, prescription, innovation, and creativity. The contributors are a combination of scholars, professors, graduate students, heritage and cultural adult educators, artists, curators and researchers from Canada, United States, Iceland, England, Scotland, Denmark, Portugal, Italy and Malta. Collectively, they challenge us to think about the dialectics of passivity and engagement, didactics and learning, gender neutrality and radicality, and neutrality and risk-taking amongst a collage of artworks and artefacts, poetry and installations, collections and exhibits, illusion and reality, curatorial practice and learning, argument and narrative, and struggle and possibility that define and shape modern day art and culture institutions. The chapters, set amongst the discursive politics of neoliberalism and patriarchy, racism and religious intolerance, institutional neutrality and tradition, capitalism and neo-colonialism, ecological devastation and social injustice, take up the spirit and ideals of the radical and feminist traditions of adult education and their emphases on cultural participation and knowledge democracy, agency and empowerment, justice and equity, intellectual growth and transformation, critical social and self reflection, activism and risk-taking, and a fundamental belief in the power of art, dialogue, reflection, ideological and social critique and imaginative learning.