Critical Practice is an ambitious work that blurs the boundaries between art history, museum studies, political science and applied ethics. Marstine demonstrates how convergences between institutional critique and socially engaged practice, as represented by the term ‘critical practice’, can create conditions for organisational change, particularly facilitating increased public agency and shared authority. The book analyses a range of museum interventions exploring such subjects as the ethical stewardship of collections, hybridity as a methodological approach to social justice and alternative forms of democracy. Discussing critical practice within the framework of peace and reconciliation studies, Marstine shows how artists’ interventions can redress exclusions, inequalities and relational frictions between museums and their publics.
Elucidating the museological and ethical implications of institutional critique and socially engaged practice, Marstine has provided a timely and thoughtful resource for museum studies scholars, artists, museum professionals, art historians and graduate students worldwide who are interested in mapping and unpacking the intricate relationships among artists, museums and communities.
"Critical Practice displays all of the acute sensitivity to the nuances of the complex relationships between contemporary art and its enabling institutions that have made Janet Marstine a leader in the field of museum studies scholarship. . . . In a clear voice, Marstine urges that we take up the critical spirit that inspired the Institutional Critique of museums by artists, and combine it with the commitment to shared practice that drives socially-engaged art, to generate a “critical practice” in the work we do within museums, galleries, and art spaces."
- Terry Smith, University of Pittsburgh, USA, and The European Graduate School, Switzerland
"Janet Marstine's timely new book traces the evolution of Institutional Critique and the emergence of socially engaged artists practices, examining how they interact with the imperatives of public galleries and museums. Refreshingly, Marstine does not dodge the thorny ethical questions that inevitably arise when artists work and play with others. Critical Practice boldly engages with issues of care, authorship, conflict and reconciliation in the context of sometimes painful and often significant changes in habits, practices and policy that artworks produce."
- Neil Cummings, Chelsea College of Arts London, UK
"Marstine’s approach, through the lens of ethics and reconciliation, offers a very particular, and productive framework within which to think about museums, communities and artists."
- Nick Cass, University of Leeds, UK
1 Critical Practice as Reconciliation
2 Changing Hands: Ethical Stewardship of Collections
3 ‘Temple Swapping’: Hybridity and Social Justice
4 Platforms: Negotiating and Renegotiating the Terms of Democracy
5 Reconciliation and the Discursive Museum
Museums have undergone enormous changes in recent decades; an ongoing process of renewal and transformation bringing with it changes in priority, practice and role as well as new expectations, philosophies, imperatives and tensions that continue to attract attention from those working in, and drawing upon, wide ranging disciplines.
Museum Meanings presents new research that explores diverse aspects of the shifting social, cultural and political significance of museums and their agency beyond, as well as within, the cultural sphere. Interdisciplinary, cross-cultural and international perspectives and empirical investigation are brought to bear on the exploration of museums’ relationships with their various publics (and analysis of the ways in which museums shape – and are shaped by – such interactions).
Theoretical perspectives might be drawn from anthropology, cultural studies, art and art history, learning and communication, media studies, architecture and design and material culture studies amongst others. Museums are understood very broadly – to include art galleries, historic sites and other cultural heritage institutions – as are their relationships with diverse constituencies.
The focus on the relationship of the museum to its publics shifts the emphasis from objects and collections and the study of museums as text, to studies grounded in the analysis of bodies and sites; identities and communities; ethics, moralities and politics.