Sentient Relics : Museums and Cinematic Affect book cover
1st Edition

Sentient Relics
Museums and Cinematic Affect

ISBN 9780367193065
Published January 2, 2020 by Routledge
152 Pages

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Book Description

Sentient Relics explores museums through cinema and challenges the dominant focus of museum theory as an inclusion–exclusion debate. The author responds to the Enlightenment, ‘rational’ museum of reason contrasting this with the museum of affect and reveals these ‘two museums’ operating alongside one another in a productive paradox. In structuralist-orientated museum theory the affective realm is often subsumed within the imperatives of Marxist theory and practice, identity politics, semiology and psychoanalysis. Sentient Relics, while valuing the insights of ideologically focused meaning-making, turns to the capacity of the affective realm of experience to transform the passive subject and object relation. The author uses museum encounters and cinematic affect to engage with problems of difference, temporality, emotion and the sublime. In so doing the book advances research in museum studies by demonstrating what is at stake in pragmatically working toward a deeper understanding of the museum socially, culturally and philosophically.

Table of Contents




1 Museum Trouble: Complicating the ‘new’ inclusion

Reading the gallery in silent film

The inclusion dilemma

A difficult heritage

The ‘new’ museology

Demanding objects

Museum ‘blockbusters’

2 Fissures and Cracks: Unfettering identity from the ‘new’ inclusion

Object autopoeisis

‘The crack’

Institutional autotelicity and rhizomatic objects

Re-invigorating the fetish

Actually, virtually becoming-animal

Curiously resistant

3 Outcasting Oedipus: The autonomy of affecting experience

The sublime as a discourse of loss

Ekstasis: From Longinus to Lyotard

What about the body!

Affectus: One unfolding substance

Cultural objects and the transmission of affect

The duality of affect

4 Show Time! Psychoanalysing the museum to death

Ghostbusters: Green slime and a dangerous portrait

Viewing pleasures: Phantasy or lines of flight

The Topkapi imaginary: The museum as phallic (m)other

Night at the Museum: The museum as object a

Horror museums: Beyond abjection

Post Lacan: Restoring affect to cinema

5 Dangerous Identity: Museums in Vertigo and the ‘truth’ of false objects

The mental-image: Inside the deceived self

The abyss or the power of eternal return

Signs of time: Escaping dusty semiology

The fatal spiral: Identity and obsession

6 Museums and cinematic time

Mischievous dream worlds: musicals in the gallery

Moving stillness: A thinking cinema

Marking time in La Jetée

Night and Fog: Difficult heritage and the time-image

Russian Ark: In any moment

The storm we call progress




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Janice Baker is a lecturer in the School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts at Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia.


Sentient Relics is an astonishing book: a veritable crystalline artifact endlessly refracting countless impressions. Not only does every phenomenon she considers, whether cinematic or museological, foreground the theatricalities of affect, but Baker makes extraordinarily clear exactly why Plato was right about why mimetic artistry of any kind is deeply dangerous to the souls of citizens: precisely because it calls attention to the artifice, fabricatedness, and contingency of what any hegemonic power projects, promotes, and enforces as social, cultural or theological truth.

- Donald Preziosi, Professor Emeritus, UCLA, USA