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The Mask Stripped Bare By Its Curators: The Work Of Hybridity In The 21 St Century

2960 words - 12 pages

Ruth B. Phillips
Article #19


Abstract ........................................................................................................................................... 3
Art in early years of the 21st Century .............................................................................................. 4
Actor Network Theory .................................................................................................................... 6
Networking art connections in museums ...view middle of the document...

Thus Phillips
suggests that establishments of modern art should consider to improve current methods of
categorizing art which will help get more context on the subject matter. Through Bruno Latour’s
Actor Network Theory (ANT) it will allow us to treat objects as connections as part of a greater
network which will provide a better understanding of other cultures that art historians and
anthropologists were unable to adapt to over the recent years.

Keywords: Museum installation, African masks, Bruno Latour, Actor Network Theory

Art in early years of the 21st Century
Ruth B. Phillips has devoted significant number of years to research the relationships between
anthropology and art history and how it greatly influences museology especially in regarding
indigenous art. As Phillips recalls her fieldwork in Sierra Leone during the 1970’s observing and
recording the Mende’s women rituals which included documenting the masks and its purpose.
After three decades she revisits her work to measure the changes of how indigenous art is
represented and translated especially in museums.
The inspiration behind Phillips article was invoked
by Marcel Duchamp’s artwork “THE LARGE GLASS”
which gave Phillips some insight into the notion of
the industrialization of art which reached a point in
its development and how it fails display artwork and
define the features that differentiates other





collaborating with art historians and anthropologists







understanding in the ongoing process that continue to ‘strip bare’ non-western museum objects.


The Western system of art and museums operates as a machine for the
production of economies of commodification and desire while at the same time
preventing the fulfillment of those desires. (Phillips, 2012)
In the modern worldview we often try to separate and purify the categories between and humans
and artwork as we isolate the possible interconnections that we can discover. To further validate
on misinterpreting artwork is to display an African mask such as the Sowei mask as a bare
headpiece which will not satisfy the viewer’s voyeuristic pleasure of completely experiencing the
translation of knowledge from other cultures. The mask decapitated from the rest of its context
robs the viewer from the heart of satisfaction of desire to know the truth. Western museums
tend to universalize the process of translation of art by following a process which does not treat
artwork as a part of the complex network. The modern strategies to art installations prevents the
viewer from distinguishing the historical and contemporary networks of interconnection among
the cultures around the world. Phillips example of the mask from Sierra Leone drives a compelling
picture of how it was stripped from its meaning and its historical and political context whether it
would provide any underlying...

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