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Joanna BOSSE

Year of Award: 2009 Award State: Victoria Arts - Visual > Indigenous
To develop new curatorial models for Australian art museums to work with Indigenous artists and their communities - Canada, USA
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Key findings

Projects that are most successful in terms of their inclusivity use specific methodologies and processes developed collaboratively with Indigenous participants. Such partnerships engender a sense of Indigenous ownership that drives the project forward and ensures culturally appropriate practices. Guidelines are useful as common discussion points but each project needs its own framework that is developed collaboratively. The museological concept of ‘best practice’ in this sense means ‘culturally appropriate practice’: ways of working that respect the social, political, cultural, spiritual and even psychological context of each Indigenous artist and/or community. At the outset of a project, museums need to invest (time and resources) in an open-ended development phase. Discussions without a firm concept of the end point can help museums to remain responsive to Indigenous directives. 

Select art museums are employing bold presentation strategies to reorientate thinking about Indigenous art and collections. Acknowledging and addressing the dominance of western display conventions and aesthetics, these museums are working collaboratively with carefully selected artists to design complete environments for the display of Indigenous objects.

Acknowledging the hierarchy within communities by engaging in ‘peer to peer’ negotiation (i.e Museum director and Chairman/Mayor) is a simple means of communicating respect.

Indigenous participants in museum projects can be less interested in driving the curatorial aspects but very interested that the public programs and opening celebration specifically reflects their involvement.

Indigenous artists in the US and Canada struggle to have their work perceived as contemporary art. Much of the work of Indigenous curators in North America involves countering the dominance of non-Indigenous art practice within the national and international consciousness and promoting the work of contemporary Native and First Nations artists within the framework of mainstream contemporary art.

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