14 Points on the Limits of Knowledge and Care: Yesomi Umolu

14 Points on the Limits of Knowledge and Care: Yesomi Umolu

Yesomi Umolu is a contemporary curator and writer. She has been part of the conversation that has been long-held amongst those in the art and cultural sectors. The topic is complex and at this moment in history it is important to amplify the voices of people like Umolu, who have a gift and art in articulating valid points of information that invites us to examine our cultural and artistic practices.

Be sure to follow her work that she does.

14 points on the Limits of Knowledge and Care

1. Museums are built on the ideological foundations of being repositories of knowledge and spaces of care in the service of civic society in the western world.

2. The history of museums is tied to the colonial impulse to collect and amass objects (and therefore culture knowledge) from the world over, charging specialist caretakers/scientists with their interpretation.

3. The conditions of collecting upon which museums were founded are inextricably linked to colonial violence enacted on the other – non-western bodies, spaces and societies.

4. Museums have obscured this violence in their missions of knowledge formation and caring for objects.

5. Care in museums has expanded from a focus on safeguarding things and building western art history in the 19C to the reification of public engagement in the 21C.

6. Museums have always been exclusionary and for the privileged. They were built for the betterment of the western subject and society at the expense of the other.

7. This is further complicated by the fiction of the emancipatory power of the cultural/art object museums are deemed to be spaces of respite away from real politics and societal injustices.

8. Museums have therefore set themselves in a double bind, presming to be at the service of civic society on the one hand, while setting themselves apart from it on the other hand.

9. If museums amass knowledge and care for things then the question that has been provoked in the midst of the social upheavals and global health pandemic of recent days, months and years is: for whom do they do this for?

10. The answer is obvious. The statements from museum leaders in recent and coming days starkly reveal this. To acknowledge the limits of knowing and caretaking is an important step.

11. But to seek to make amends, repair, reconcile and build for the future on broken foundations is a difficult and potentially dangerous path.

12. The task of the moment is not to seek to welcome the other and the excluded into these fragile spaces i.e. fillling quotas and exacting hastened inclusion policies. For the violence will only be worsened.

13. The task is to commit to practices of knowing and care that critically interrogate the fraught history of museums and their contemporary form, uprooting weak foundations and re-rooting upon new, healthy ones.

14. Let us know and care for the other, ourselves and society-at-large in equal measure, without prejudice. Let us know and care about bodies and their politics.

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