The Role of the Gallery in Cultural Representation
“If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them,
at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”
– Junot Diaz
For author Junot Diaz, growing up without representations he identified with meant that he struggled to understand his place in his community.
As a cultural authority, the museum or art gallery has the ability to house representations that are denied elsewhere and has the potential to present ideas that destabilize established or naturalized knowledge. A museum or art gallery therefore also has the potential to create new understandings that could be transformative for its public.
From discussions at the Regional Diversity Roundtable, the AGM recognizes that organizational attitudes on diversity and inclusion is best expressed through a continuum and is an arduous process without set precedent yet.
Diversity is more than a set of statistics to prove an institution is friendly or tolerant; it’s, as Judith Simmer-Brown puts it in Commitment and Openness: A Contemplative Approach to Pluralism, “a commitment to communicate with and relate to the larger world – with a very different neighbour, or a distant community.”
Inclusion could and perhaps should, be uncomfortable and confrontational: it means growing aware of one’s biases and privileges, of potentially recognizing and coming to terms with one’s position as a dominator, intentionally or otherwise, and of actively seeking change, of mobilizing to rightfully attribute power to those on the margins that they may define a space and a way to belong.
Are cultural institutions doing enough to ensure inclusion? What responsibility does the museum or art gallery have in ensuring voices from all demographics are represented? Artists: do you feel that your voice is represented in current conversations about Canadian art?
Let us know in the comments below, or join us and the Regional Diversity Roundtable in Tough Questions Café, November 26, 5:30 – 8 pm. RSVP here for the event at the Art Gallery of Mississauga http://toughquestionscafe.eventbrite.com or join on Twitter @AGMengage #905art.
Guest post by AGM Engagement Officer Tina Chu.