Sarah Brophy, Janice Hladki, Mary O’Connor and Jessie Travis | McMaster University

“Pedagogy, Engagement, and the Space of Exhibition”

1)  “The Possibilities and Limits of Museology in the Un-Cripped University” (Brophy and Hladki)

2)  “bodily loco/motion: seeing un-/disorder, the body and embodied archives in Eadweard Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion”  (Travis)

3)  “Making and Theorizing Archives: A Pedagogical Experiment” (O’Connor)


With this panel, we explore museology as pedagogy, “activist museum practice” (Sandell and Dodd 2010, 3), and exhibitionary design. We argue that  “tactical museology” (Buntinx and Karp 2006, 217) is a complicated discursive space of both possibility and impossibility.

We offer three papers (two individual and one collaborative) that provide scholarly reflections on particular exhibitionary work designed for contexts at McMaster University, including a cultural studies course and the McMaster Museum of Art. Working with theoretical perspectives in museum studies, archive studies, cultural studies, disability studies, and gender studies, we consider the transformational pedagogical capacity of museums and exhibitions (Bennett 2005) “to open up new possibilities for negotiating relations of cultures-in-difference” (Bennett, 64). In this way, exhibitionary work fractures norms of knowledge making and learning in cultural institutions, such as the university; creates new possibilities for dialogues about the relationship of art and society; and invigorates public discourses. As Roger Simon notes (2012), exhibitionary practice “remains a much under-explored praxis for animating thought regarding pressing social, cultural, and political issues.”

The “discursive space” of museology as pedagogy also inheres in its generative capacities to intersect communicative, affective, and political possibilities. We are particularly interested in art as both thought and affect, functioning as inquiry to summon remembrance, stimulate accountability to others, and produce visions of a responsibly hopeful future (Bennett 2005; Bal 2007; Malt 2010; Simon 2005; Van Alphen 2005).

The contemporary neoliberal university produces institutional barriers that contain “cultures-in-difference.” The first paper explores the work in, and the context of, a university-situated exhibition, co-curated by the authors, which in its focus on disability subjectivities summons “modes of political agency” that “are not based on visible compliance and conformity” (Ferguson 2004, 60).

Investigating how to make a space for un-/dis-orderly embodied archives, the second paper examines the potential to re-imagine the body in relation to museum/archival space. The author reflects on the significance of her search for the body in, and embodiment of, the archive, in the McMaster Archives, housed in the McMaster Museum of Art.

Our third paper expands on the potentialities of pedagogical space by giving an account of an experiment that explored the value of “projects” in a graduate course on “The Archive and Everyday Life.” Multiple discursive and material barriers or thresholds were faced (and at times overcome) in this experiment that resulted in a number of exhibitions.