Dear Andrea, thanks for a great presentation.
Exhibitions such as 'First Peoples' that follow a pedagogy of feeling are directing their work specifically at a non-Indigenous audience. Is there a tension between this and a desire for exhibitions to be displayed specifically for an Indigenous audience? Would the subject matter of these exhibitions differ? For example, would Indigenous audiences want narratives of colonial trauma to be central or absent, or is it difficult to generalise? In which case, how might (or should) museums reconcile the clashing requirements of different audiences when using a pedagogy of feeling? I'm particularly interested in how this might translate to a European context.
Dear Andrea - thanks very much for your question.
I think one of the reasons the First Peoples exhibition is so powerful is that it manages to do different things for different audiences. I would not say that First People's only addresses non Indigenous audiences. As I tried to briefly point out, there are many points in which the exhibition celebrates narratives of continuity, community and individual resilience, histories of activism, pride in the maintenance of traditional cultural practices. There are also moments in which the pain many experienced as a result of the colonisation of Australia is also acknowledged - such as the memorial to those who died as the result of small pox introduced by the colonisers and which stands for the first impacts of colonisation, followed by the hurt caused by lack of a treaty, lack of understanding what Country meant and therefore what dispossession and displacement meant for those who lost access to their Country (not nation but birthplace and all that attends to that in terms of webs of relations, responsibilities etc), the impact of the Stolen Generations and so on. I think a pedagogy of feeling is uniquely placed to deal with complexity and double audiences precisely because the 'labour' or work of making meaning lies in the space between the subjectivity of the visitor (who may or may not be Indigenous in this case) and what they are experiencing/viewing. It is an active, charged space. By this I mean that the way the exhibition is structured is far more complex than simply the oft made point that meaning is made not given or that exhibitions should be pluralist - have multiple voices. For me that is a pedagogy of listening which tends to be declamatory in nature - the point is that different voices are there. The quality of the dialogue between them though is not the point. In a pedagogy of feeling, the quality of the dialogue between those voices is the point and crucially, the audience is part of it.
The other point is that this is one of three exhibitions that work together within the space. One of them develops three key concepts and explores them through a wide variety of Indigenous voices and photographs of Indigenous people, creating something akin to a family album - Country, Identity, Family. The relationship between these things makes up the Aboriginal world view in a way.
The other exhibition is called Many Nations. It showcases the Museum's collection which is strong in material from Central and northern Australia and sets up a dialogue between ethnographic and Indigenous perspectives on that material. Across the three exhibitions then, there is material that prioritises Aboriginal audiences, material that addresses both Aboriginal and non Aboriginal audiences and which does so with different effects. That, to my mind, is what is so clever about this exhibition.
As to how it would translate in a European context - it is going to be different, but a pedagogy of feeling taken, for example, to an attempt to recognise Europe's colonial histories, would do so in ways that both recognised and embodied formerly colonised peoples world views with respect and created a space in which contemporary Europeans could begin to acknowledge not only what happened but what this might mean in the present. A pedagogy of feeling does not allow for the past to be past. But nor would the point be to make people feel guilty - it would do its best to generate understanding and from that, action.
Hope that makes sense. I would encourage you to explore the website and get as much sense of the whole as you can and hear what the Elders themselves had to say about their experiences and their objectives in collaborating with the Museum in the development of this exhibition (web address in my response to Claire's first question).