Workshop "Tropical Object, Turns" by Aram Lee

October 5, 2023 | 4.30 - 6 PM

Break open layers of colonial, Western narrative in the performative workshop Tropical Object, Turns, by delving into the experiential world of the ethnographic objects.

Tropical Object, Turns focuses on ethnographic objects from the Global South that were taken out of their original habitats and isolated in Western museums in colonial times. Lee’s research method aims to release these objects from their isolated and suppressive western narrative. In the workshop the public in invited to collaboratively re-read the tropical objects.

In a potential scenario where our climate could get warmer and “tropicalised”, can objects that come from the tropics, but are kept in European museums, transgress their current passive state of untranslatability? Can forms and ideas from the South contained within objects lead us to future adaptations for new climate conditions? How can we re-translate the knowledge and social relations carried by these objects to an European context without privileging western modern conceptual paradigms?

By looking at the archive of the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, the Southern objects, and their current context, it draws out a new translation of tropical archives in museum collections on the history of colonial trade and exchange. The tropical objects are collaboratively re-read to create a new atlas of the objects from the southern hemisphere.

Museums and their collections are then conceptualised not as massive solid buildings but as things that exist minimally and liminally. This decentralised approach allows the museum to disperse throughout the city. This analysis posits that when something enters the museum, it can be labelled as “dead”, in that its life as a functioning object is over. Yet museums are immortal places—within their depots are millions of items, hidden and frozen in time. By bringing their objects out from these dark depots, museums can exist transparently and encourage dialogue, revealing new stories and—potentially—new knowledge.

The workshop is part of the public program of the exhibition Creating the Commons, which looks at co-creation in art and science and is a collaboration with the VU Open Science Program. As space is limited, please sign up here to join.