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On the Artful Path: This Song is a Museum

What kind of gaze can a museum cultivate? While MOA’s Multiversity Galleries displays thousands of historical ethnographic objects from around the world, visitors may be surprised to discover that this space is also home to an impressive and growing collection of works by contemporary artists. Carefully curated to stand in relation to the historical belongings on display, these works draw on traditional as well as new imagery, methods and materials to demonstrate the continuity of cultural practices or to comment on contested histories and current concerns.

As Karen Duffek, MOA’s Curator of Contemporary Visual Arts and Pacific Northwest, says, “Contemporary works help to interrupt the space. Artists point attention to the ways in which they connect to and reclaim their cultural heritage, but also make visible the dynamism of art- and culture-making.” The acquisition of contemporary art at MOA speaks to the role of museums as active sites of inquiry and research, subverting notions of anthropological collections as static and unchanging. Experience a different kind of engagement with MOA’s collections by following this path to four contemporary artworks.

This Song is a Museum, by Peter Morin (2011)

This Song is a Museum, by Peter Morin (2011). MOA Collection: 2932/5. Photo: Kyla Bailey.

Tahltan artist Peter Morin invited Coast Salish singer Hwieumten, Fred Roland to make a visual record of his song. Using a drumstick dipped in paint, Hwieumten inscribed his gestures on five elk-skin drums, creating patterns of dark splatters. The work is a reminder that songs, like museums, transmit cultural knowledge. Morin questions the historical authority of museums and provides a more inclusive understanding of what the Indigenous forms of such institutions might be.

Find Me: Case 109, or on MOA’s Collections Online