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.
Let’s Find Out About Indians,
by Alexis Macdonald Seto (2001)
To create this work, Macdonald Seto repurposed a vintage children’s book that is both an artifact of the 20th-century school system and a reminder of harmful, outdated representations of “Indians.” The absurdity of its simplistic depictions is juxtaposed with photos of the artist’s own experiences and family. By inserting the artist’s voice into the historical text, she reclaims power in portraying complex and diverse histories of Indigenous ancestry.