Museums’ multiple histories lie in the evolving interplay between the basic notions of collecting, classifying, displaying, and on the part of the public, receiving that underlie their institutional practices. Museums are the storehouse of the past and present culture and tradition of a particular region. The background therefore of museumization as an act of preserving cultures is based on the notion of difference rather than extinction.
‘Museums are Closed at Night’ is a project by Desire Machine Collective, in its larger scope, seeks to examine the conflict between the Global North and Global South, where the confrontation between rival knowledge systems today needs to be looked at. Biodiversity transformed into one of the most precious and sought after natural resources and since most biodiversity is located in the countries of the South and more so regions like Assam and the North East India, the project aims at ‘decolonizing’ the cultural memory in the museums and open up the space for the popular, pleasant and indigenous knowledge’s. Also to unpack the sustenance and activation of such knowledge confounded and confined in spaces like museums that are based upon imperial identities and epistemologies, false universalisms and the coloniality of power.
However both museums, and the act of museumisation imagination, are profoundly political both in what is included and excluded. Power relations are inherent in every object and collection, whose reproduction enables the creation of an image world, which supersedes its referents. This is what the project will attempt to decolonize and unpack at. The use of museums as performative cultural instruments raises a number of questions. What is the relationship between museums, their cultural artifacts, and performance? Who performs the museum? Whose memory and cultural history is being performed? These questions will be tackled during the project.
On this ground, ‘Museums are Closed at Night’ — A research presentation and exhibition by Desire Machine Collective was held on Saturday, on the 21st April 2018 from 11:00 AM to 06:00 PM at the Assam State Museum, K L Boruah Auditorium, Near Dighalipukhuri Park, Ambari, Guwahati. The day also had a lecture series on culture, history and civilization and an exhibition re-interpreting from the objects at the Museum, an alternative narrative of Assam. Speakers of the event are Prof. Hiren Gohain, Dr. Manjil Hazarika and Caroline Dutta Baruah. The lectures were designed with the intention to re-imagine and re-view archives and museums as spaces of contact and explore multiple narratives between people, scholarly material, artworks, and ideas. The event was free and open to all.