Thuistezien 205 — 14.03.2021

Sandra Kemp
The Scenario Project

One of the fascinating things about the future is how quickly it dates.

The Professor and Senior Research Fellow at the Victoria and Albert museum in London Dr. Sandra Kemp pointed out this notion of the future in her talk for the one day Symposium ‘100 Years from Now’ which took place in 2015 at the Grote Kerk in The Hague. In this symposium, the following question was addressed: Where will cultural production and art be 100 years from now?

As a writer and curator whose research is located within the discipline of future studies in relation to visual and material cultures, and coming from a grand cultural institution, it seemed fitting to have Kemp to be the first speaker of the symposium. Her talk deals with a research project which she has been engaged with for the past several years. This research includes three big questions which she does not necessarily know the answer to but is in a continuous process of exploring. Part of this research includes a focus on unsettling the definition of time which has defined our notions of heritage. Kemp acknowledges the importance that museums have had and still has in the creation of our understanding of making connections across time as curators continue to create comparative definitions of past and present. Until quite recently, a linear development between past, present, and future has remained the dominant museum device.

In Kemp’s research, she aims to reveal a much more dynamic relationship between past, present and futures. She explores how a new relationship to temporality, which can be plural and which can become the bases for both a new political imaginary and a new historiographical context in the work being done. As she points out, this topic is already worked on and the book ‘Radical Museology’ by Claire Bishop stresses how we tend to take for granted the style period labels in museums and galleries which continues to determine how works are collected, displayed and discussed. As the Victoria and Albert museum is often associated with a specific type of ‘elite’ objects, Kemp finds it crucial to examine how these collections of objects can be used to actively engage their public in debates and policies concerning the future.

While the first two questions in her research address history and the public and lead to new ways of thinking about time and temporality in museums, the third question is about the social construction of futures, and who is missing in this. Here, museums can be an important place, offering space to reflect and debate values, with the possibility of questioning the present which is based one plural histories and conflicting interests rather than a uni-natural, dogmatic narrative of progress.

Text: Rosa Zangeberg