Becca Roy O’Gorman

Untitled: A Verbose Silence

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The Art of the Americas collection, the new wing at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston consists of four floors, which ascend in chronological order including art from 500 BC to the mid 1970’s. The MFA attempts to provide a global perspective of the interwoven histories of the western hemisphere and transcend traditional museum taxonomies, in part by using the term ‘America’ as an expanded geography, encompassing North, Central, and South America. Although this method of display potentially offers new narratives of the past, it acts to underline certain hierarchies and categories. In the attempt to create hybrid histories through the juxtaposing of their display, the museum works to construct a historical discourse, which recognizes an infinitely layered history. Ultimately the exhibition format makes manifest the limits of disciplinary categories as the order of display perpetuates colonial vision. Though this exhibition format is working to dissolve specific boundaries in landscape or nationality, it reinforces and re-inscribes categories of difference in the display of Native American Art. In this way, the ideological conception of visual difference within the Art of the Americas collection has calcified the categorization and display of Native North American Art to present the Native American as an artifact of an unchanging, monolithic history.