Orders of Spectating: Rehearsals of Sovereignty, the State and the Museum of Art, Paris, London, Abu Dhabi and Istanbul
Re-runs of nationalist political discourses across Europe and beyond have been preceded, as if tragically, over previous decades, in critical re-readings of notions of political sovereignty. Repeated exercise of states of exception, from acts of extraordinary rendition of 'enemy suspects' to drone strikes against nationals abroad, act as if to confirm Foucauldian accounts of modern sovereignty and the racism of state power. Close attention to what might seem the relatively innocuous sphere of what Johnson terms the rehearsals of sovereign power in the state museum of art, however, can expose stagings of the fictive character of sovereignty, from the Louvre Paris in 1791 to the Louvre Abu Dhabi today, in ways that draw out the significance of imagined passage from inside to out in the spaces of display and of the inspection of difference in the spaces of exhibition. In his talk, Johnson will also be considering how transnational initiatives of state museums of art can sometimes serve imaginaries of national political sovereignty, but sometimes their disturbance in acknowledgement of interdependence.