The Reformist Manifesto

November 7, 2016

 

It is almost a provocation in a neoliberal world where museums are part of culture whose role is credited by kind and big words but the expectations are that it serves the power holders or, more banally, the owners of money. But any likeness to the historic original is, of course intentional. It belongs to K. Marx who is much despised and ignored nowadays. Too bad for the proponents of such an attitude. Though he belongs to his own time and political context, and in spite of the failure of communism that proved very inappropriate to the human nature, his messages are still relevant. His original words of the theses were:  „Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it”. (The English translation was first published in the Lawrence and Wishart edition of The German Ideology in 1938. The most widely known version of the “Theses” is that based on Engels’ edited version, published as an appendix to his Ludwig Feuerbach in 1888, where he gave it the title Theses on Feuerbach).

 

If you substitute „curators” in place of „philosophers” you will have a message that hits the very heart of the two hundred years of museums’ main shortcomings. It is the history of being mere observers of the memory and its uses and of being passive scribes to the rulers in their society. To make the claim more obvious I have simplified the theses to the one proposed in the slide. The added line of explanation suggests a crucial change in paradigm: from analysis and scientific interpretation to understanding the institution(s) as the factors of change and contributing to the creation of a better, harmonious world. This paradigm, unlike at the time it was proposed in my lectures and writings (1989), now governs imperceptibly a whole lot of advanced museum practices. But it is only the introductory sentence into a much longer story of applied cybernetics that would explain full consequences of Manifesto. Finally, such an attitude and weltanschaung may lead to theoretical conclusions like explaining the impact as Mnemosophy (1987). Though the neologism sounds like provocation and just another irresponsible exhibition of smart professors, it is but a simple plea: we finally need to have a science of public memory, whichever name you choose to call it. (BTW, my last book bears the title: “Mnemosophy – an essay on the science of public memory”). 
 

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Some rights reserved. European Heritage Association, 2016.