Art of the intangible history: Negotiating the possibilities of arts-based research for learning processes in Finnish-Namibian Museums

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Nordic Visual Studies and Art Education
Nordic Visual Studies and Art Education
This thesis is a qualitative, arts-based research which examines learning processes about case-study museums about Finnish – Namibia cultural history. It elaborates the shared history, meaning the missionary work done by Finland in Namibia since in 1870 and certain post-colonial theories related to this history. It discusses museums as knowledge-shaping arenas and self-directed learning environments. The thesis explores the possibilities which contemporary artistic practices bring forth for discussing cultural history, post-colonial theories and museums as learning environments. It analyses what kind of visual images, meanings and social and cultural contexts are embedded in the setting. Practices of looking, certain subject positions, and power relations regarding cultures and cultural contexts are examined. The research discusses theories of knowledge and how an artist/researcher learns through encountering the complex systems of a cultural history museums through art-making. The case-studies, relevant literature and contemporary art processes during the research process contribute to a discussion around the concept of history and the fluid and rhizomatic nature of knowledge. The negotiations derive from a poststructuralist world view and uses concepts and terminology from philosophers and social theorists such as Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault. An emphasis is made on embodied, affectual learning and it challenges the notion of being able to know the whole truth about the subject of research. The research finds fixed knowledge problematic in relation to museums, colonial discourses and concepts such as stereotype. The thesis touches upon the multiple subject position in history narration and investigates alternative views through shared discussions with Namibian historians and museums visitors. It elaborates the cultural imperialistic influence which Finland has had over Namibia, but also problematizes hindsight and a single or binary perception of the setting. It realizes the ambiguous nature of identity and issues of representation. As an alternative it proposes a knowledge based on movement and experiments with abstraction. The thesis points out how remaining neutral or objective in art, history or museum constructing is nearly impossible and manipulation happens on multiple levels. It argues that majority of history and experience can never be shared. Although the research tangents with institutional critique, the purpose is not to dismiss the museum but to turn towards new potential
Pusa, Tiina
Thesis advisor
Kaitavuori, Kaija
museum, arts-based research, post-colonial theories, Namibia
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