A RHETORIC OF “BELONGINGS”: OBJECTS, PROCEDURALITY, AND MEMORY IN C̓ƏSNAʔƏM

This paper examines digital technology in c̓əsnaʔəm, a series of exhibitions located in Vancouver and focused on the Musqueam people and their belongings. It considers challenges to traditional museum exhibition posed by the unique structure and motive behind c̓əsnaʔəm, asking how new meanings can be constructed with a combination of old materials and digital technology. C̓əsnaʔəm is an exhibition series that spans three institutions, and which makes a rhetorical shift from the terminology of ‘objects’ and ‘artifacts’ towards that of ‘belongings’. This distinction is considered through a comparison to Bruno Latour’s object-oriented philosophy, through which the question of how exhibition interacts with memory is considered in c̓əsnaʔəm. The series also makes significant use of interactive and digital components, considered within this paper using Ian Bogost’s procedural rhetoric. To consider c̓əsnaʔəm in the context of other curatorial efforts, this paper then conducts a comparative examination of c̓əsnaʔəm alongside museum-based studies by Ott, Aoki and Dickinson. The focus of this paper, using the above frameworks, is the examination of concepts of memory, interaction, absence, and amnesia, and how they are rendered in museum installations. This paper considers how the composition and components of these installations work rhetorically to convey a Musqueam worldview and historical perspective. It argues that c̓əsnaʔəm presents textual choices that build on both its form as an exhibition and its status as a text belonging to Musqueam to allow visitors to engage in a rhetoric dependent on reflection.

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