Thinking through the Museum team member Dr. Erica Lehrer’s recently co-curated exhibit, “Terribly Close: Polish Vernacular Artists Face the Holocaust,” was reviewed by Adam Schorin in Forward. The review, titled “In a Kraków Basement, Awkward Objects of Genocide,” describes the exhibit as “extraordinary and unnerving.”
In lieu of an abstract, here is an excerpt from the review:
At the entrance to the temporary exhibition in Esterka’s House, a branch of the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków, there is a photograph of the collections storage of the Warsaw State Ethnographic Museum. The photograph shows rows of densely populated shelves: in the space of just a few cubic meters, hundreds of hand-carved figurines are consorting. There are peasants and priests, farmers and nuns, Adam and Eve and la pieta. And in the center of one row in the back, half-hidden by pastoral and religious scenes, is a triptych of the Holocaust: a soldier shoots a woman and her child, corpses are loaded into ovens, a group of Jews is led away by smiling policemen.
This is how we arrive at “Terribly Close: Polish Vernacular Artists Face the Holocaust.”
In response to the exhibition #Heritage at the National Museum in Kraków, Poland, Dr. Erica Lehrer has published a long-form review titled “Making #Heritage Great Again.” The review reads the show critically as the newest volley in a national culture war in the context of Poland’s recent hard rightward turn.
(photo credit: Erica Lehrer)
The review is free to read in the online journal Political Critique, the international arm of Central and Eastern Europe’s largest liberal network of institutions and activists.
Here is a short excerpt:
“The #Heritage (#Dziedzictwo) exhibition at Krakow’s National Museum is imposing, grand, and low-tech. It is an old-school, collection-based exhibition that exemplifies a traditional form of museological deceit, where profoundly political work is disguised as objectivity and benevolent custodianship. But #Heritage is novel because it co-opts not only the seeming neutrality of the original museum-as-treasure-box, but also the trappings of more recent, democratic approaches to curating, all while neutralizing true civic debate.”
Thinking through the Museum team member Erica Lehrer’s recently co-edited collection (with Shelley Ruth Butler), Curatorial Dreams: Critics Imagine Exhibitions, has been reviewed by Robert Fulford of the National Post. The review, titled “‘Every Exhibition is an Argument’: Scholars Envision Dream Exhibitions that May One Day Exist,” describes the collection as “ground-breaking.”
Across the world this is the golden age of museums. Other cultural institutions come and go but the popularity of museums never stops growing. Every city in the world wants one, and if it has one already it wants to make it better by enlarging it and bringing the architecture up to date.
The exhibitions that fill museums are another matter. Patrons often find them disappointing. They are judged old-fashioned, or too trendy. Or they are not “world class.” They tell us too much, or too little, about their subjects.
These are among the reasons to welcome a ground-breaking book, Curatorial Dreams: Critics Imagine Exhibitions (McGill-Queen’s University Press), edited by Shelley Ruth Butler, a cultural anthropologist at McGill, and Erica Lehrer, in the sociology-anthropology department at Concordia.
Last year, research team member Angela Failler co-edited a special double issue of The Review of Education Pedagogy and CulturalStudies titled “Caring for Difficult Knowledge: Prospects for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.” The issue, which featured a Foreword written by team member Erica Lehrer, was officially launched in November 2015.
The CMHR’s “Garden of Contemplation.” “The First Nations sacred relationship to water is honored, as a place of healing and solace amidst reflections of earth and sky” (www.predock.com/CMHR/CMHR.html). Photograph: Erica Lehrer.
Dr. Erica Lehrer has published an unflinching and generative review of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in volume 67, issue 4 of American Quarterly, titled” Thinking through the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.”
To access the full article, click here. Here is a brief excerpt of the content.
“‘This ice you’re standing on, this is what you’ll be drinking down in Winnipeg next spring. For you, this is life. For people here, it can be death.’ I am shivering along with a dozen Winnipeg-based academics and students listening to Cuyler Cotton, a policy analyst and media relations specialist, in the community of Shoal Lake No. 40 on a mid-January day, looking out across the frozen lake that separates the local band of Ojibway First Nations, inhabitants of Shoal Lake, from access to the nearest highway. One hundred years ago the Canadian government sold this portion of First Nation terrain to the city of Winnipeg to build an aqueduct to supply the urban residents with clean water. As collateral damage, the Shoal Lake No. 40 peninsula was sliced into an island. This intrusion into the landscape left the local people to drink boiled or bottled water and traverse the lake by boat or winter road—treacherous in late fall and early spring with the insufficiently frozen surface—and living amid their own trash and sewage, which leaches into their water supply. Continue reading →