chapter  2
30 Pages

The Exhibitionary Complex

In reviewing Foucault on the asyl um, the clinic, and the prison as institutional articulations of power and knowledge relations, Douglas Crimp suggests that there ' is another such institution of confinement ripe for analysis in Foucault 's terms - the museum - and another discipline - art history' (Crimp 1985: 45) . Crimp is no doubt right, although the terms of his proposal are misleadingly restrictive. For the emergence of the art museum was closely related to that of a wider range of institutions - history and natural science museums, dioramas and panoramas, national and , later, international exhibitions , arcades and department stores - which served as linked sites for the development and circulation of new disciplines (history, biology, art history, anthropology) and their discursive formations (the past, evolution, aesthetics, man) as weil as for the development of new technologies of vision. Furthermore, while these comprised an intersecting set of institutional and disciplinary relations which might be productively analysed as particular articulations of power and knowledge , the suggestion that they should be construed as inst itutions of confinement is curious. lt seems to imply that works of art had previously wandered through the streets of Europe like the Ships of Fools in Foucault 's Madness and Civilisation; or that geological and natural history specimens had been displayed before the world , like the condemned on the scaffold, rather than being withheld from public gaze, secreted in the studiolo of princes, or made accessible only to the limited gaze of high society in the cabinets des curieux of the aristocracy (Figure 2.1). Museums may have enclosed objects within walls , but the nineteenth century saw their doors opened to the general public - witnesses whose presence was just as essential to a display of power as had been that of the people before the spectacle of punishment in the eighteenth century.