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Visible and invisible institutions: cinema in the French Art Museum

Chamarette, J. ORCID: (2015) Visible and invisible institutions: cinema in the French Art Museum. In: International Handbooks of Museum Studies: Museum Media. Wiley Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 95-119. ISBN 9781118829059

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1002/9781118829059.wbihms305


In this chapter, I argue the case that film, and cinema more broadly, have produced metaphorical and literal shifts of focus and frame within the museum context. The chapter initially discusses the multilayered ways in which film, as a representational medium and as an exhibited object, interacts with its political and sociocultural counterpart: the institution of cinema. I then argue that these focal shifts in the treatment of film in the museum, and the treatment of museums on film, potentially eliminate some aspects of the museum from cinema's perceptual field, while highlighting others, operating as a counterdiscourse to the prime concerns of museums at a given moment in time. These aspects are also subject to, and affected by changes in, the tangible materiality of cinema as an object, an experience, an exhibition space, and a cultural institution. Rather than imagining film as a “medium” in the technological or communicative sense, the chapter examines the politics of film as a mediator, negotiator, or indeed critic of museum spaces and museum politics. The “visible” and “invisible” institutions in the title of the chapter refer to these shifts in focus and frame that draw attention toward – or away from – the political and cultural contingency of film in the museum space. Cinema's historical and contemporary privileged position in French cultural heritage suggests that thinking about French museums specifically informs an understanding of the moving image's conceptual and spatial shift away from “cinema” as such, toward a broader conception of the medium. Cinema as we like to think about it has long since left the auditorium and found itself transmitted across multiple screen media technologies, from the handheld mobile device, to digital streaming, to large‐scale screening on tower blocks: such devices have inevitably been adopted by museums as modes of education, interpretation, and outreach. Increasingly, cinema, as a mutable cultural institution that defies visible definition, has made a shift into the museum – a sociocultural institution which often courts both physical presence and virtual existence, in add‐on digital apps, screen‐based interpretation, and online exhibition spaces. Consequently, the case studies of this chapter are situated within a French cultural context which offers concrete examples of the complex relationships between cinema and the museum. In doing so, the chapter interrogates the complex political, curatorial, and broader sociocultural concerns of the institutionalized housing of film within the museum, both as a public space and as a political institution.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Film, Theatre & Television
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Art > Art History
ID Code:92941
Publisher:Wiley Blackwell

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