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LOST VITRINES. part of the exhibition ‘UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTHS; The Victoria and Albert Museum. London February - June 2007 Two museum vitrines containing books and other objects

Keith Piper’s installation parodies the aesthetics of display and assumed hierarchies ‘of knowledge in museums. It seeks to explore the often hidden underbelly of the eighteenth century enlightenment. It references the complex relationship between a period of advances in rational thought, commerce and the genteel liberal arts at home, and the violence of slave trading and the Plantation system abroad. V&A exhibition Label



LOST VITRINES. DETAILS OF INDIVIDUAL OBJECTS from LOST VITRINES (Case I) The Coloureds Codex (2007) Wooden box with prints, mixed media and pigment. 305mm by 470mm by 80mm

A Gentlemen’s guide to the Restraint of Negroes (2007)

Large bound volume open at artist printed page. 504mm by 730mm by 68mm

above: ‘Catalogue’ (2007). Bound book open to artist printed page. below ‘An Illustrated Guide to Ideal Plantation Dwellings’ (2007) Bound book open to artist printed page

LOST VITRINES. DETAILS OF INDIVIDUAL OBJECTS from LOST VITRINES (Case II) Miss Mary’s Micro-Resistance ToolKit (2007) Wooden box with bound volume, glass containers and spoon. 291mm by 411mm by 84mm

above: ‘Running Away’ (2007). Bound book open to artist printed page. below ‘Working Methodologies for Smashing and Burning’ (2007) Bound book open to artist printed page

Piper’s ongoing visual art practice has concerned itself with the scrutiny of specific sites, artefacts, historical narratives and cultural practices in order to decipher the prevailing discourse’s which frame notions of racial difference, and to trace their formation through an excavation of imperial memory. ‘Lost Vitrines’ was a site specific art work commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum to be located amongst the permanent collection in their Eighteenth Century British Galleries. It existed as part of an exhibition entitled ‘Uncomfortable Truths’ (20 February – 17 June 2007), which included Artists Fred Wilson and Yinka Shonibare, and was commissioned as a response to the bicentennial of the abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Through detailed research into the methodologies of display employed to frame and contextualize the existing objects within the Museum collection, and in consultation with the conservation department within the V&A, Piper fabricated a series of objects and books which replicated the visual and aesthetic codes of the historical artifacts within the displayed within the galleries. These fabricated objects however subverted the expected visual codes synonymous with the Georgian and Regency ‘enlightenment’ period, by juxtaposing them with iconography and texts evoking the previously absented memory of the slave trade. These objects were then placed within a number of museum vitrines, the ‘Lost Vitrines’ of the project’s title, which were then positioned throughout the Galleries. This functioned to open a dialogue around systems of encoding the memory of a historical epoch within the established archive, and the extent to which alternative and counter narratives of an epoch can be strategically absented. The projection of ‘lost’ narratives back into the museum space acting to highlight their previous exclusion. Pipers work mentioned in various reviews including ‘The Independent’ (9/2/07) ‘The New Nation’ (12/2/07) ‘Metrolife’ (21/2/07) and the Museums Journal’ (1/4/07)

The Lost Vitrines  

The Lost Vitrines. V&A

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