Imaginging ‘The Rocks’

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Sasha Hutchinson


This article uses the current exhibition at the Museum of Sydney Painting the Rocks: The loss of old Sydney to explore the ways in which ideas of tradition and the postmodern may manifest in a museum context with reference to their different ideological contexts. More specifically, the purpose is to reveal how the geographic place known as ‘The Rocks’ is also an idea, constructed and ‘imagined’ by different groups, for different reasons, at different times. A comparison between the 1902 era exhibition which encompasses elements of tradition such as preservation and valorization of the past; and the current 2010 incarnation which combines elements of modernity and postmodernity, facilitates an examination of what characterizes an authentically postmodern exhibit or institution. Following on from this, this article seeks to identify elements such as the relativising of truth claims, the embracing of context, representation of unique individual stories and marginalized groups within the exhibit. An additional exploration of the postmodern museum as an interactive space, allowing the public to assume an active, rather than a passive position is also included, and, as an extension of this, a discussion about the role of memory, both individual and collective is presented. The purpose of this article is to reveal the ways in which historical ‘evidence’ is rendered meaningful by the context in which it appears, in terms of a current ethos or ideology and how this ethos can be evidenced within a wider cultural context.

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