The Gift, Art’s Infrastructure, and Ethnographic Conceptualism
Dr Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov (Anthropology, University of Cambridge)
The paper asks: what is the infrastructure of gift in a public museum as an institutional, modern gift? Its goal is to question if the notion of material infrastructure is sufficient to account for a broader sense of infrastructure as ‘conditions of possibility’ of a project, and how, if at all, infrastructure needs to be ‘dematerialised’ by analogy with the dematerialisation of art by conceptualism. This paper’s case in point is the Kremlin Museum, Moscow, which I explored by curating an exhibition of gifts to Soviet leaders in 2006. While in the material sense, the infrastructure of gift echoes that of tourism and pilgrimage, I argue that politics, discourses and aesthetics of this project cannot be taken out of equation. In particular, I argue that temporalities of these politics and of the gift are central to the understanding of mechanics of infrastructure.
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