Power and dialogue at the art museum: Sharing authority at issue-based exhibitions
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Within the art museum, diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and interpretations converge and at times clash. Exhibitions of taboo subjects can set the stage for conflicts between the institution and community expectations and values. As relevant social institutions, I feel museums should proactively address contemporary issues in exhibitions in ways that allow visitors to share authority, engage in dialogic experiences, and contribute personal narratives that ideally result in a transformative experience. This research uses a theoretical framework based on the work of Foucault and Bakhtin. A review of the literature is followed by a short case study on the Portland Art Museum’s exhibition Marking Portland: The Art of Tattoo (2009). It concludes with recommendations for ways in which art museums can facilitate dialogic and subsequently, transformative, visitor experiences through the use of technology and storytelling in conjunction with controversial exhibitions.