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Visual objects and universal meanings : AIDS posters and the politics of globalisation and history

By Claudia Stein and Roger Cooter

Abstract

Drawing on recent visual and spatial turns in history writing, this paper considers AIDS posters from the perspective of their museum ‘afterlife’ as collected material objects. Museum spaces serve changing political and epistemological projects, and the visual objects they house are not immune from them. A recent globally themed exhibition of AIDS posters at an arts and crafts museum in Hamburg is cited in illustration. The exhibition also serves to draw attention to institutional continuities in collecting agendas. Revealed, contrary to postmodernist expectations, is how today’s application of aesthetic display for the purpose of making ‘global connections’ does not radically break with the virtues and morals attached to the visual at the end of the nineteenth century. The historicisation of such objects needs to take into account this complicated mix of change and continuity in aesthetic\ud concepts and political inscriptions. Otherwise, historians fall prey to seductive aesthetics without being aware of the politics of them. This article submits that aesthetics is politics

Topics: AM, RA
Publisher: Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL
Year: 2011
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:4344

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