Nina Liebenberg

A box with the sound of its own making: curatorship and the empathy of objects

My research focuses on a Tabloid medicine chest situated in the Manuscripts and Archives Department of the University of Cape Town library. By presenting the object to a variety of disciplinary experts for examination, the project sets out to show how viewing an object from a single perspective, excludes a variety of its other characteristics, and negates its fullness. It also examines the codes of knowledge production within disciplines, and the influence and pressures of history on the formulation of these codes. Furthermore, it argues that these processes result in narrowed view of the object, which limits the set of potential interactions, inhibits the formulation of contact zones and creates a lack of empathy. Drawing on Donna Haraway’s formulation of the term ‘figuration’ in When Species Meet (2008), and using artmaking and curation as methods, the project  seeks to reveal the complex, polyphonic and layered narratives of an object in order to engender a global sense of ethical and political responsibility.