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The Commodity Fetishism of Thought (or Me! Me! I want that idea!)

I'm beginning to get interested in museums, collections, exhibitions and the like as a metaphor for blogging. A sensible place to start seemed to be the beginning of museums, and so I did reading around the subject and came across the wonderfully named Antoine Chrysethome Quatremere de Quincy (1755 - 1849). Quatremere was the last of the "armchair archaeologists". He lived at a time when museums and collections were beginning to change radically the way we viewed art, and he abhorred what they were doing. For him, work placed in a museum is

"lifted from its original function, displaced from its birthplace, and rendered foreign to the circumstances that gave it significance"
- Considerations morales sur la destination des ouvrages de l'art (1815)

Quatremere's Olympian Jupiter

Museums stripped art of its context. So for instance when, in 1796, the little genius Napoleon decided it would be a good idea to relocate the artworks of Rome to Paris, Quatrem�re was furious

"The true museum of Rome consists ... of statues, colossi, temples, obelisks, triumphal columns, baths, circuses, amphitheatres, arches of triumph, tombs, stucco decoration, frescoes, bas-reliefs, inscriptions, fragments of ornaments, building materials, furniture, utensils, etc., etc.; but it is composed no less of places, sites, mountains, quarries, ancient roads, the particular placement of ruined towns, geographical relationships, the mutual relations among all these objects, memories, local traditions, still prevailing customs, the parallels and comparisons that can only be made in this very place."
- Lettres sur l'enl�vement des ouvrages de l'art antique � Ath�nes et � Rome. (1815)
Initially, I found myself liking Quatremere. The divorcing from context angst was something I (up to a point) shared. More to the point, there is much about collecting and museums that smacks of commodity fetishism, which I abhor (although, erm, I do love my new laptop ... ).

But here's the rub. What else am I doing quoting Quatrem�re but "fetishising" his thoughts?

In fact, what is anyone doing when they post to their blog quoting someone else's comments but acting like Napoleon?

Going to have a cup of very rare PG Tips now, and ponder. I suspect I'm getting my knickers in a twist - after all there are differences between the little genius and me, which is comforting, but ...


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Answering your question at the bottom of the essay - there is one difference: the comments they quote are still available at the original place.

Fair point - am still feeling slightly "pretentious? moi?" about the whole title thing but anyway - I suppose it highlights the importance of referencing and citations?

I still think the context thing is important - I suppose the analogy I'm pushing towards if a quote is a "work of art", then by collecting a whole load of other peoples quotes, you are effectively becoming an exhibitor. And by arranging your exhibit in different ways you create different "meanings".

Sheesh. I do think there's something in the analogy, just seem to be sounding like a terrible ponce ... hmmm

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