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“Exhibiting in spite of all”: mediating interests and producing meaning in Donostia–San Sebastián European Capital of Culture 2016

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Thanks to the expectations that made it the flagship project of San Sebastián European Capital of Culture 2016 and its relevance to the achievement of a lasting peace (the most pressing issue on the Basque political agenda), the exhibition Tratados de Paz was promoted as an artistic event of unprecedented dimensions in the city. Taking as a starting point the controversy it generated in the public and press, this article analyzes the exhibition’s production process: the bringing together of a set of human and nonhuman agents whose attempts to reconcile their respective interests generated meaning. To this end, the article explores the conflictive relationship between two different approaches to art that pervaded the exhibition project: art as sublime object and as archive. This opposition helps not only to explain the artistic and cultural limits of the exhibition proposal but also to identify the sociopolitical categories underpinning it. These opposing logics were not preestablished but resulted from a combination of practices and materials shaping a project that did more to stir up controversy than to solve problems. For this reason, the exhibition failed to meet many of the expectations placed on it, while at the same time opening up new lines of discussion in the city’s artistic sector.
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Keywords: European Capital of Culture; actor-network theory; cultural mediation; curatorial studies; museums and exhibitions

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology 2, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Leoia, Spain 2: Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain

Publication date: October 2, 2019

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