David Wlazlo

The Austrian Question: Ian Burn and Institutional Mis-Recognition.


Recently a paper of mine was published in the third issue of the Melbourne journal Discipline. The paper begins with an account of how I came across the MoMA website listing of Ian Burn, an Australian artist who was listed as Austrian on the gallery's website. Thinking that I should correct MoMA, by informing them of their mistake, I hesitated: this simple mistake takes on particular resonances, as Burn was quite critical of MoMA's travelling exhibition program in the late 1960s and 70s as propagating a kind of US cultural imperialism. In many ways, I thought that by informing MoMA of the error, I would be participating in, and reinforcing, their hegemonic status as the modern art museum par excellence. My allegiances were split between respect for Burn and his opinions, and a sense of obligation toward the institution.

I presented the paper at the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand (AAANZ) conference in Wellington, NZ (2011). Since then, MoMA have updated their records.