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Marinelli, L. (2009). “Body Missing” at Berggasse 19. Am. Imago, 66(2):161-167.

(2009). American Imago, 66(2):161-167

“Body Missing” at Berggasse 19

Lydia Marinelli

Translated by:
Joy Titheridge

We were talking about what a museum is, the functions it can fulfil, the conditions it requires. “I don't think you deserve the name. You shouldn't call yourselves a museum, what you have here has nothing to do with a museum. Museums exhibit works of art or collections, but this….” The participant in the course for aspiring museum experts broke off mid-sentence. The course instructor tried to complete the sentence by explaining the shift in the definition of the concept of museums, which this training course sought to convey. But despite this foray into an extended history of the concept, even the most liberal experts appeared to retain an affective remnant that was triggered by this place.

The reservations expressed concerned the Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna, which had been branded the product of name usurpation. A more appropriate designation would be memorial site, but not the conceptual horizon of the museum, the participants concluded. No reasons were given for this in the discussion that briefly flared up, but their very unspoken-ness was immediately understood by those present: It was not a matter of revising the definition of “museum” or of less out-moded objectives for the institution. What was being expressed here was the inadequacy of this place itself, the incongruity between the notion and the location, the idea and the social institution, which initially eluded conceptual systematization. This sense of incongruity is caused by the fact that this museum does not offer to the eye what the associations surrounding the institution demand; instead of satisfying visitors' expectations, it disappoints them.

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