Go back to article: The ‘co’ in co-production: Museums, community participation and Science and Technology Studies

Space and time and matter

To turn more directly to time, Barad uses the idea of the ‘becoming’ of phenomena to challenge the assumptions that metaphysical individualism makes about time and space, of time as ‘an external parameter’ and space as a ‘container’ (2007, p 179). Barad argues:

The past is never left behind, never finished once and for all, and the future is not what will come to be in an unfolding of the present moment; rather the past and the future are enfolded participants in matter’s iterative becoming. Becoming is not an unfolding in time, but the inexhaustible dynamism of the enfolding of mattering. (2007, p 234)

There are two points to draw out here. The first is that matter is the past in the present – it is ‘congealed agency’. So when Barad says the past is never ‘left behind’, she evokes the way in which what matter is has been made up through its intra-actions, ‘sedimented historialities of the practices through which it is produced as part of its ongoing becoming’ (2007, p 180). Fox Talbot’s cameras are congealed agency that enabled certain things (focusing light) and are what they are now (part of the ‘invention of photography’) through the intra-actions of which they were part. The objects in the gallery are sedimented practices and, through their collection and display, they are drawn into new phenomena of exhibition in the gallery.

The second point is that intra-actions are not in time as ‘an external parameter’ but actively making time. Barad emphasises this point by fusing the term spacetimematter to emphasise their co-production and mutual constitution. Spacetimematter is what is ‘produced through the iterative enfolding of phenomena’ (2007, p 180). Drawing the two points together Barad gives the example of rings in a tree which mark ‘their intra-actions within and as part of the world’. Barad notes that trees and their rings are a helpful but also limiting metaphor, ‘the point is not that time marches on, leaving a trail of sedimentation to witness the effects of external forces of change. Sedimenting is an ongoing process of differential mattering’ (2007, p 181).

There are two implications for our argument here. The first is to read this through another visit to the Fox Talbot display to explore the interplay of space, time and matter. The second, which will come later, is to explore the political potentials for community co-production in museums which a co-produced approach to matter, space and time might generate.

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/160502/007