Uncomfortable Art Tours
Uncomfortable Art Tours are exactly what they sound like.
In a country that’s repeatedly failed to come to terms with its colonial past, led by politicians who seem to think the past is the future, we seek to resist triumphalist nostalgia with art history. How did the narratives of Empire come into being? Who controls them? And how can we learn to see through the whitewash to the truth?
These Tours focus on how major institutions came into being against a backdrop of imperialism. On each tour, we unravel the role colonialism played in shaping and funding a major national collection, looking at the broader material history of celebrated works: where the money comes from, the ways they’ve been displayed, and the ideological aesthetics at work. The history of British art is also the history of empire and genocide, written by collectors who traded in landscapes and lives.
Currently, Uncomfortable Art Tours run at six sites: the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain and the Queen’s House (National Maritime Museum).
The Tours first ran in June 2017 as part of the Antiuniversity Now festival.
Display it like you stole it
‘display it like you stole it’ is a call for museums to rethink the politics of display in their galleries. From label text to lighting, how is ownership created and dissent shut down? Who is the authorial voice here, and what is considered worthy of inclusion? It’s well past time for museums to be honest about their acquisitions history and how objects arrive in their collections in the first place.
Badges are available at Uncomfortable Art Tours, and at some events.
DILYSI stickers for wherever you stick things
6.9cm paper stickers
Available in four designs - Benin bronzes, Parthenon marbles (Athens), Tipu’s Tiger (Mysore) and the Gweagal shield (Kurnell) - each representing objects in British collections acquired through violence or theft.
DILYSI badges for your jacket, tote, or whatever you’re willing to poke holes in…
38mm/1.5in badges with steel pin backs.
Guaranteed to create awkward looks, confused train conversations and critical museological discussion!
The Exhibitionist started as a podcast. It's on long term hiatus while Alice works on other things. It's still available here:
An Uncomfortable library
This is a selection of suggested books, recommended sites, and resources developed by others, relating to museums, race, identity and curation. It's a work in progress and I really appreciate any suggestions of things to add.
An Uncomfortable Library - my ongoing bibliography
Social Justice and Museums Resource List - created by LaTanya S. Autry (@artstuffmatters)
Archival Decolonist - Nathan Sentance's incredible blog on First Nations knowledge and representation in GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums)
Press and publicity
Slaver! Invader! The tour guide who tells the ugly truth about museum portraits - The Guardian, Bridget Minamore 24.4.2018
Museums are hiding their imperial pasts – which is why my tours are needed - The Guardian, Alice Procter Mon 23.4.2018
about alice procter
I'm a historian of material culture based at UCL. I have six years of tour guiding experience at heritage sites and galleries, and I curate exhibitions, organise events, make podcasts and write things under the umbrella of The Exhibitionist.
My academic work concentrates on the intersections of postcolonial art practice and colonial material culture, settler storytelling, the concept of whiteness in the 18th and 19th centuries, the curation of historical trauma, and myths of national identity. My MA research is into new modes of dissenting narrative in museum spaces. I am Australian, but mostly grew up in England.
If you want to collaborate on a project, organise a tour or workshop or generally have a chat, get in touch.
This is an education project, not a business, but I pay myself and my helpers for their time. Buying tickets or badges helps keep tours and workshops as affordable as possible. There are free spaces available for every tour, just email me.
I am represented by Claudia Young at Greene and Heaton, so please contact her with media enquiries.