The Vanishing Curator: Souvik Kar

Playing back to the Empire, in videogames, is rife with tensions. The imperialist sentiment inherent in reverse-colonist discourse featured in most strategy-based videogames like Europa Universalis IV, where the player could conquer Europe playing for the Marathas, has been noted by Souvik Mukherjee (2017) as playing into the colonial logic while futilely trying to challenge it. Studio Oleomingus, an Indian two-man game studio, is one of the few involved in a different experiment. Their mythical game Somewhere, chronicling a postmodernist search for identity and narrative in the forgotten city of Kayamgadh, has generated significant spin-offs into its universe. With attention to one such spin-off, I will focus critical attention on the issue of the postcolonial gaming of the Museum in A Museum of Dubious Splendors. I will examine the New Museological implications of A Museum of Dubious Splendors, keeping in mind Museologist Eilean Hooper-Greenhill’s assertion of museums embodying “the power to name, to represent common sense, to create official versions, to represent the social world, to represent the past” (Hooper-Greenhill 2001: 2). Oleomingus’ own description of A Museum, as an adaptation of edited, mangled, contested short stories by a fictional Urdu writer, Mir Umar Hassan, eschews the linear narrative production of the colonial museum for a game of meanings, where the player enters rooms according to his choice and constructs his/her own “quiet game about prosaic objects and spurious histories.” (“A Museum” 2018) The paper would take this into account and examine the reconceptualization of the museum space with respect to James Clifford’s sense of museums being “contact zones”: A Museum’s lack of any curator, with its curious blend of colonial and native tales and banal objects defamiliarised by “spurious histories” lends itself to questions of playing the Empire back according to a different episteme, through subaltern histories that the colonial museum space silenced. Paying close attention to the question of postcolonial spatiality in this game, I will analyze the historiographical implications of these identity-scatterings and recuperations at constant play in the structure of the game.

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