“Imagine looking at an object not for its artistic or historical significance but for its ability to spark a conversation. Every museum has artefacts that lend themselves naturally to social experiences.
It might be an old stove that triggers visitors to share memories of their grandmother’s kitchen, or an interactive building station that encourages people to play cooperatively. It could be an art piece with a subtle surprise that visitors point out to each other in delight, or an unsettling historical image people feel compelled to discuss. It could be a train whistle calling visitors to join the ride, or an educational program that asks them to team up and compete.”

Nina Simon, The Participatory Museum, 2010

“For my part, I do not think that history is a narrative, whether it be factual or fictional. History occurs in a space between the archive and life, between the past that is being collected and reality, understood as everything that has not been collected. Yet this zone where history occurs does not simply disintegrate, it does not become fictionalized. On the contrary, it becomes more and more homogeneous because the archives–partly through the electronic media–gradually merge to form one large world archive, a formalized universal memory.
What we call history is the question after everything that is in the world but has not yet been incorporated into this universal memory. The dynamic process of history is the search for what is new –‘new’ not in the sense of a narrative but in the sense that it has not yet been included in the archive. The inclusion into the archive immediately redraws the boundary between the archive and its exterior and demands the archivization of what remains outside of its limits. The past is not ‘memory’ but the archive itself, something that is factually present in reality…”

Boris Groys, The Logic of Collecting, 1998 (originally published in ArtMargin but no longer available online. Also worth a read from Groys is “Entering the Flow: Museum between Archive and Gesamtkunstwerk” on e-Flux and his text “On the New” on Art Nodes).

The city is a discourse and this discourse is truly a language: the city speaks to its inhabitants, we speak our city, the city where we are, simply by living in it, by wandering through it, by looking at it. Still the problem is to bring an expression like ‘the language of the city’ out of the purely metaphorical stage. It is very easy metaphorically to speak of the language of the city as we speak of the language of the cinema or the language of flowers. The real scientific leap will be realized when we speak of a language of the city without metaphor.”

Roland Barthes, Semiology and the Urban, 1967

“There is no unmediated photograph or passive camera obscura in scientific accounts of bodies and machines; there are only specific visual possibilities, each with a wonderful detailed, active, partial way of organising world.
All these pictures of the world should not be allegories of infinite mobility and interchangeability but of elaborate specificity and difference and the loving care people might take to learn how to see faithfully from another’s point of view, even when the other is our own machine.”

Donna Haraway, Situated Knowledges, 1988 (full text available online)

“… Michel Serres’s notion of the quasi-object, famously illustrated with the example of a soccer ball: Serres described how the ball participates in and co-produces the human interaction we call soccer. It is simple to visualize: without the ball there is no gameBut the ramifications of this understanding of objects are profound. Quasi-objects can interfere with how we play the “game” we call society, how we structure our interactions, collect ourselves into groups, distinguish ourselves from others, identify our culture. Without quasi-objects there is no social game, no cultural difference, no shared experience.”

Jorge Otero-Pailos, Experimental Preservation, 2016 (see a lecture online here and the article on Places Journal)

“Here, we find architecture not in its functional guise but as a site of desire, memory and doubt, home to personal contingencies and collective histories, the clashing of cultures and the coalescing of subjectivities. Refusing to address us as mere spectators, these works implicate us in the spaces they generate, engaging us in ways that are at once visual and conceptual, and that call attention to what must be experienced rather than merely seen.”

Ralph Rugoff, from the exhibition Psycho Buildings: Artists Take on Architecture, 2008