Jointly developed by M HKA and the KU Leuven, this long-term, interdisciplinary research project focuses on a specific, yet complex body of work; multifaceted and variably installable, unfinished and open-ended: Ship of Fools / The Dockers' Museum (2010-2013) by artist and theorist Allan Sekula (1951-2013). Informed by the research of the team members, the project continues to evolve in a succession of research outputs, such as this digital platform.


In 2013 and 2014, undergraduate students of the art history department at KULeuven researched a number of objects from The Dockers’ Museum. The task was embedded in a work seminar on the application of art-historical methodology  for contemporary art. The students wrote – on an individual basis – a number of filing cards. They devoted themselves to this task with great enthusiasm. First, the objects were thoroughly studied and documented in the M HKA storage. Then, one technical card was created per object. This card was then provided with a brief contextual object study and a bibliography. Due to the heterogeneity of the objects, each object required a different methodological strategy. Here as well, the students showed a lot of dedication and creativity: for example, object sellers were contacted (with varying success) and various archives were consulted.

The ‘practical’ individual assignment was linked to a group assignment with a more thematic input. Here, the students set to work, often for the first time, on Allan Sekula’s impressive corpus of texts. Through thematic clusters, the different groups speculated about the possible meaning and critical relevance of The Dockers’ Museum as an artistic project. This way, they reflected on the possible relationship between The Dockers’ Museum and the legacy of the artist’s museum, Constantin Meunier, social realism, the concept of minor art, and the representation of maritime art in an art-historical perspective.

Translation by Steven Tallon.