Time, Space and Museums

I was reading Reach Advisor’s article, “Is Art Really Asynchonous? What About Museums?” and examining Seth Godwin’s graphic which analyzes high and low bandwidth media against asynchonous and syncronized activities. In thinking more on this I realized  that part of me likes the fact that most exhibitions in museums are stable and fixed in design yet also temporary. Exhibitions that I experienced years ago become part of whom I am in the same way that reading a classic or traveling constructs who I am as an individual. Considering that many exhibitions that impacted me the most  are temporary (such as Sensation), does that experience become an isolated perhaps sacred set of moments? Because that exhibition experience can never be repeated  is it more valuable?

(Heather CS)

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5 responses to “Time, Space and Museums

  1. I’d like to comment on the Twitter post: “Is the library dying or undergoing a renaissance?” I have to say that the thought of libraries disappearing into the digital age extremely upsetting.
    Though digitalization can be a very useful means to an end and can provide access as perhaps never before, there is a loss and a disconnect that occurs in the process. Just as a hand-written letter is nothing like an email, holding a printed book in one’s hand and knowing the size, shape, weight and color offers a connection that the digital version just cannot offer. The reason an exhibition has the effect suggested by Heather–the effect of a great book or movie does one one’s life and memories–is because of the physical experience of being present and there and with the objects. Seeing a digital rendition of the time of the dinosaurs can add, but never quite accomplish the huge impact one has from actually being in a room with the skeletal remains and reconstructions of the REAL dinosaurs. I feel the simplification and resulting artifice are not the answer or future. We need to think of ways to incorporate the old with the new to work together.

  2. I agree that exhibitions become part of a persons experiences, background, and understandings. One carries with themselves the effects and memory of that exhibitions, wither due to the design, what is displayed, or the circumstances surrounding it. The idea of the exhibition as temporary and isolated sacred moments is interesting, it reminds me of an article by Carol Duncan’s Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums, the chapter discusses how museums are created to be equivalent to an ritual and sacred experience by the people who enter the museum space. I think that the museum experience is an isolated moment, due to the unrepeatability of that moment in time. One can go through the same exhibition and never have the same experiences. To me, this causes them to be highly valuable and isolated in the encounter.

  3. Maybe the impermanence of an exhibition allows you to mull over things, to speculate, without having to really pin things down. Maybe it gives you the freedom to ask questions without worrying whether you know the answer. I’m thinking of posting about famous exhibitions that have projected what our homes would be like in the year 2000, etc. World’s Fairs are sort of similar.

  4. “Considering that many exhibitions that impacted me the most are temporary, does that experience become an isolated perhaps sacred set of moments?”

    This discussion reminds me most of an exhibition I saw at the Guggenheim. Right before the Beijing Olympics, Chinese firework artist Cai Guo Xiang had a solo exhibition that took up the entirety of the Guggenheim spiral. It was most definitely an isolated experience that I will never have again. Even if I were to have the chance to see the same body of work again, the location and set up of the Guggenheim changes the way in which the work is to be viewed. In the exhibition, visitors walked amongst stuffed wolves and tigers up the spiral as part of a running pack. The most memorable piece was his re-do of scenes from an installation that he won in Venice a few years back. Visitors walk amongst life sized-clay sculptures of people working in the fields of China. Cai Guo Xiang purposely left the clay unbaked so that as the exhibition runs on, the sculptures begin to fall apart to suggest the deterioration and suffering of the Chinese people under the rule of Mao Zedong. Even as I walked through the installation, cheeks of clay peasants would fall off their face. Fingers would silently drop, adding to the pile of clay rubble below. In an installation like this, my experience is an isolated moment even if I didn’t want it to be. As I walked back down the spiral while leaving, the installation had already changed and showed something slightly different from what I saw before. This visit to the Guggenheim was definitely unrepeatable.

    Though the exhibition experience can never be repeated in its exact context, I would argue that it isn’t necessarily more valuable than if I were to see it again somewhere else. A different context and experience could equally be as spectacular and no doubt will educate me in other manners. We may favor certain experiences over others, but I still believe that each isolated experience is just as valuable.

  5. Perhaps it is true that there is a different value to a temporary exhibition than a permanent one – something I have never really thought about before. Instead of saying one is more valuable than the other, however, it seems that detracts from the value gained from a temporary exhibition.

    The value in a familiar exhibition is comfort – whenever I visit home, I always return to the Yale Center for British Art. While I spend time in the temporary art shows, I find myself meandering through the permanent collection and focusing on key architectural aspects of Louis Kahn’s design that have always intrigued me for years.

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