As we discussed in class, the “self” is a relatively recent invention. It seems that this shift has had a profound influence particularly on western society as we know it today but also more specifically the role of the museum and expectations and perception of the visitor. It has forced the museum to adapt radically in order to successfully compete with contemporary forms of media/entertainment. The Century of the Self is BBC four-part documentary series by Adam Curtis which reveals the fascinating process of the ‘invention’ of public relations and the move from ‘need’ to a ‘desire’ based society. It shows the context within which museums have developed over the last century and indirectly why they are what they are today. You can watch the series on Google videos. Part 1 is called Happiness Machines. Enjoy!
Apropos our discussion on Monday which briefly touched on the concept of Museum 2.0, a very relevant reinvention of the museum is currently taking place along Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Museum Without Walls: AUDIO is essentially a downloadable personalized audio tour of public sculpture available as an app for your iPhone or as a podcast for your computer. Implemented by the Fairmount Park Art Association, the tours encompass the 50+ sculptures peppered amidst the myriad cultural institutions of the Parkway, and are based on the idea of authenticity in the presentation and interpretation of sculpture. These tours seek to purvey the different perspectives of artists, historians, teachers, scientists, writers, local community leaders, and, yes, curators in order to present a more personal experience of Philadelphia’s rich tradition of public sculpture.
This idea is definitely interesting for its engaging use of public space, and its aim to reacquaint Philadelphia with some recognizable but perhaps still mysterious works of sculpture. Also of interest is the added role of the spectator as an active participant in the “exhibit”: visitors are invited to submit their photos and/or anecdotes to the program’s website. Added bonus: tours are free! For more information, including an interactive map, please see: http://museumwithoutwallsaudio.org/
Say the word “museum” and my mind instantly thinks of grand, international, and greatly respected institutions such as The Met in New York. I would venture to guess that most people have this same inclination. This New York Times article, “Mr. Showmanship’s Show is Closing” announcing the shuttering of the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas, serves as a reminder that museums cover all subject matters, including cultural phenomena. Also highlighted in this article is the fact that museums across the country, regardless of content, are struggling in the current economy and are constantly developing ways to continue and increase visitorship.
It’s interesting to think that something, in this case Liberace and all he represents, once deemed valuable enough to preserve in a museum can quickly become irrelevant. The museum staff has tried to reinvent Liberace’s relevance and place in today’s society since its original significance has waned and no longer sufficiently draws pubic interest.
Photograph by Norbert Schoerner
Blythe House in London is the archive for the Victoria & Albert Museum’s extensive collections of fashion and textile, furniture, ceramics, jewellery and fine arts. It is within this incredible building, usually closed to the public, that the fashion curator Judith Clark and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips created ‘The Concise Dictionary of Dress’. The exhibition consisted of a guided tour through the building in a small group passing by various installations, designed and assembled by Clark and accompanied by definitions created by Phillips. This awe-inspiring archive creates a unique atmosphere that aroused curiosity and allowed the visitor to lose themselves in this maze of hallways lined by cabinets and rooms filled with movable storage units. The installations emerged from unexpected places, subtly drawing on associations to the stored objects surrounding them. This exhibition provided a unique experience, which redefined the way one perceives the presence and absence of the body and clothing and challenged the boundary between the stored/preserved object and the displayed. You can find more information at www.artangel.org.uk
Here is a short trailer that gives a preview of the exhibition.