Author Archives: jennyflorence

The Latest Word: Spaces of Experience

Charlotte Klonk's "Spaces of Experience"

The latest word in display theory was just released by Yale University Press. As in two weeks ago. Charlotte Klonk’s Spaces of Experience: Art Gallery Interiors from 1800 to 2000 locates the development of art gallery interiors in the broader history of experience and perception. It looks like an interesting read, and may be helpful in guessing what comes next!

Jenny F.

Immersive Media: Janet Cardiff and George Bures-Miller

Our readings this week, including one by Ontario artist David Rokeby, reminded me that I’ve meant to write about the work of a pair of Canadian artists who use immersive media. Janet Cardiff and George Bures-Miller are best known for creating interactive and highly engaging art installations and “walks”. The gallery I worked for in Toronto exhibited two of their installations – 2001’s Paradise Institute (which won the major prize at that year’s Venice Biennale) and the Forty-Part Motet – so I’ve had some first-hand experience with their work. While I’m sometimes iffy about the artistic value of their installations, there’s no doubt that they can usually provide remarkable experiences for participants and visitors.

Janet Cardiff's "In Real Time"

Janet Cardiff and George Bures-Millers "In Real Time"

Many of Cardiff and Bures-Millers’s installations, and all of their “walks”, use binaural audio (usually implemented through headphones)and video to animate a space in support of a narrative. That the narrative is obscure and open-ended doesn’t really matter. For a few minutes you are completely drawn in: the narrator addresses you directly, guiding your movements; invisible presences seem to whisper so closely that you can’t help but turn around to see whether someone’s there; the space around you is transformed by the atmospheric sounds. The technology seems fairly simple, but the artists use it in a way that is unparalleled. Their “walks” absolutely transform existing environments, even those already imbued with notions, from Central Park to abandoned prisons to historic sites. Even their simplest-seeming installations can be moving.

Janet Cardiff's "Fourty Part Motet"

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller's "Forty Part Motet"

The Forty-Part Motet, which assigns a speaker to each voice in a choir, offers an emotional and strangely intimate experience. It was amazing listening to the beautiful choral music emitted by the installation, but once I found the speakers that “belonged” to the choir’s sopranos, a group of little boys that would whisper and joke between sections, I loved the piece even more.

When Cardiff and Bures-Miller are successful, their work is incredibly immersive, powerful and evocative. It leaves a lasting impression. I would love to see how this example could be translated by museums to generate learning experiences.

Jenny F.

Museum as Hub

The Museum as Hub is a collaborative initiative based on a network of five international art museums, including New York’s New Museum. It’s a new approach to curation, as well as an open space for exhibitions, events, special programs, community discussions, screenings, etc. During the first year of the project, the museums worked with the theme  “neighborhood”, distinguishing what this meant to the people of the city in which each museum is located.

I like this as an example of a real social network that takes on big issues, one that is maybe more powerful and vital than the virtual networks we’re all part of.  I see it also as a good example of something that can be started by a museum or gallery that relies on good old sharing, discussion, and face-to-face interaction (as well as online interaction between the collaborators) to generate an experience.

New Museum’s Museum as Hub is hosting a symposium on October 21st to consider the initative itself.  This should be a good look at a museum’s exercise in self-evaluation and a peek into how this project will progress in the future, not to mention an interesting afternoon of discussion. And it’s inexpensive ($8 for students)!


Gregor Schneider’s END

Gregor Schneider's "END" installed at Mönchengladbach Museum in Germany

Gregor Schneider's "END" installed at Abtieberg Museum in Germany

With his project for Germany’s Museum Abteiberg, artist Gregor Scheider literalizes the harrowing experience of seeking enlightenment. Schneider’s known for exposing the shifting psychological (and often disturbing) undercurrents that run through our personal spaces (Haus Ur and Die Familie, I’m talking about you). With END, Schneider takes on a public institution we look to to learn about ourselves. The 2008 piece was a new entrance to the museum: a huge, black, Suprematist square of an opening, followed by 70-meters of absolute darkness, the tunnel tapering to a 1×1 metre opening of light. More images on the artist’s own website.

(Jenny F.)

The city as interactive museum: [murmur]

[murmer] "Exile" in TorontoToronto’s [murmur] project explodes the idea of the museum as a discrete reflector of our condition, and expands its role as a communicator of narratives by turning the whole city into a museum. [murmur] collects personal histories of public places to let you live the city through others’ experience. More here.

(Jenny F.)