Category Archives: senses

Don’t forget the real artefacts!

It seems there is a very real danger of losing touch with the real objects and artefacts that are the essence of the museum. With the rise of digital media and the increasing investment in the online and interactive presence of museums, people becoming less inclined to interact with the real objects. As referred to in the ‘Themes and Threads’ of this course the status of the object is under threat. I would suggest that we need to reconnect with the objects around us whether in a museum or not in order to develop an awareness of their value and meaning. The book How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum by Keri Smith presents a playful way to do this. It contains a series of ‘explorations’ or assignments that challenge the reader to interact with and collect the objects in their environment and create personal museum.

The answer to Stephen Conn’s book title and provocative question: Do Museums Still Need Objects? has to be YES, right?

RH

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Cycles in Exhibition Design

Frederick Kiesler "Art of This Century" Exhibition 1942

In 1942 when Fredrick Kiesler designed Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery “Art of this Century” he incorporated armatures into his design that literally presented the artwork to the viewer by removing the art from the wall and placing it into free space. This ‘active’ exhibition design broke the inherent two-dimensionality aspect of the artwork and placed in within a three dimensional space. As a result, the audience and the art were comfortably within the same environment. As a result of this design, Kiesler’s exhibition was critically acclaimed and in the last few years there has been a Kiesler-revival. I am interested in the fact that today Kiesler’s work  not only remains provocative but is also increasingly relevant. Kiesler recognized not only the role of the surrealist art in his design but he recognized another important ingredient in his design – the viewer. His training as a set designer had prepared him for this role – he created sets but more importantly he created spaces for the actors within his sets. In our discussion in class we speak so often of the curatorial narrative, of the display of information, of the experience of the exhibition, of the expectations of the audience, but in reviewing Kiesler’s exhibition, it seems that we don’t actually think about the physicality of the exhibition and the viewer. We do indeed talk about how the viewer fits into the exhibition – culturally, academically, etc – but physically fits? Sometime the most important move is the simplest move – welcoming the viewer so they can exist in the same of the exhibition… the display, path, experience, etc then become relevant.

HC Smith

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.

Indian Halloween at NMAI

On Saturday, the Coatlicue Theater Company performed in the atrium space of the museum, in celebration of The Day of the Dead. From my understanding, they had several performances. I caught a fifteen minute performance, where Natives danced barefoot to the beat of two drums, with decorated in musical objects and elaborate masks. I wondered if their movement was choreographed, but after several minutes I realized the outer circle of people followed the movements of three leaders in the center. The sound was the most powerful aspect of the performance; the vibrations from the drums, chanting, and maracas echoed off the high ceilings. It was the first time I experienced the energy of a pow wow in person. This group of cultural activists/performers also created a participatory experience for visitors, inviting the crowd to join them in a dance. Business men and women, tourists and children moved around the exhibition space with joined hands. This performative, personal interaction with visitors expressed traditions and practices of the Native culture in ways a static exhibition could not.

vancj574ill

Museums,Technology, Life

Technology Based LifeI would like to share with you my response to the first chapter of the book Networked Publics titled “Place: The Networking of Public Space” by Kazys Varnelis and Anne Friedberg, and what I think the role of Museums would be in the future in response to a technology-based life.

How new technologies are affecting human relationships and social structure? As human beings we have always been part of social groups and I wonder how technology is changing this. Is this human disconnection created by technological connection going to turn us into a kind of hermit with no private lives and no personal relationships?  Or are we maybe going to become nomads again?

Cell phones have brought about significant changes at many different levels. As stated in Networked Publicseven working and meeting schedules are more flexible because we have the opportunity to call and tell we are running late. But from my personal experience more relevant changes have occurred in developing countries. Places where rural and poor people never had a telephone because companies wouldn’t go that far away or risk not to get paid, suddenly had the opportunity to connect to the world. The appearance of the cell phone and pay-as-you-go plans gave these people the opportunity to communicate with the rest of the world for first time and in some sense to belong to a society bigger than their small towns or neighborhoods. They finally could be part of the exterior world.

But in the same way cell phones had the capacity to integrate communities into the world, they also have a bigger capacity to disintegrating human physical contact. We have arrived to a point where we don’t even want to hear each other’s voice. We can just text each other. There is no need to create a physical connection. But as human beings we need to touch and we need to be touche. It is part of a healthy life. I can understand now why some movie writers would imagine the future of the world as a place where people won’t even touch each other to have sex.  But I wonder if this isolation is the consequence of technology taking people apart or the reaction of people trying to get back their personal space and get away from a live overload with technology. The question here is: Is technology isolating us from people or is it taking away our personal space and moments?  I think the answer is both. We don’t have more time for ourselves but we are fewer and fewer in direct contact with other people. People expect us to be working, informed and available all the time just because technology has given us the possibility to do it, but it has also taken away our right to rest and have those spaces in live so important to be with ourselves, reflect and even pray. I remember a business man telling me how upset he was because airplanes have internet now and his boss was expecting him to work on the airplane while before he could have this time for himself.  Is this global connection disconnecting us from ourselves?

Another interesting relationship is the way communication can transform architecture. As Victor Hugo stated the book changed the way architecture was used as a communicative surface. Are new technologies and ways of communication going to change the relationship between architecture an humans in more deeply ways?

When internet appeared we were wondering if office spaces, stores and restaurants would become obsolete by the fact that you could do everything from home and send it by internet and also get everything from the net. But now with mobile internet and mobile technologies, I wonder… is our house going to become obsolete?

If telecocoons have given the possibility to create their own worlds completely divorced from a physical architecture, can technology lead us to a divorce from it as a permanent place to live? If we can carry our work, our connections, our communications, our games, and our diversions in a small cell phone inside our pockets all over the world, why would we need a house?  Could it be possible that we go back to the time when men were nomads? Traveling now is easier and more affordable and technologies give us the possibility to stay connected to the world no matter where we are. Maybe the future residential projects will become hospitality projects and hotels would become our virtual homes. Instead of bringing our bags full of stuff we will bring our cell phones full of connections.

Now the question that rises is: What is going to be the role of museums in a so connected and at the same time so detached world?  In a world where people will lose their connection with themselves and where physical connection with other people and spaces will be irrelevant, museums will offer a space for reflection and reconnection with us and also a physical space to promote physical connections between people while learning and amusing ourselves.  In a world where people see themselves just as part of a global network, museums will still be part of the network but will bring people together again and will recreate a sense of society and a sense of belonging to the human race and not only to a technological network. No matter where we are, museums will be the space to escape from virtual life and reconnect with real life.

Maria Antonia Villegas

The Post-Modern Museum

At some point in the mid 20th Century the modern museum began to take on a new form. Consumer culture gained a hightened level of self-consciousness, and the very notion of “the self” as shaped by individual experiences rather than a societal imperatives, took root and fostered a new way of thinking about museums. What emerged was a focus on the customer, a deeper understanding of the audience and meeting that audience’s needs. The post-modern museum emphasizes the user, education, relevancy and accessibility. In fact it is often described as a place of lifelong learning, supplementary to a more formal education compulsory learning in schools. Unlike the modern museum which might be characterized by didactic pedagogy, learning in a post-modern museum is experiential and accounts for different learning styles. Here the constituent chooses his or her own interests and the museum tailors its programs and exhibitions to those interests. Instead of prioritizing the curator’s voice as an overarching authority, these museums rely more on the meanings produced by their visitors and constituents through interactive engagement. As Eilean Hooper-Greenhill puts it “Meaning is produced by museum visitor from their own point of view, using whatever knowledge and skills they bring with them, according to the contingent demands of the moment”. Here, modern social psychology and constructivist educational theory prevails.

Museum Stages.xlsx

Exhibitions in these museums are largely developed with the aid of professional designers, creative practitioners who borrow the tools of advertising, a carefully crafted language, the focus group, formative evaluation and the survey. They are generally multi-modal, mixing a large variety of tools and techniques – combining exhibit script, objects, photography, graphics, media, interactivity, immersive sensory experiences, dramatic and directed lighting  – all of which serves to stimulate the exploratory desires of the visitor. The may have a proscriptive route but often have ways to wander and impulsively dig deeper into subjects you might be interested in. The ultimate challenge of this kind of museum which seeks cultural relevancy is that culture is a moving target.

Tim Ventimiglia