A Multi-Channel Animation by Marina Zurkow
I was wandering around Chelsea this weekend and discovered that EyeBeam has open studios where you can talk to residents and research fellows about their work. I saw two projects that really struck me as potentially relevant to a discussion of new uses of media and technology in museums.
The first works, a series of animations by artist Marina Zurkow is based on the Ecosystem Engine – an open source development platform that she created for multi-channel animated scenes. The works are basically ‘living’ digital worlds in which large casts of animated characters, static elements and landscapes interact dynamically to create never ending sequences, relationships and possible meanings. For several years I have been searching for a new medium/ technique that could approximate the power of the diorama’s ability to describe complex ecosystems. I see some of that potential here. The projections are quite large and some of here work is quite architectural in scale. I talked to her for a while and asked if she had ever worked with a museum. She said that she preferred to keep her work lyrical and not subservient to any particular messaging. This makes sense. Any overt messaging would definitely detract from the work. The illustrations are beautiful and well rendered. Much like a diorama, you want to project yourself into these worlds as another character in the scene.
The second project, Immaculate Telegraphy, by artist Jamie O’Shea was a kind of reality show/ documentary video and blog following his attempt to construct a working telegraph using only materials he finds naturally in the wilderness. He creates the simple tools he needs to make other more complex tools, sources and refines materials, even to the point of building a smelter for making the copper he needs for the conductive wire. Eventually we presume that he will assemble a rudimentary telecommunications network. I really liked the image of a man the woods taking on the internet by starting from nothing but knowledge and more than a little patience. Here is the statement from the artist: “Could humans at any point in history, given the right information, construct an electronic communication network?” What would Ted Kaczysnki think of this project? It just so happens that the wilderness that he is working in is in Montana.
Both artists occupy an interesting territory with their work that spans the realms of both art and science. Their use of media (in totally different ways) brings a level of accessibility to rather complex scientific ideas. I suspect we will see a generation of artists like these two working within scientific museums as well as art museums, retaining status as artists but providing an inquiring and interpretive entry into the world of science.
If Museums back in the 19th century were regarded as educational institutions with a great social role, then today they are considered as more of tourist attraction or money generating tool for the local government. Fast forward to today and take a look at a museum and its audience’s relationship. The museum’s “role of being educational had always been well established as a concept” (Hooper-Greenhill, Eilean. p.1) and because this relationship is changing in times of advanced technology and with changing culture, museum will also need to change its way of doing things.
The concept of education had been changing throughout the centuries, “they’re not limited to formal institutions but taken place throughout life” (Hooper-Greenhill, Eilean. p.2 ). The old concept of education are limited to specific times and places and with museum, it is limited to a certain location at the interior space. Yet, the museum should have the potential as a lifelong learning tool.
Most people would define visual display as the experience of a museum. Since each individual object in a museum cannot speak a story by itself, “An exhibition is a group of objects combined with words and images – are more complex still” (Hooper Greenhill, Eilean. p.3) and from Victoria Newhouse’s book “ placement can change the meaning of the artwork” (Newhouse, Victora. p.10) All objects have to be placed together in a museum, and depending on the visual arrangement, viewers have a 50/50 chance of perceiving the intended meaning, even after they perceived them, they might not agree with them. With different cultures, come different values, so interpretation does not come with a singular meaning but multiple when viewed by many different audiences.
“Museum have changed radically in style” Hooper Greenhill, Eilean. (p.6) – where formal museum galleries have changed and replaced by informal style where it communicates with visitors in a more lively and more physical interaction. That is because “learners need to interact in meaningful ways with new information before it can become part of their repertoire of knowledge,”( Hooper Greenhill, Eilean. p.7)
Museum are trying to incorporate audience and visitor’s info and research into their process of exhibition, and by looking at the internet like Wikipedia which incorporate user’s knowledge into their database and website. Wikipedia has become more successful in that respect. That is not to say that museums cannot do better. Museums have the advantage of showcasing an actual object, “Although paintings might have to fight for their life, they look better in a home than in a museum because they’re alive, you feel them…” (Newhouse, Victora. p.13) because of this factor, many museums had considered showing certain artwork without any separation between viewers and the object itself these days.
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