Sunday, 11 August 2013

Problems with participation

Here's a superb article by Judith Dobrzynski in the New York Times questioning the rush for museums to offer interactive experiences, noting that:

  • In their quest to be new and exciting, museums are actually becoming more alike, all offering the same kinds of tedious 'particpatory' experiences.
  • Cleveland's Museum of Fine Arts - one of the worst offenders - talked about how an installation would 'activate' the museum, as if all its wonderful art treasures were inert until a fatuous installation by Martin Creed brought it to life. I wrote a review of a spectacularly stupid Creed piece at the Tate, here.
  • Museums disdain expertise and defer instead to their audiences, consulting the public on acquistions and disposals, restoration and display of art - the things that museums are supposed to know something about. Museums become a place to hang out and feel important because they ask you stuff, rather than a place where you can learn and benefit from professionalism and expertise. Alexander Bortolot, a moron from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, tells Dobrzynski that 'young people' want museums to connect them to the local arts economy rather than listen to art experts.
All good points, and there's more to be said against the interactive trend. Museums can offer a profound and unique experience. They're not specialists in interactive entertainment. Putting the two together ruins the experience of art and puts people off real engagement. They're trying to compete for the 'interactive entertainment' audience to boost visitor numbers, losing sight of the different experience that museums ought to offer.

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