in Curating, Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK)
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Fondation Beyeler Basel, Museum fuer Gegenwartskunst Basel
Institutions have a long history and significance in society. Recent discourses have shown the need for them to become more approachable to groups of society who might not always feel welcomed in them. TalkinMuseum questions the status quo of ritualistic behavior when a visitor enters a museum, and feels compelled to act in a contemplative and discrete way.
Very often a visitor who has an interest, but lacks knowledge (the so called “lay public”), is confronted with a feeling of unworthiness and after being unable to get comfortable with artworks, can loose interest in coming back to museums, or similar art spaces. TalkinMuseum is a project that intends to complement hierarchical mediation by fostering communication between peers, i.e. other museum visitors. By using four simple, ordinary questions that capitalize on personal experiences, it becomes easier for visitors start off conversations that help to make a more relaxed atmosphere, and makes it easier to draw a relationship with artworks. What is requested from the institution?
The goal of the project is to complement art mediation activities undertaken by museums and other art institutions (guided visits, audio guides, wall texts, etc.) with a minimum of effort and infrastructure from the institution itself. It should create a relaxed atmosphere and, by trying to step out of the “temple-like” feeling inside a museum, create a relaxed ambiance and make it easier to draw relationships with artworks, thus motivating lay public to repeat and foster more visits to museums.
How does the project work concretely? Upon arrival to the museum, the visitor receives a card and a sticker. There is no other infrastructure needed. By placing the sticker on a visible part on the clothes, the visitor indicates to be open for verbal interaction with other museum visitors. If the visitor so wishes, s/he can also opt to enjoy the exhibition by her/himself, and indicating this wish to others by not using the sticker. In both cases, there are four questions on the card that visitors receive that deal with personal experiences of the visitor:
What does this artwork remind you of? Who would you give this artwork to? Where would you place this artwork at home? Can you think of a song you could create with the -tle of the artwork?
The relaxed conversations derived from answering these “banal” questions, are intended to make it easier for the lay visitor to connect with artworks. Even if the visitor opts not to interact, the questions can spark off different ways of analyzing artworks and give a different spin to the museum visit. See also www.talkinmuseum.net.