Thursday, January 12, 2012

When is it exhibit or art and does it matter?

Walk with me through this one. As I'm working on the next exhibit concept, thoughts like these cross my mind:

How much responsibility do I have to be educational in my exhibits? 

For example, I'm working on this concept of "Observation". How much am I responsible for educating people about what the universe defines as observation? There is of course the need to inform the public enough about any topic so they can get into the exhibit-- however, is there a line around what the quality of that knowledge is that I present?

At what point does it tip into art, and do I need to be declarative about it?

In 1999, I worked on a piece at the Yerba Buena with Neil Grimmer called "". It was a fictitious product showroom for a web and pager system that would deliver mantras to you based on Chakra points. Some visitors laughed, others approached us and suggested that we install it in hospitals and shopping malls.

We thought that it was important to the piece to leave it up to visitors to decide- as for the idea we were floating this idea of melding technology and spirituality.

The SF Mobile Museum is a construct I've created with the intent to play with the concept of museums, exhibits, and art. I believe that if it serves the experience to be agnostic about intent, so be it. I do wonder is there a case where that is not true?
Does it matter?

When we see "museum" is there some universal process that we all assume has been applied? I can think of similar assumptions from the well-known Fox "News" to calling just about anything an "artifact". Many art careers have been built upon "artifacts".

In the context of the SFMM, I've been working on the assumption that it doesn't matter, because the whole idea is to explore and expand the basic concept of "museum"-- so that means playing with it in a variety of ways.

Again, I go back to the quality of the experience. If it serves the concept and fosters the quality of experience I'm trying to achieve, then it doesn't matter how I get there, as long as it follows a logic that serves the idea/experience.


I'm not asking for permission, and I am probably overthinking (my part-time hobby). I do wonder if others think about this, and questions or conclusions they arrive at. What responsibility do you feel you have, if any?


  1. I don't think it matters. But, it matters if people think it matters. We react not only to the contents of an exhibit, but also to the method of exhibition--context is everything, in other words.
    Observation, on the other hand, has an exciting history in the world of learning science, particularly in museums.
    Let me know if you want some nerdy academic pubs to back that up. :)

  2. Totally agreed about context is queen.

    I would love any and all nerdy pubs on observation. I have my current research just started and prior from the OE. It's a big area and I am trying to suss out directly fostering observational skills to creating an experience which will indirectly inspire. Send along, thanks!!