Museums Without Walls: Brainstorming CGS Thesis Proposal
My thesis proposal deals with issues of the new, participatory web and how it can be used to improve art gallery involvement with their audience. Honestly, I want all art to be free to circulate online. I know that many galleries have vaults full of fascinating artworks that are seldom shown in the regular circulation, and I feel like I have a right to see and know about those pieces. I want museums to not simply define how artworks are interpreted, but to have the role of opening up that interpretation into a dialogue involving multiple voices. I want academic research and ideas about artworks to be available to me when I go to learn about them. I want to see debate around the meaning and importance of artworks, actual conversation that is open and engaged. I want the “closed doors” of the gallery space to be opened. I want to have no baggage of elitism surrounding art, but instead a public appreciation for arts’ contribution to society.
“‘New museology focuses on the museum itself as the object of its analysis … [demonstrating] a desire to self-consciously question the museum’s identity, mission, rhetoric, and textual status.’ It also offers a post-structuralist critique of the power relationship between the institution and the visitor.” -Patricia Broadbent
But a thesis can only do so much. Here is some research towards my thesis proposal - some of the notes and ideas I’ve accumulated.
I will explore the different parts of the system by which art is exchanged on the internet:
- Art blogging by museum officials as well as ‘amateur’ art admirers/commentators.
- Museum websites and newsletters
- Independent artist websites
- Folksonomies (digg, stumbleupon, del.icio.us, etc.)
- Commercial online art stores
- Academic databases, journals, listservs, archives. (Ubuweb)
- Second Life - virtual exhibitions, recreations of performance artworks (which especially excite me), new media SL artworks
What I’m really looking at, is the post-structuralist reinterpretation of the museum, which wants to have:
- Many different access points to a variety of information in diverse formats
- Developing strategies to favour an active and engaged role for the visitor/user
- Providing the opportunity to hear many individual voices (very in tune with the nature of web 2.0, participatory read/write web) (adapted from Patricia Broadbent)
Several writers to look at:
- Eilean Hooper-Greenhill’s conception of the post-museum.
- Walter Benjamin’s issues of mechanical reproduction.
- Gordon Graham, The Internet: A philosophical Inquiry
- George Landow
- Suzanne Keane, Trish Cashen, Irina D. Costache, Barbara Stafford, Keith Moxey, Howard Besser, Rosalind Krauss, etc.
What are the needs of museum visitors/viewers: understanding, research, advertisements or encouragement to attend interesting physical exhibitions?
Importance of narrative and/or story telling (in the format of first person museum blogging or other materials) to engage people in art.
I personally have found some of the most fascinating interpretations of artworks to come from museum visitors, especially in the case of performance and/or public performance works which are participatory and engage the viewer as an actual part of the art experience.
Barriers to art living online:
- Copyright issues
- Not everyone is online, impossible to target all gallery audiences
- Un-written reluctance of museums to “lower themselves” to the level of making their research process transparent (I would love to be able to read the blog of a curator working through their ideas for a given exhibition - it allows me to see where their interpretation is coming from and understand them as a real person with opinions)
- Reluctance to wholly engage with the web 2.0 idea of viewer/visitor as participant and co-creator of knowledge
These barriers are being resolved by independent people right now. Artists are often creating their own websites to make their art accessible and by-passing the necessity to be recognized by a gallery or commercial dealer. They are making their works available for viewing despite the issues of copyright protection. Some are even using Creative Commons licenses.
In many ways, the web spaces in which art being shared/exchanged right now are functioning as virtual exhibition spaces, curated by non-official curators, and subject to the design decisions of the web designer for their viewing context.
We need to get back to the roots and revisit the true “purpose” of museums. How do we keep the best interests of the museum visitor and artist in mind when working with putting art online?
I want my thesis to have practical applications for museum professionals looking to step outside of the physical gallery space to increase engagement and encourage active audiences.