FRIDAY Fast Five: Exhibitionists

Aaaaah, exhibition development. You're a slippery creature, sometimes confusing, sometimes arduous and most definitely different at every organisation, and even within the same organisation. You know when it's off and you know when it's on and I'm just so psyched to be working on a project right now that feels so incredibly ON - the vibe is supportive, safe,  creative, productive and decisive. Right team, right theme (my new motto). And before I go on, can I just give the first of several shout-outs: to the epic project managers out there that keep everything on track, on time, and in communication. 

So that with that on my mind, this week's Fast Five is collection of things that I've discovered, revisited, found useful or intriguing as I embark on my exhibition development journey... 

1) Nina Simon's The Participatory Museum seems like a good place to start. The treatise of the book forms around three central tenets:

  1. The idea of the audience-centered institution that is as relevant, useful, and accessible as a shopping mall or train station (with thanks to John Cotton Dana, Elaine Heumann Gurian, and Stephen Weil).
  2. The idea that visitors construct their own meaning from cultural experiences (with thanks to George Hein, John Falk, and Lynn Dierking).
  3. The idea that users’ voices can inform and invigorate both project design and public-facing programs (with thanks to Kathy McLean, Wendy Pollock, and the design firm IDEO)

This is nothing new (and indeed this book was published 7 years ago) but as I negotiate my way through my first big curatorial project in my newish role, I am holding these premises close, particularly number 3. Maintaining awareness of the great privilege and responsibility that comes with telling stories about and through people and communities is absolutely fundamental. 

2) Meaningful digital enhancement

What role will digital play? is a question increasingly at the outset of exhibition development. I enjoyed reading this case study around the use of virtual reality in the London Science Museum. Developed in partnership with a company called Preloaded, the virtual reality experience was around communicating the theory of flight centered around the Handley Page Gugnunc, an early aircraft that was the first to crack the aeronautical challenge of a safe landing. As Preloaded have said:

"Our partnership with Science Museum on their first piece of VR was an experiment, which set out to see whether VR could enhance rather than distract from the gallery experience.  Even more interestingly, could it deepen the content messages and would visitors actually welcome it?"

3) Recently I've really been digging Gareth Shute and Chris McDowall's (whattup Tuakana!!) public appeal through the Spinoff to locate the many, varied and sometimes forgotten Auckland music venues, past and present, by way of an interactive, crowd-sourced map. And it's really been making me think of how we could apply this kind of public interaction to our exhibition development process. And shout out number 2 goes to Chris MsDowall for making me fall kinda hard for maps and data. 

4) Art in museum spaces. Olafur Eliasson's current show at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, Thelisteningdimension, March 23 through April 22, 2017, has me thinking about the different ways art could and should be used in collaboration with social history and science museums and how utterly false our separation of these organisations actually is. We talk about breaking down silos and yet somehow seem to perceive art and social history as disparate parts. Perhaps a part of the same thing, but separate nonetheless. As Eliasson says, 

"The arts and culture...provide spaces in which people can disagree and still be together, where they can share individual and collective experiences that are ambiguous and negotiable. At its best, art is an exercise in democracy; it trains our critical capacities for perceiving and interpreting the world. Yet art does not tell us what to do or how to feel, but rather empowers us to find out for ourselves.”

5) And finally, shout out to the C-word - collaboration. Embarking on this project has been such a delight for many reasons, foremost being the diversity of brains on the job from the outset - public programmers, writers, designers, content and interpretation developers - each bringing their unique skills and perspectives along with generosity, patience and humour. It makes me reflect on how utterly, incredibly lucky we are to work in sector that not only values and centers collaborative, multi-disciplinary thinking but actually projects that work ethic out to the world as our final offering - an exhibition. It's not always sunshine and light, and tomorrow might be different, but right now feels good.

What's also felt good right now is listening to throwback favs so I'm just gonna leave this here....