Risk averse culture

4 Jun

I’m constantly thinking about the role of cultural institutions these days.  What is the role of the museum/gallery/exhibition space in a world where facts and figures are instantly available and the visual is infinitely reproducible?

In many ways the museum and gallery could fall foul of the same fate that hit the high street record store – a physical anachronism in a digital world.  However, its important to note, those record stores whose passing provoked the most heartfelt reaction were those that offered a social space over and above the retail experience where unique events could take place.  (As an aside it’s probably worth noting that, unfortunately, many of the spaces that provoked the most emotional connections were almost always the ones that weren’t operated solely for commercial ends and folded in the first wave of high street closures).

Edinburgh’s Fishbowl debate format chimes well with some ideas I’ve been having about renewing cultural space by focussing cultural institutions, and the idea of the exhibition itself, into much more performative spaces where participants have to be there to experience ‘the moment’ thereby building the crucial emotional attachment to the possibilities of a physical space.

Then I stumbled across Nina Simon’s recent post on Dean Moss’ ‘Kisaeng Becomes you’ and the leaps he’s been taking with relying on audience participation in his performance works to create a unique exciting experience every time.

Part of the excitement, in both cases, comes from a sense of anticipation inherent in the work’s/event’s fragility, the ever present possibility of catastrophe and failure central to keeping people’s attention and emotional engagement.  Unfortunately risks aren’t big with funders at the minute and they’re in direct conflict with the traditional museum. but I’m certain dropping the boundaries, taking big risks with our amassed collections of artefacts and artistry  is the only way to break the moribund mould of the museum in an information age that is driven by inclusion.


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