The permanent and official blog of the University of Leicester's School of Museum Studies PhD student conferences and special events.

27 March 2012

A Longer Sounding at the End of the Day: The Museum Futures Game Part Two...

Hopefully, the delegates have come up with some wonderful, amazing, and surreal ideas...the below will be a speculation, reflection, upon whatever it is they come up with. So forgive any strangeness - it isn't entirely mine!

First to present is the Museum of Ecstasy - asked to produce a museum which doesn't use words. Sadly, for the purpose of the presentation, they have to use words, and so they have to go inside a museum visitor's head. That visitor is our very own Viking - Gudrun.

She walks into the museum, and is given a helmet and heart monitor, which measure her brainwaves and bodily responses. Standing on a teleportation pod, she travels around the enormous and varied museum. First, she goes to a dark room. Music begins to emanate, and Sufi dancers start their circular dance. The music becomes louder and louder, the dancers more and more euphoric. The visitor can watch, or become part of the dance, a dance to reach ecstasy. Now transported to another room, the view changes. A sharp, pulsing light changes all the time, stimulating the visitor's visual imagination from deep purple to a bright yellow. A wide open, alpine landscape opens up in front of the visitor - an idealized vista. The heart monitors drop. Transported suddenly to the culinary department, the visitor is assailed by wonderful, unctuous smells, chocolate soufflé and roast beef. Taken away from this room, but permitted to keep the soufflé, the visitor gains their ultimate ecstatic experience on the dance floor of a disco.

(It should be pointed out that this museum has a doctor on site)

Next to emerge is the Museum of Love - or, as Alex phrased it, Luuurrrve. The aim is to collect objects - tangible or intangible - that people love. The delegates are asked to pick up an object...and wait.

One day, a giant flashmob will take over the world, and at that moment, the object the delegates are holding becomes an object with a love story attached. At that moment, the delegates exchange those items, and tell the story attached to them. (I'd like to point out that my Moleskeine has been stolen for this purpose). They are then asked to share their love story - Will Buckingham, given packing tape, makes a great case for how much love should be given to such an object. This is the initial stage for the museum of love - to collect materials and oral histories around these objects.

The next stage is to incite love - to matchmake people with similar objects using a global online - and multiple media - database. (Of course, with the correct, appropriate disclaimers!).

After Love, comes Fear. Why, they ask, do you need to create a new museum of fear when museums are places of fear anyway? So they decided to create a device instead...Superficially similar to that used in the museum of ecstasy, based on mystical and scientific powers, this phobiatron prints out the visitor's responses to any given museum in which it is used. Pulled around easily with the visitor, it can be easily applied in any situation.

What, then, is measured in the visitor's responses? What rates most highly? Architecture? The 'Voluntary donations box'? The Chirpy Member of Staff who wants to Help - well, at this stage, your fear isn't critical. But still you run.

You hit contemporary art, where you feel overawed by Jeff Koons and everyone else who seems to understand. Fear levels rocket, and you have to recover in the teashop. But then you need the bathroom - and you fear a lack of toilet paper. Going to look at the local art display, you relax. But then, you hit the gift shop, and critical levels are approached...

It would be interesting for the visitor to use this throughout their experience, and I wonder whether this would alter their behavior? (From a professional point of view, of course, the data is very useful...)

Fear, brings with it doubt and uncertainty. This museum has no location, no nationality, no state. You'll be meeting lots of people, presenting objects they think are important. You don't know what they are. It doesn't really matter. This museum travels, collecting people and objects along the way. Anyone can join it, can talk to each other, telling their stories - don't be scared. Differences don't matter - and dreams are as certain as anything. Stories are told, or maybe not. Routes are traced, maybe not. Does it matter? Maybe not. There is no interpretation.

Uncertainty, of course, is a feature of time and it's movement. The Museum of Time, as a performative institution, embodies the notion of entropy, and is a museum in the North Pole, at the end of the world in a place with no time zone which will self destruct. Split into the four seasons, the museum is constantly echoing with the sound of a metronome. You may taste rotting food, melting clocks in different, unknown timezones. In a desert, it's sister Museum is an Hourglass shaped out of sand - again, degrading over time...fading, fading, always unable, as the museum always is, to stop Time.

Be quiet, and close your eyes. You are now in a museum composed of absence. All absence can also be memory. Senses other than sight can bring us into an engagement with memories in which absence is much more tangibly felt and noticed. Glimpses and fragments are the preserve of this museum - a big space, filled with fog, with visitors moving along various different trajectories. When you go outside, a wall of digital media invites a social and shared experience, where images, and sounds of absence can be displayed. But in this collection of stories, doesn't present become absence? If the wall changes, however, that loss will have a permanent, haunting intimation of absence yet to come. The wall will be changeable, ephemeral. Momentary. A loss of collective and individuality...

Now we come to a museum which is a site of rebellion. There may be an intrinsic flaw there - that when you're not the rebel, to incite rebellion is wrong. However, to assume that a museum cannot or is not a rebel (as collective an institution as it might be) is, for me, a problematic one. How could you create a space which is not curated, which is a museum without a cause?

Why, I wonder, have museums excluded themselves from being rebels?

Perhaps, to reach Utopia, to reimagine it and see what it might be or bring, we need to rebel. We need to instill extreme emotions, think about abstract concepts and states of being. We need to go beyond the quotidian. Beyond the mundane. We need, as our conference leader has said, to seek a newer world.

Now I go into the night, for drinks and dinner. I ask thee to fare well, my friends, and come back to Utopia early tomorrow morning. We shall meet you at the Twelfth Sounding...

No comments:

Post a Comment