Monday 5 November 2012

The sensitive museum

So, here's an idea I'm kicking around: the sensitive museum (or sensitised - I haven't decided which). In fact, I've been kicking it around for nearly two years now, since reading about David Walsh's MONA and his plans (at the time of opening, at the start of 2011) to swap around the works on exhibition based on how long people spend in front of them.

Of course, this is a crude measure and crude reasoning - yet also intriguing. I like the simplicity of the idea, the speed - almost ruthlessness - with which it could be implemented, and the potential serendipity. It's data-driven curating (with all the potential for smartness and dumbness that this implies.)

I've been thinking about this more in recent weeks, following the public launch of (Which I have rather come to love, I have to say - the frictionless slipping through the site from artist to artist has overcome other qualms I have.) It was this review of the site by Elizabeth Merritt that got my mind ticking over, especially when she wrote:
But what really excites me about the Art Genome Project is something it hasn't done—yet. I envision a mashup between and the Internet of Things, a not-too-distant future in which I’m walking around a new city and my portable hand-held internet-connected device (let’s call it a “phone” for convenience’s sake) buzzes with the message: “Elizabeth, there is an Anselm Kiefer painting you haven’t seen, yet, on exhibit in the X Museum, just a ½ mile from here. [click for directions.] The Museum is open until 8 p.m. tonight and you can get in free with your Alliance membership. While you are at the museum, you might also like these other works….”
This made me ask myself: do I want museums to call out to me? How much do I want them to know about me and my tastes? Me, my tastes and my location? Would I wear a biometric device, collecting my heart rate and skin temperature as I travel round an exhibition? What does that actually help a museum understand about how I relate to a work?

We've all gotten our heads wrapped round the concept of the participatory museum. We all know that visitors (in larger institutions, anyway) are being trailed and observed as part of visitor research practices. Perhaps there is a difference between sensitised and sensitive after all. The former suggests data collection - the latter implies the thoughtful, considerate, caring use of that data. [There's a weird continuum here that leads towards performance art kidnappings, which crop up in the media every so often.]

This is one of the ideas I'm going to touch on in my talk at the National Digital Forum this month. Others include 'the stack as metaphor' and 'bangles'. You've been warned ...

No comments: