Monday, 17 March 2014

At it again

The Telegraph is running a click-bait series of articles about how to do museums right. Following on from Tiffany Jenkins' call to ban kids (and fluffies), we've got Rupert Christiansen fomenting for the (re)banning of photography in museums.

I shouldn't keep reacting to these stories, but I do. The overweening sense of entitlement and NIMBYness that oozes from them drives me crazy. Sure, I don't want my museums "dumbed-down" to attract teens or to be stuffed with tourists in lock-step photographing every work and label (though from Mahara Gallery to MOMA in the past year, I've not seen that kind of behaviour in evidence, unlike the turn of the century, when I worked FOH at Te Papa and certainly did see it). I do want museums to feel special - but I want them to feel like a special part of your everyday life, not a place where you stop being you when you visit.

This is why I'd argue, against Christiansen, that most visitors I see these days taking photos aren't revealing that they "don’t know what to do when confronted with a work of art beyond visually registering it: the click is a way of acknowledging its authority and clicking it off the list without having to engage with it further." I'd say instead (and I have, a few times now) that our photo-taking behaviour is often subtle, nuanced, and social.

Because do you know who I've seen taking photos in The Dowse? Tourists. Parents (including my parents). Teachers. Students. Collectors. Curators. Artists. Ambassadors. Do you know who I've seen objecting? No-one. Perhaps it's just time to accept this as the new normal, and move on ...


For a different take: the eminently sensible Russell Davies suggests a show on the simple premise Things You Can Instagram.

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