This past weekend we caught the Turner and the Masters exhibition at the Tate Britain before it closes at the end of this month. I liked it, there was some beautiful work on display (and ironically enough, I preferred the masters to Turner half of the time). And at the same time I am incredibly frustrated (and not just because we weren't very smart in going to the exhibit on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks before closing which meant that some paintings weren't visible because there were hordes of people looking at it).
I'm disappointed and frustrated because I think most exhibitions don't do enough to draw people in. Think of an interesting idea for an exhibit, do all the hard work to get the paintings together, commission text and images for the catalogue, set up the shop and order merchandise, add a section to the website, order the audio guide et presto. And mind you, that's a lot of work right there, a whole heck of a lot of work. But it ain't enough. Here's what I'd like to see happen:
- I want to be able to prepare more by listening to the audio guide beforehand (and I don't mind paying money for the file) and downloading it to my iPod
- I want to read more, and see more, about what I'm about to go see. Give me more background, put some of the catalogue up as pdf's, set up a wiki or point towards information I can use
- I want to read what other people thought of the exhibition and add my own thoughts, to help make future exhibitions better
- Why not enlist the visitors in creating a catalogue of the paintings? A good curator pulling together a great exhibition is great (and for instance, the current Sacred Made Real exhibition shows passion and care in how the curator put it together) but why not tap into your audience? They collectively know a lot and would love to share it methinks.
- Put the lectures/podcasts that accompany the exhibition online.
I have to admit that I think exhibition visitors, me included, are lazy. We hear about an exhibit, everyone else goes, we go, we see, we buy and walk away. If we're lucky we enjoy. And we might learn something. But that's it. It's time to reinvent museums and exhibitions. I've been reading on the museums of the future and done a bit of collecting of thoughts around this and I can't wait to put some of it in practice, and I know it'll all cost money but it's well worth it, I'll predict. Now, to find a museum who'll be the guinea pig (Tate, National Gallery are you listening?).
And I don't mean e-books. The prospect of e-books frightens the life out of me, quite uncharacteristically since I normally love my gadgets. As a book-historian my heart bleeds at the thought of paper books disappearing, of generations growing up without the consolation and delight of paper books. The medium is sometimes the message, or at least an important part of the message, and I like the paper medium. Plus, if everyone's reading e-books, how can I snoop and see what people are reading on the tube?
No, I want to highlight another bookish innovation: the Dwarsligger. It's a book, a good old-fashioned paper one. But with a twist. Almost literally. They're half size paperbacks, on bible or onion paper, and flipped sideways so once you open them it's the size of a paperback (if you want to see more, check out the video). It's cute, it's handy (fits into my coat pocket), it allows me to read on the tube without having to stick my book in someone else's ribs. And it's a great new take on the book. If you read Dutch and live in the Netherlands, buy one. And let me know what you think.
Last year around this time, I decided that my motto for 2009 was LEARN, and boy, learn I did in 2009. The year didn't quite go as I had planned or could've expected and that taught me a lot. Learning to deal with unexpected events, learning to let go of some things and to hold on tight to others. I had to put my MA on hold for a while, which wasn't an easy decision to make, but definitely the right one. I'm picking it up again next year and am already looking forward to it.
So for this year, I decided to think about what I want the theme for this year to be. After a bit of to and fro with my partner-in-theme-crime Farhan (who set his own theme also) I decided that my theme for 2010 is FOCUS. 2009 taught me that life is wacky, wonderful, mysterious and filled with unexpected surprises. Sometimes it felt like too much was happening at the same time, and that I lost focus somewhat. So this year, that's what I'll focus on: focussing. Do one thing at a time, and do that with the utmost concentration, mindfulness and attention. More of less at any given time. Focus on what's most important, and not worry about (most) other things. One thing at a time. My mum was right (as she often is). So there you go: focus, people, focus!
And, yeah, I have a bit of a bad hairday in this portrait. We created personalised baubles for the office Christmas tree, and this is what I look like. Well, according to my colleagues at least.
From a nice and chilly winter-y London (though no snow, sadly) I wish you a very happy, loving and health 2010!