>Do you think that there is an age difference in how people might
>respond to big busy spaces vs. more intimate ones? Do you think the
>NMPFTV context of also having educational hands-on exhibits in other
>parts of the building helped or hindered? Was there any confusion
>between interpretational technology and art technology? (I'm thinking
>here of Susan Collin's Audio Zone artwork in the V-Topia show in
>Glasgow, 1995; a piece using infra-red headphones which some people
>mistook for 'a guide to the exhibition' but which was a rather
>You also get the CRUMB choccy biccy award for being open about
>aspects which maybe didn't work so well - could you say a little
>more about what kind of critical feedback from which kind of
>visitors? You can withhold names to protect the innocent.
The NMPFT's main remit is to document, archive and communicate data and
artifacts concerned with moving and still image reproduction media. It has
no particular remit regarding the arts. Over the years, more as a means of
survival than due to curatorial vision, it has taken on more and more a
role in providing materials for the UK's National Curriculum. This means it
has come to regard its main audience as school kids. Half way through the
curatorial process for the digital galleries we were asked to ensure that
1. no exhibit had a dwell time of more than 3 minutes (generous in
museological terms) and 2. a target age of 12 years old.
For a more extensive discussion of this see the archives of the Museum and
the Web list between myself and Steve Dietz.
To some extent there was confusion between the interpretive and artistic
technologies in the galleries, but to a large degree this was intentional.
We did not want to create a seperation between these aspects of the
audience experience. Works were integrated, as explained in my previous
post. Of course this acted against any contemplative approach to the
projects, but then again we chose projects that demanded a more active and
playful engagement anyway.
I guess we hoped that even though this had been our primary agenda that
some people would engage with projects in a more focused and in depth
fashion...but by and large I do not think this happened, simply because of
the type of audience the museum attracts. The fact that the galleries have
thousands going through them every day, and an often pretty rowdy audience
they are, sort of works against that.
As for critical feedback...I think it is the lack of anything substantial
like that which speaks volumes. No serious arts or cultural magazine or
journal ever reviewed the show or its contents - a little surprising for a
show that cost around 1 million GB£'s to put up, although the same has
(not) happened for the Science Museum's (in London) new galleries, which
feature a number of works by artists. The NMPFT galleries were covered in
the popular press in a gee-whiz fashion and won a prize for best designed
exhibition that year...but we, as curators, had finished and gone on to
other things by then. The museums publicity machine ensured it was marketed
in a certain way. When it won a prize we were not even informed...and when
we did find out there was no offer of congratulations or thanks...the
museum Director took the credit of course. The other curator seriously
considered legal action but decided it was not worth it...an opinion I
I guess we were our toughest critics actually, in the absence of any other
meaningful feedback. As curators we recognised the failings of the project
and the reason why we failed...we were innocent when it came to working
with a large institution like the NMPFT and were abused by them. We were
used to get what the museum directorate wanted, and then what we did was
delivered in a tone and manner distant to our intent. Nevertheless, there
were aspects of the show I thought did succeed and even the general concept
is still sort of apparent in its realisation.
Mind you, my general experience with museums has been positive...most
curators and executives in the sector are genuinely sensitive to the
artists and other creatives and do have the interests of the arts paramount
in their thinking. I feel that the NMPFT was just an exception in this and
see that as due to particular personalities in that institution.
[log in to unmask]
Art and Design Research Centre
School of Cultural Studies
Sheffield Hallam University