No pressure, eh?

Reading through the back catalogue of posts from Nina Simon’s Museum 2.0 blog, I came upon an older post on what makes a truly mind-blowing/life-changing/at-least-pretty-darn-good-and-memorable exhibition. Now, that is a pretty tall order, and not one that is of much use as a starting point for my process.
Still, she makes som interesting points and observations about one person visions versus collaborative efforts, about museum professionals versus outsiders, and, most relevant to this context, about the power of selective storytelling and the importance of being passionate about the story that you tell. In Nina Simon’s words So much of what exhibit designers do is hunt for the story within a topic, trying to tease out the life in an artifact or a scientific process or a historical event. […]. But when the designer doesn’t find that magic story, fall in love with it, and feel compelled to share it, the exhibition falls flat. It becomes a recitation written on college-ruled paper in a chalk-filled classroom on a September afternoon.

Again I feel compelled to make reference to Robert Wilson’s Everything You Can Think of is True exhibition at Den Sorte Diamant, CPH (closing on April 4th, so treat yourself to a slice of Wonderland while it’s still there!), as this was, for me, an almost magical experience, and so an example of this kind of life-changing exhibition. What sticks with me is the whole ambience, created by Wilsons scenography including lights, swings, tableaus and a tapestry of sound. The sketches on display, arguably the true ‘content’ of the exhibition, made less of a lasting impression. Yet, thanks to the special atmosphere of the exhibition, I probably spent more time taking in the details than I would have in a more traditional exhibition setting. The point I’m trying to make is that Nina Simon has point when it comes to the power of visionary thinking.

Now, Wilson falls in to the ‘auteur’ category as a scenographer and exhibition designer. Few museum professionals fall in to that category, and as an upstart-museum-professional-wannabe… I guess the thing to do is just to study and marvel at the masterworks, like film- and art students would, take inspiration and carry on with the humble hope of one day mastering just the basics. And then hunt down that story and start falling in love. Even when it’s a case of ‘when you can’t get the one you love, love the one you get’.

(Actually, the blog post I thought I was going to write was about whether an online exhibition connected to an onsite exhibition should strive to be as close as possible to a 1:1 representation of the onsite version (with considerations to the relative strengths of the media, of course) or if exploring and unfolding just a corner or tangent of the physical exhibition online would be a better approach. Guess I got sidetracked. And as this latter topic is still worth mulling over as more than an aside, let me get back to that in a later post.)

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