It seems that the future of a museum is to become a little “less museum”, and that it will take some hard work to remove that bit of “stale image” that a museum tends to evoke.
Because you know, as we heard many times, a museum, as such, has long ceased to be appealing for the public.
So its first requirement is to be not just a place where to absorb contents, but to become a modern place of hospitality, knowledge, dialogue and creativity, and why not, fun.
For several years we talked about the real potential of a “museum project” more on the narrative, personal side, and “identity oriented”, to transform and enhance the relationship with the visitor, allowing him to become more participatory. More experiential aspects emerged with the addition of new technologies, the science museums have been an example of this.
So the museum is moving its axis, “from a strictly collecting dimension to a more performing one, creating contexts for social interaction through sensory habitats and multisensorial experiences”.
People will visit museums more often not only to obtain information but to live a highly emotional experience, and participate to a ritualistic dimension.
“Dancing Museums” fits in this new opening. This project brings 5 European dance organisations together (La Briqueterie, CSC Centro per la scena contemporanea, DansAteliers, D.ID Dance Identity, Siobhan Davies Dance) and 8 internationally renowed museums (Artesella, Museums Boijmans Van Beuningen, Musei Civici Bassano, Gemaldegalerie, Louvre, MAC/VAL, National Gallery) to explore new ways of interacting with audiences.
Since June 2015, five dance artists, embarked on a two-year research period to define new methods to engage audiences, enhance the journeys they make through the rooms of historical artefacts and drawing the public’s attention to contemporary dance as an inclusive, communicative form.
During Bmotion Dance 2016 a Symposium about this was held with: Gill Hart from the London National Gallery, Anne Sophie Vergne from Musée du Louvre and the choreographer Yasmeen Godder.
During the meeting moderated by Peggy Olislaegers the experiences of this first year of the project were shared.
Questioning through: What does it mean to bring dance into a museum? Here are some keywords that have been highlighted:
- Research process: what is known is only that the starting point of the project will be subject to continuous tests and assessments and probably new enrichments over time;
- Non-verbal interpretation: the need of giving less verbal information to the visitor is particularly felt. The dancer and the performance become the new key to reading the art pieces;
- Breaking cultural conventions and codes of conduct;
- Community, ritual aspect: the museum as a recovery of a shared social life, and as a ritualistic dimension like theater and dance.
Of course, the London National Gallery and the Louvre don’t have a problem with the number of visitors.
Both recorded a drop in it in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks, but the figures are still high: last year nearly 6 million people visited the London National Gallery, and more than 8 million visited Louvre.
So why did two of European’s most popular galleries and museums sign the project?
Both are interested in the research’s process on how the public may switch to other reading levels of the art pieces.
Anne Sophie Vergne questioned: «how can we give life to a piece of art, activate it? How can we activate the public’s senses, so that they can embrace artworks to high and different level, without bombarding them with too much information and confusing them?».
Gill Hart agreed with her saying: «we strongly feel the desire to change, to face new challanges, to learn from the audience, to find a non-verbal understandable vocabulary to communicate with them. We want to increase public participation through this project».
The dancer/performer can bring out new emotions. While the artwork may trigger interest simply by looking at it, the dancer/performer creates a vivid debate, allowing the visitor to be in touch with the artworks also thanks to his body.
Did you ever observe how we transform ourselves while looking at painting, a sculpture? We often assume a similar expression of what we are looking at, the posture of our body changes. So the performer can trigger this change, at the same time making the audience aware of it.
Anne Sophie Vergne: «our goal is to create a different guided path, inviting the visitors to do less, but to let go, to live an intense and memorable experience. We invite them to board the “spaceship” – which is the museum -, and get carried away in time and space, in history and imagination, allowing the museum to provide them with what they want».
Gill Hart focused her speach on another important added value of the project, noticing that receiving emotions, being part of something live and unexpected, therefore surprising, can interrupt and melt cultural conventions. By creating a rapprochement with the public, the experience can break codes of conduct rooted over the years. So depending on how an experience is addressed it can actually produce a cognitive and cultural change, stimulating the collective experience and the sense of community.
Also Yasmeen Godder spoke about the collective experience and ritualistic creation bringing her own experience as artist between the curator and visitors. She worked on a site-specific performance for a museum’s space, and she said that that experience changed her approach on her work.
The work, named “Climax”, was an invitation to the audience to move as they engaged in an emotionally intimate, yet forcefully provoking performance. The creation is choreographed to blend between performers, audience and space. Six dancers are situated in-close proximity to the public allowing themselves and the viewers to be captured and released from each other’s grip. This kind of experiences turns the viewers into witnesses as well as participants. Developing a sense of community without underlining it, she tried to find a balance between the experience of the artwork and the information about it, changing the prospect and the context where the performance would take place.
«To occupy a space together, to share movement, the closeness between performer and spectator – Godder said – have an impact on the perception of the work, this encourages empathy and understanding at the sensory level. It creates an individual but at the same time a community process – which becomes necessary for the sense of loss we are all experiencing in these years – because the spectator is free to choose whether to participate or not. So the museum became a multi-inclusive space, where everyone may let go.»
By Rita Borga