The MuseumNext conference bills itself as Europe’s big conference on social and digital media for the museum sector. This year the conference was held in the art and architecturally inspired city of Barcelona. I was unable to attend the conference in person, but did follow along on Twitter and I am now catching up on the excellent video coverage.
I was particularly intrigued by a LACMA project presented by Amy Heibel, Associate VP of Technology and Digital Media. In looking at museum collections online, she notes the prevalence of data in the form of facts associated with the artworks. Though Heibel does not dispute the importance of core collection information, she wonders how far it goes to encourage an emotional connection with the artwork. We produce and publish a lot of facts and descriptive explanations about art, but Heibel suggests that this information doesn’t necessarily bring our audiences closer conceptually to the art.
She and her team set out to develop a project hoping to engender more emotional engagement with the Museum’s collection within certain constraints that the project must have minimal budget impact and be handled with existing staff resources. Inspired by a LACMA project from the 60’s where the Museum acted as the ‘motherboard’ for artists collaborating with corporations, the Museum hand-selected artists to develop creative digital responses to LACMA’s collection or exhibition objects. Invited artists were given a framework and guidelines, but the Museum did not dictate the artworks or the nature of the response—aside from the requirement that the response be in a digital format and freely sharable.
By eliciting and publishing artist responses, LACMA was able to share with the public a different interpretation, something beyond facts and data—to show rather than tell. Some of the outcomes were unexpected and even controversial.
In the presentation’s closing, Heibel contributes to the MuseumNEXT ‘unfinished manifesto’ by asserting that we should learn from artists and acknowledge that making is a form of thinking beyond words.
As we incorporate more digital into our publication portfolios, there is an increasing opportunity for interweaving creative dialogue and response into our texts using digital media and networked tools. Utilizing artist and other voices in creative response could enrich narratives and embolden museums as what Heibel calls “platforms for creativity.”
Do you agree? Could creative responses even enrich scholarly texts? Have you seen good examples of a museum publication incorporating creative response along with more art historical entries?