Place of Art questionnaire
The third issue of the Place of Art focuses on a viewer in the context of museum globalization. In this issue, we talk about the viewer's place in the contemporary art system and the role they play in the existing institutions. Recent events have significantly affected all participants in the art sphere and have created new opportunities to interact with their audience for museums, galleries, artists. To analyze this situation, we asked our readers to answer a series of questions and to share their experience as spectators.
In your opinion, will the influence of large institutions, such as the Tretyakov Gallery, the Pushkin Museum, Garage on viewer experience last after the quarantine?
Visual and performance artist
I think so, since their online projects were the largest and most resonant, as far as I see it (with the exception, perhaps, of the Isoisolation).
Research assistant at the Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences
I hope this influence will weaken and transform (ventilate) the institutions themselves.
Dancer, choreographer, performer, curator
Yes, of course.
It will not only last, but it will also be strengthened. These institutions made everything possible: online lectures, online events, quests, and so on, so "viewer did not forget" about them. Perhaps, if we compare them to the others, they initially adapted to what happened.
However, as a spectator, I will not rush to these museums immediately after the quarantine: a large crowd of people, weak security rules, etc. These inconveniences open up a more comfortable space for small institutions with fewer audience, where safety rules are not followed with state totalitarian scrupulousness … It also seems to me that small spaces will be able to take more care of the viewing experience, as the average viewer spent two months "within four walls". While the aforementioned large institutions may lack "sensitivity" relating the fragile human body and experience.
Master student at the HSE School of History
I doubt there was an impact before the quarantine.
I dare to hope so)
Art historian, head of the Education Department at the State Tretyakov Gallery
Yes, of course. This is not only because of their collections and the ability to collect significant resources but primarily due to the intellectual baggage and creativity of their employees. The Pushkin Museum, like the State Tretyakov Gallery, made very interesting online programs during quarantine.
Art historian, independent curator
The monopoly will increase as the pandemic close many small museums, change programs, and large institutions will still survive on collections and government support. Small museum initiatives will be destroyed, also due to the economic crisis, but perhaps other initiatives will develop.
Art historian, head of the Department of Film and Media Art at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, curator of the Pushkin Museum XXI
Yes, it will remain the same, I'm sure.
Art historian, head of the Contemporary Art Department at the State Tretyakov Gallery
Will the policy of art institutions be changed? Will virtual museums and online events be more and more popular or face-to-face practices become more important?
I think that the popularity of virtual museums will grow.
Most likely, the practice of personal communication will come to the fore. As far as I can tell from the surrounding people, everyone is yearning for a physical presence in museums. On the other hand, I hope that many conversational and theoretical events (conferences, etc.) will remain (and will appear) online. It simplifies inviting foreign guests in terms of logistics, finance and ecology, and it is also easier for the viewer to find time to connect.
The current situation is a good opportunity for institutions to remember that they are nothing more than stable points accumulating the resources, condensing streams of personal communication and exchange. I hope that the need to quickly adapt their programs will allow these structures to become more responsive and transparent in the future.
I think, the popularity will grow, but it will be not only because of the pandemic. Rather, it will be related to the obvious progress. The virus focused our attention to the problem that was raised before but not so vigorously. Now it has excited human minds.
I think people love stories that are well told (this comes from my personal experience). I would focus on this in online format. The audio narrative is convenient when you are moving. Walking in the park or hurrying to work listening to stories about Montmartre, the New York school of the 80s, or about the protest exhibitions of Soviet artists is the ideal format in my opinion. Again, this assumes a certain visual experience and understanding of the material at least at a basic level. This is what makes the audio format difficult in the context of art.
The question of personal communication is difficult for both the speaker and the audience. For example, some lecturers need contact with the audience, while others find it easier not to see it and receive feedback through email. Also, the online format is more treacherous and ruthless, since viewers sometimes dehumanize the lecturer and allow themselves to go beyond a polite and correct behavior.
Art historian, curator, Research assistant at the State Tretyakov Gallery
I would say that a catalyst of forced closure contributed a lot to the transition of museum sector online. Such a large-scale phenomenon speeded up digitalization and highlighted postponed future projects. This gives a certain boost to reflection. Which projects were in demand and could attract the viewer? Will these projects/practices survive the quarantine? It seems to me that the validity of the digital background will show itself at least in six months. Practices depend on cost, content quality, capital (real and symbolic) and communication channels. Each of these elements affects the overall correlation.
Everything will return to normal. Moreover, the usual before-the-pandemic art activities may become more desirable. People want to make up for the lack of personal communication.
For those who are close to the art, of course, the practice of personal communication and viewing the original artworks will be more valuable. But for those who are far from the art, the pandemic has created incredible opportunities for access to interesting events. I think the practice of online broadcasting will firmly root in museum everyday life.
The widespread dependence of museums on blockbusters (exhibitions made for the population with numerous tourists) is already changing. Museums are being forced to refocus on the local audience, which I hope will increase the number of thoughtful and less commercial exhibitions. The value and popularity of virtual programs has already increased and, I think, will remain at a high level. Virtual exhibitions and projects have received a boost for further development.
If everything comes to an end quickly, then nothing will change: everything will be as it is, just more people have learned the convenience of being online. Maybe they will order more lectures online. I am an optimist about site-specific installations and the relationship and conversation with the viewer. There were once periods of plague, and you can remember Tintoretto, the baroque, people who walked around Florence with lavender. When everyone stopped shying away from each other, art just moved towards greater tactility and sensuality.
I can say from my experience, as soon as we stopped working remotely, I could not find time to watch online events. There is no substitute for personal communication.
In your opinion, did art institutions adapt well to the lack of viewers? Can you give a good example of interacting with a viewer online?
I cannot give an example, since I did not follow these events.
It seems to me that Garage's online projects are quite successful: both online mediation and a selection of exhibition materials.
The example of the Garage seems to me a very successful one. Series of discussions and publications became a lively and museum-worthy response.
I cannot give an example. I think it's too early to talk about adaptation. Business, I think, has begun to adapt, but artistic life is unlikely to be able to. In my opinion, there weren't many events. But I haven’t been to any of them, I am not able to judge. I make conclusions from the Facebook feed.
I am one of those who is pretty tired of online content. Therefore, I don't have enough systemic visual experience to distinguish something. My friends complimented the program of the Pushkin Museum. I occasionally followed the program of the Whitney Museum in New York.
Many players have adapted to the temporary (!) absence of the viewer more than adequately: Prado, Metropolitan, Italian galleries, etc. As for Moscow, I admire the work of the gallery Na Shabolovke, the work with children's audience in particular.
In my opinion, the best adaptation would be minimizing the amount of online content. A good example is the activity of the V–A–C Foundation during the quarantine period: they did not broadcast old or new exhibitions, did not make excursions. They created the online magazine Sreda, which is updated every week and always consists of artwork, text and podcast in Russian or English. After a week, the materials are not available anymore, thereby the Foundation expresses a protest against archiving as an outdated form pursued by all cultural institutions (what are the disadvantages and advantages of this is an open question).
As an employee of one of the institutions, I think it is not quite ethical to comment.
I liked the dialogues between curator and artist at MoMA during the Artist's Choice: Amy Sillman. The Shape of Shape exhibition, organized by curator Michelle Kuo and artist Amy Sillman. I also liked the presentation of the unopened exhibition Félix Fénéon: the Anarchist and the Avant-Garde — From Signac to Matisse and Beyond in the format of a conversation between the curator Starr Figura and the director of the museum Glenn Lowry, where a lot of time was devoted to questions from the audience (only friends of the museum could ask questions). It was also interesting to listen to the press conference of the NotForever exhibition at the State Tretyakov Gallery and lecture series I'll tell you... from GROUND Solyanka.
We made a project 100 ways to live a minute that brought together art historians and artists. For example, in the second section Media Quarantine, artists share what the quarantine time means for them as for people who often travel, reflect, and also make projects at their locations. It is interesting that if art critics were mainly in their country houses against the background of home curtains with flowers, then the artists were in different places: in another country, in a workshop, at home. Many artists' projects were devoted to a difficult quarantine time: how a person misses not a museum, but his workshop.
Sadly, the government does not provide artists with money, and in this regard, the Pushkin Museum was no different from the government. But these six months have not been wasted: I have never had so much communication, and so have the artists.
I also liked how busy the guides were: all the museums said that there were departments that are useless online, especially the tour guides department. In our museum, this was the busiest department: they made online tours on ZOOM, but the registration was always closed two days before the event.
During the quarantine, I became a real fan of the Pushkin Museum online program: all my spare time I enjoyed listening and watching lectures from the Ask the Conservator series, the course of Boris Fridman, the program 100 ways to live a minute. The website of the Tretyakov Gallery also published many interesting lectures and unique videos, for example, about the work of the complex research department.