|Catalina State Park|
(admittedly not a museum)
I recently went for a hike at Catalina State Park to enjoy the silence of the foothills and clear my head, surrounded by the desert. When I arrived, I realized that there was a noisy group of 8-10 year old boys in front of me. They were running around on the trail while yelling about things they found to be awesome on X Box. Their mother followed behind, talking on her cell phone. I was disappointed until I was able to outpace them all and I found my silence at last.
This sparked a debate in my mind about the enjoyment of places.
“We live in a time where he who enjoys loudest enjoys best.”
“It’s just great for kids to be outside playing and engaging with their environment.”
“What happens to people who seek silence, do they just need to work harder to find what they are looking for than loud people? “
“Is wanting silence less valid than wanting to be loud?”
“I should learn to appreciate whatever is going on around me.”
And naturally, my mind turned to art; specifically the museum. At one time I had a membership to MoMA which allowed me to go to the exhibit opening parties. I didn't go to the parties to hobnob with other members, I went because the other galleries were open during the gala and it gave me the opportunity to see MoMA’s collection without being surrounded by thousands of other people. I am a person who likes to look at art objects in a quiet, somewhat reverent atmosphere. It’s definitely not the only way to appreciate art, but it is still a viable one.
My somewhat old fashioned preference for viewing art objects is why I was put off by events reported in a blog post I read recently at hyperallergenic.com. To sum it up, a family was allowing their child to play on a Donald Judd sculpture at the Tate Modern. When the source of the article confronted them about it, they responded that the source knew nothing about kids.
|Untitled, Donald Judd|
Photo: Tate Modern
Now, I realize that this is a report of a single event and doesn't warrant my indignant outrage. What surprised me was that when I talked about the article to people and expressed my disapproval of the behavior, the Tate got very little sympathy. Most people don’t particularly care for Judd’s work and many would welcome the irreverent behavior to counteract what they perceive as undeserved value placed on the object. One well considered response I received was that Judd would probably approve.
|Nike of Samothrace|
Photo: The Louvre
Now, don’t get me wrong there are plenty of interactive installations out there that were built for interaction and I think that type of work is great. I would like to see more of it. But an art object (even a post-object art object) which is on a museum wall for consideration is not necessarily there to be physically interacted with or not depending on the viewer’s desires or opinion of the piece. One would not climb on the Nike of Samothrace, giving the excuse that “it’s out of context.” One would not lick a painting attributed to the studio of Rembrandt just because “Rembrandt probably didn’t touch it.”
That being said, I would love to see more interactive playgrounds for kids, designed by artists at museums or designated interactive exhibits that allow kids to blow off that steam during a forced museum visit. Here’s an example of a playgroundwhich has been designed with an artistic rigor that could be installed at a museum. It gives children a place and object to interact with, while parents could read about the concepts that went into the playground’s design.
Arguments have been made for decades that museums need to adapt to the times in order to remain relevant. But, I think that as long as museums exhibit art objects for consideration and enjoyment there must be a level of decorum allowing those objects to be viewed and considered by the most people. We have a general consensus that people should be more or less quiet in a movie theater. Why is it snobbish to suggest that people be considerate and follow a traditional decorum in museums?