The town of Klagenfurt in Austria didn’t have a central library so they decided to turn the whole city into one big virtual library. The Project Ingeborg initiative placed stickers on area businesses featuring a QR code and NFC technology. The sticker’s tech links to free reading. There is a murder-mystery available at the police station and a little something about salvation available at the cathedral. Anywhere you go, there is something to engage you, enrich you, and act as a city wide library at your fingertips (or smartphone-tips, as it were).
I would love to see this applied to the museum world. As someone who operates a very small museum, I know from experience how many more people can be reached off-site (to be exact: all of them except the 1300 who find there way to our building). As a suburban museum, our community’s biggest artifacts are the repetitive houses that fill up our city and the low-slung retail buildings that evoke the 1950s. Residents love to see what busy corners used to look like when they were dirt-paved and hosted a few early businesses. Why not use this un-museum concept, or more accurately a museum-everywhere concept to place a little historic interpretation around the neighborhood like a trail of breadcrumbs to the past?
Imagine an art museum who could “hang” some artwork that complements each storefront on a street like a digital art jukebox. Imagine using your mobile device to connect a place to an artifact, an oral history story to streetcorner, or to hear a story read, hear a snippet of a walking tour.
If your town or neighborhood doesn’t have a museum, would you make your town or neighborhood the museum?
Some of us bloggers here on Museum Unbound regularly daydream about how we can take a curated museum-like experience outdoors, guerrilla-style, or on the road, have it be mobile, easily deploy-able, at night, under a bridge…or how to combine art with history or any number of things that challenge the notions of what a museum is and what a “museum” experience entails.
One challenge to translating the expected or unexpected museum experience to new venues and surroundings is the desire for visuals to go with ideas. Can new, affordable digital technology win the day? With a desire to turn our talk into action, I spied an open box PICO Pocket Projector. I’d been meaning to look into purchasing one of these miniature projectors for an upcoming exhibit at my museum! Out of its zippered carrying case, it looks like this:
It’s smaller than most paperback books and can take its source material from USB, HDMI, an micro-SD card, or various others. The exhibit doesn’t get installed for two months so I ask you, dear readers,
what kind of trouble can we get into museum experience can we create in the next 60 days that unravels the idea of a museum and knits it into a new shape?
It’s been a few days now, and my legs (and my sleep pattern) have finally recovered from the second annual Northern Spark festival. Northern Spark is a Twin Cities arts festival based on the idea of Nuit Blanche. This year in Minneapolis, the event involved more than 200 artists.My friends and I were out all night and only made it to about 15 events. It was hard to decide where to go!
We started the night at Father Hennepin Park, playing at the projects that were there. We roasted marshmallows on the back of a bike, ate delicious 10,000 Licks popsicles and explored quite a few smaller projects. After that we headed to the Ten Second Film Festival, The Soap Factory and a street dance party.
At midnight, my friends and I took part in the Kuramoto Model firefly ride, where 1000 people had synchronized bike lights and rode across the Stone Arch Bridge. It was more of a bike scoot rather than a bike ride, but it was pretty magical to watch all of the lights blinking together.
After the bike scoot, we rode with a wild pack of cyclists to The Foshay Tower. Despite living in Minneapolis my entire life, I had never been to the top of the Foshay. The project there was interesting, but the view alone was worth the wait.
After a brief break for refreshments, we biked to Loring Park. At Lunalux Press we had a great time during their participatory hourly poster project “Letterpress Lock-In”, where every hour a limited edition poster was sourced from community ideas. Ours say “Minneapolis: Art Bike Love Laugh”. Pretty adorable.
Outside Lunalux was a cool car with a projection inside of it that made it look like it was traveling down a country road. It was pretty mesmerizing. From there, we headed to Walker Art Center, where there were tons of things happening. There were campfires in the Open Field. The galleries were also open, and as we were hitting the three a.m. wall we got sucked into a 25 minute long film of a flooding McDonald’s. It’s amazing how things get a little weird when you are sleep deprived (and maybe a little intoxicated.)
There were so many projects that I only caught a glimpse of that I wish I could have participated in. One of these was a cool restaurant hosting meals via Skype.
Throughout the whole night I was of course thinking how cool it would be to do a nighttime history event. The Minnesota History Center would be a little scary at night I imagine. Show those art people that they aren’t the only ones cool enough to stay up all night.
I’ve been lucky in my life to have access to a lot of weird and awesome art. As a teenager I served on Walker Art Center’s Teen Arts Council, aka WACTAC. My WACTAC experience was really an unmatchable experience. In just a few short years I got to meet, work with and create with some pretty amazing contemporary artists. I was exposed to so many creative ways of starting conversation.
But now I work in a history museum. It’s pretty different than the art world, but many of those lessons I learned at the Walker are inspirational when thinking about what “museum unbound” means.
This is pretty awesome. But I think even simple projections could be used to create some radical street museums. We are working on an idea in this direction that we will discuss more in the coming weeks.
What do you think? How would you use projection?
This spring in Minneapolis’s Whittier neighborhood there are few storefronts left empty. No, this struggling neighborhood did not suddenly turn its rough real estate situation around. Instead, the community is nurturing a neighborhood-wide celebration of art and renewal with Artists in Storefronts. ( Back it on Kickstarter)
Here’s the scoop: “Artists in Storefronts partners vacant and under-used commercial storefronts with local artists to create public exhibits within those spaces, a collective urban walking gallery! An ongoing project throughout the Twin Cities, Artists in Storefronts aims to work with neighborhood organizations, artists, and local businesses in an effort to promote creativity, revitalize local economies, and provide everyone with equal, open access to art.”
So with a little grassroots administration and some talented people, empty storefronts become a community resource, artists get a temporary gallery, and suddenly the sidewalk becomes a link between people and art. Total win+win.
Is it a museum? No, and that’s good! Museums aren’t often as accessible as next-door or around-the-corner or even on-the-way-to-the-bus. Having culture land, even for just six weeks, in your everyday world changes that world, changes the way you think about that everyday world. Then you start thinking about art and yourself and how these things fit together and then there is no end to the thinking– the thinking!
One of my favorite things when putting people and culture together is to let them mingle with each other. Interactivity, participation, and letting the people be a part of the process and the product is always worth more to me than the expertly curated playlist of culture.
Artists in Storefronts has fostered a few storefront projects that do just that. “Six-word Minneapolis” is a crowdsourced project by Emily Lloyd displaying thousands of six-word homages to Minneapolis like this:
Here’s a project called Before I Die from Candy Chang that turns a wall into a forum. Your mere participation in this work makes you part of it. It makes you an important piece of something larger. What you write matters. You matter. Rinse, repeat, over and over, how do you think that changes a neighborhood?
Art is no stranger to the street, though, and murals and buskers and even graffiti are so at home out in the world rather than inside walls. What about other genres of culture? Can other disciplines break out of their museums and find a place on the outside? Could an archive ever translate to the street? What would history look like if freed from walls or even the fences of outdoor museums? Maybe the better question is what would you want it to look like?
Candy Chang sounds like a pretty awesome woman. Her resume is a little intimidating, but her projects are right up the alley I love. One of them recently made it’s way to Minneapolis. The Before I Die project started in Candy’s hometown of New Orleans, but has been turned into a toolkit so anyone can create a wall in their city. We recently got one here in Minneapolis as part of the Whittier Artists in Storefronts project, lead by local creative Joan Vorderbruggen.
I love this project because it’s simple, but asks an important question. It’s inviting, but profound. Chalk is also just a really fun medium, am I right? The toolkit also makes the project accessible (creatively) , but leaves me feeling a little conflicted about economic accessibility.
These are seed bombs. They are the inspiration for the term I made up to describe what I am talking about on Museum Unbound, “Culture-Bombing“.
The function of a seed bomb is a radical insertion of flowers into the landscape. You don’t ask for permission to plant a garden. You toss in a seed bomb and one grows.
Culture bombing is the same. You don’t ask for permission. You toss in some culture (be it art, history, science, whatever) and a conversation grows.
There are thousands of ways that people are doing this. Culture-bombs can be digital, mobile or physical. They can be planned by organizations, institutions or individuals.
The possibilities are what makes them great.