Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Senes, Multimedia, Meaning and Music

In 2006, Mary Katherine Scott began research in the Puk region in the Yucatan. Woodcarved reproductions of ancient Maya images are created for the tourist market. But the artists do not consider these reproductions but re-interpretations. This echoes, for me, some of the discussions that we were having after Kostas' paper - at what point does an avatar become an object in it's own right?

Scott co-curated an exhibition, 'Crafting Maya Identity', of this art at the Northern Illinois University, which questioned how the movement of an object from the tourist market into the gallery also moves it conceptually from 'low' to 'high' art, questioning the validity of such Western distinctions. Much as the movement of art practiced in 'Journey with Prayer' yesterday, this exhibition highlights how the location of an object bears so heavily on the meaning of it.

With what voices and what authorities do you surround art? Does the collector, exhibitor, or creator make themselves manifest in an exhibition and how does that impact the visitor engagement. How do you bring those voices in - through multimedia (video and audio), live workshops, image and text based wall panels, websites and the inherent order in which objects are placed. Catalogues, seminars, and conferences weave around those objects analysis and stories which, perhaps, are different than that originally intended.

Interpretations might be more creative. For the Digitizing the Maya project, Bill Vine created a short musical and video piece.

It amazes me that music is not used more in museums. In cinema and on radio it is used to affect emotional responses and has been almost since the dawn of the media. What is it about the museum that it is only just, if at all, beginning to recognise the potential of auditory compositions in the gallery arena. So often we are restricted to silence, clunking footfalls or the chatter of children...why not curate the auditory, as well as visual experience?

The analysis which Vine and Scott conducted raises interesting questions. Quantitatively, it seemed that the multimedia components of the exhibition had little value, but from the qualitative research they conducted, the multimedia elements seemed to impact very positively upon the experience. This makes me wonder, how far can you truly interpret what the viewers said, how much can you remove yourself from the situation and how, really, is it possible to collect those responses which we often experience, but are unable to articulate?

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