The Future of Museum and Gallery Design
Looking to artwork for a vision of the future and its systems
Capitalizing on evolving communication technologies
Transforming mission by responding as a muse to world affairs
To envision the future of museum and gallery design, have a look at artists’ interpretations of the future. Imagine what may evolve from the current social trends and innovations developing under the influence of international affairs, cultural and economic shifts, industries, sciences and technologies — within a society of billions more.
Emotion Winds, 2014, Maurice Benayoun. Analysis of Internet data representing the emotions of 3200 of the world’s largest cities that move and spread according to the real-time winds. The work understands the Internet as ‘World Nervous System’, or the harbinger of the planet’s emotional sensitivities. Image courtesy of the artist.
What will evolve is a great unknown, but the legacy of art as the manifestation of human achievement and inspiration for creativity in all fields, is a constant value within the changing world. We can look to art for clues to what the future and its systems will be. As Marshall McLuhan said in 1964 in Understanding Media, “I think of art, at its most significant, as a DEW line, Distant Early Warning system, that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it.”
Virtual & public
Whereas communication technologies provide an easily accessed flow of information through the virtual realm, museums and galleries can use the public space realm to provide an easy access to the experience of art, opportunities to new ways of knowing, and platforms for interaction. Installations on the grounds of the museum or gallery draw passersby inside. Art displays in the public spaces of a city or town enter into the fabric of life and livelihoods, enhancing quality of life and attracting visitors to cultural establishments for further explorations and interactions.
Data derived from research from such fields as neuroscience and marketing proves that the arts have economic, cultural and educational ramifications. Remarking on the mutual benefits when industries support the arts, Sandy Nairn, Director of the Nations Portrait Gallery, London, said, “Sponsorship is not a donation; it’s a deal. It has to work for the business as well as for us.”
Chris Dercon, Director of Tate Modern, London, points out that in ancient Roman times “… engaging the public was a formal obligation… The first museum ever, in Alexandria, started with a library – it was the nucleus of the museum because of the solidity of wisdom. What can we do to bring this all together.” Deacon continued, “Governments have to recognize that culture is an enormous important social and economical tool. If you want to invest in your future you have to invest in culture today. Culture and cultural participation is not only an social-economical tool, it’s also a very important political tool. Because after all, it’s about participation. It’s about feeling represented, so i cannot imagine public governments without a clear investment and clear will and desire and obligation to say culture is incredibly important.”
As communication and creative technologies advance, cultural establishments and artists will have access to new tools and platforms for creation and outreach. For example, MIT’s SENSEable City Lab’s FlyFire where thousands of flying swarming digital pixel particles flock together upon demand to form 3-dimensional configurations and moving large-form display systems; and transparent and flexible OLED technology that will be used for small and big screens, sprayed onto architecture, wearable, 3D, used in home decorating and car windshields. They will be capable of operating in hostile environments, and connecting to real time content and the Internet of Things.
In the future, museum designs in particular can integrate technology to channel a flow of art from their buildings into their neighborhoods and internationally. This art, created by artists in residence, can emerge from the input of what will be ubiquitous high speed data, evolutionary robotics and machine learning, information and real-time views of the world channeled into the museum lab. In this way, the future museum will be a technologically-based muse and modern day Medici patron of the arts, communicating inspiration and knowledge, navigating the world for society through the vision of artists, to “See what is really there. Look at it. Look at it”, in the words of American photographer Dorothea Lange (1895-1965).
Streaming Museum launched in 2008 at the cusp of the expansion of the internet, screen culture and mobile technology. It was conceived as a symbolic, conceptual, but potentially practical public art experiment to interconnect the world through shared experiences of international art and visionary ideas. It would signify the multiple realities of society that are streaming simultaneously.
Interpreting this within the context of McLuhan’s words that the “medium is the message”, the message of Streaming Museum is about society’s interconnectedness that is uncovered through the medium of internet and communication technologies.
Imagery is the best way to communicate across cultures and linguistic and geo-political boundaries. In the 1930s, Austrian statistician Otto Neurath intended to prove this when he introduced Isotype pictographic characters for print and signage as a universal visual language that would help unify the world.
Nam June Paik’s cross-continental artworks, such as the live satellite broadcast in 1984 – “Good Morning Mr. Orwell”, had the same goal. Streaming Museum exhibited the video version for its inaugural exhibition in 2008, through the internet and one public space on each of 7 continents at precisely the same time.
Since then, the museum has produced and presented arts programs that have reached millions on 7 continents — from North Pole to South Pole, mega cities to remote locations – in public spaces, cultural centers and its streamingmuseum.org. Streaming Museum can be considered a new museum architecture that exists everyplace. It is nomadic and part of the sharing culture as it touches down at existing international screens and venues which also brings to them new opportunities for visibility, while disseminating the work of international artists and innovators around the world.
Streaming Museum reflects on the reality that the world we all have to deal with is an interdependent one. There are no national borders when it comes to global warming and economic crises, health pandemics, terrorism, poverty, weapons of mass destruction, trafficking, crime, and many other problems of the 21st century. Yet these challenges are being addressed with predominantly 18th century solutions which stop at territorial national borders.
Astronauts get the sense of this interdependent world when they have the awesome inspiring experience of seeing the earth in space – called the “Overview Effect” – that transforms their perspective of the planet. They see it as our shared home without boundaries between nations, humans and nature.
Considering the realities of our planet in crisis, museums can respond as a muse to world affairs and play a critical social role using technological interfaces and immersive technologies to connect with people and deliver extraordinary art and scientific experiences that touch the senses. Spectacular art is more often shared in social media, and further to this, Dr. James Zull, Professor and Researcher of Biology and Biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University, explains in his book “The Art of Changing the Brain”, that emotional experiences and learning are intertwined.
In relation to these ideas, Streaming Museum has introduced “A View From The Cloud”, a multi-year globally touring program of arts, innovation and technological interfaces that brings to life the interconnections of global society and world affairs. It enables an emotional and intellectual comprehension of the world that aims to inspire people to engage with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and practical solutions. It builds upon attributes persistent today: partnerships, data, and new platforms for communication and audience interaction.
Streaming Museum is producing A View From The Cloud with World Council of Peoples for the United Nations (WCPUN) which gives the program unique vantage points through the range of expertise and partnerships of both organizations. WCPUN is a non-governmental organization associated to the United Nations Department of Public Information dedicated to facilitating partnerships across sectors that advance awareness and implementation of the UN’s goals.
Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found when 10% of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. If the arts can motivate 10% of the population to engage in sustainability, the arts can be considered a problem solving design system, alongside of the developing systems of renewable energy, water purification, transportation, agriculture, data technologies, education, social services, global financial industries, and more.
Furthermore, popular demand galvanized through the arts and social media, can provide the incentive to corporations and governance to produce the modernized systems and businesses that benefit society.