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The Language of Making 2 – Museums and Makers

by James on May 25th, 2011

I thought I’d add a quick post continuing from the last, expanding on the theme of the artist/maker working within a museum setting, with some examples of work in practice.

I wrote in my last post about the possibility of being able to support visitors to connect and identify with the bodily knowledge and experience of the maker or user of an object, through their own bodily and imaginative engagement with that object.

In that post I was focusing more on handmade objects. Of course I realise that not all exhibits are hand made, many are machine produced, organic, or from some other source. In these situations the work of an artist/maker may be able to act as an alternative ‘way-in’ to an exhibit, supporting the visitor to develop an understanding of the physicality of the object/exhibit and of their own relationship to the context in which it was made/found/used.

This connects with an earlier post of mine, sharing my thoughts on the relationship between art and interpretation, which you might find interesting to read here.

In terms of artists working within heritage settings to engage audiences and support different interpretations of an object, building or protected landscape, I’ve included a couple of examples below.

First up is Museumaker, an interesting example of using art, in this case contemporary craft, to shine a new light on existing collections through commissioning new work and engaging visitors in participatory arts experiences.  – ‘Museumaker is unlocking the creative potential of collections through imaginative interchanges between the heritage and craft sectors.’

Second is Trust New Art, a partnership between National Trust and The Arts Council – ‘We both believe that placing high-quality and innovative contemporary art within historic settings can inspire artists and audiences and encourage new ways of looking at the work and the world’.

See here for their blog, although as it hasn’t been updated for a while, it might also be worth following them on twitter for updates and developments – @TrustNewArt

I also think that the increasing interest by museums in the co-curation of exhibitions with communities, seeking to engage more directly with and better represent those communities, could also offer a really valuable opportunity for partnerships with artists, facilitating a process of consultation and developing exhibitions through participatory arts processes.

If you’ve any interesting examples to share of this kind of work, it would be great if you’d add it below.

(The images here are taken from my work with Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum, at Bath Botanical Gardens, and with National Trust Stonehenge Landscape team)

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