Saturday, February 03, 2007

QUESTION Part 2 (And a Query on Professional Learning)

The morning after I wrote the post on questions as a basis for exhibit design, I bolted up in embarrasment. I HAD heard about an exhibition that tried to do this!

At ASTC 2006, Darcie Fohrman talked about an exhibition called QUESTION at the Cantor Arts Center in Stanford in 2004. The staff brought in Darcie and artist Michael Brown to help them create "An experiment that provokes questions about art and its presentation in museums." The curators identified all kinds of questions: "Is there such a thing as bad art?" "Why should I look at something that is disturbing?" "Have I looked at this object long enough?" and "This looks like something my child could do. Why is it in an art museum?" and tried to create an exhibition in which those questions would be--if not addressed--wrestled with, batted around, and played with.

As Darcie put it: "In the museum field, we know that learning happens when there is discussion and conversation. We want people to ask strange questions and say, 'I don't get this.'"

You can read more about QUESTION here and here. I wish I had seen it. Darcie's presentation was exciting--to advertise QUESTION, posters with blank spaces and question marks were put out like political picket signs. Throughout the exhibit, people were encouraged to talk back.

So now, a quick secondary question which has more to do with professional development. If I hadn't been at that ASTC talk, tossed through the night, taken decent notes I was able to find--how would I know about QUESTION? In fact, even now, if I want to know more about it, what are my options? Above, I linked to a press release and a news article. I could contact Darcie or the folks at the Cantor Arts Center. Maybe it would be covered in Exhibitionist. But I probably wouldn't hear about it from a friend, like a movie or a book. I wouldn't hear it on the radio. I can't go to a virtual version of it, and there's no substantive web content to speak of.

So, as Kathy McLean has often asked, how do we get the experiments, the exhibits, the history of museums into the hands of professionals and interested folks? Give me the surf movie of exhibits. Give me the compilation CD. Give me something so I don't forget about QUESTION and all the other amazing things I've never seen.

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