In 1998, Canadian designer Bruce Mau wrote “An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth“â€”43 ideas that exemplify his beliefs, motivations, and strategies, and describe how his BMD studio operates. While I appreciate all 43 of these ideas, it is #42 that sticks with me as I think about our wonderful new project, ExhibitFiles:
“42. REMEMBER. Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event. That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and as such, a potential for growth itself.”
I envision ExhibitFiles as a collective memory-space for our field. In ExhibitFiles, we will be able to record our memories of exhibits past, our successes and failures, our inspirations and struggles. And in the remembering, we will grow the field. In my recent article in The Exhibitionist, “We Still Need Criticism,” I suggest that exhibition criticism needs to be more than simple opinion. I make a plea for criticism in context, for building upon past practice, referencing other similar media, comparing similarities and differences. In a similar vein, as Bruce Mau says, “Without memory, innovation is merely novelty.”
But in order to “remember,” we need collective memories. We need a place to record what has been done so that we may all experience it, even as “a partial construct different from its source.” ExhibitFiles will contain our partial constructs of the many exhibitions that have gone before, that we created in the past, that visitors have experienced over time.
ExhibitFiles won’t be a memory-space only. If it is truly self sustaining and nurturing, it will also be a current space, where we can reflect on our practices, get advice and consent from our colleagues, and perhaps foster future alliances.
“We Still Need Criticism” PDF (263KB), reprinted with permission from The Exhibitionist, Volume 25, Number 1, a journal published by the National Association for Museum Exhibition (NAME).