of an Exhibition

by Judith Hutton

Published on January 05, 2009, Modified on January 05, 2009

  • Description:

    The usual disorientation of entering a museum becomes a compelling part of the visitor experience within theanyspacewhatever exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (through January 7, 2009). Written words and messages greet the visitor at the door, literally enticing, welcoming and orienting as the experience begins. Text and signage first draws the eyes up and around the museum’s space as one seeks his or her bearings, but also incites curiosity of what is hidden on the walls or around the next corner. Though the exhibition brings together 10 separate artists, their work is unified through the blurred division of where the art and the design of the building merge.

    Perhaps what struck me most was my total lack of fatigue. Like a child my inquisitiveness spurred me to discover the next piece of the exhibit searching as if participating in a scavenger hunt. The artists used virtually every space available from entry to exit, drawing me into areas I have passed by during other visits to this particular museum. It was as if the beauty of the building was rediscovered. I, like the rest of audience that day, became a part of the exhibition through its experiential aspects.

    Rather than concentrating on only the artistic installation, the human presence also becomes a focal point. Interactivity and the architecture of the museum create moments when others can literally be viewed from afar as part of a piece. Similarly, the social aspect of a museum visit is integrated throughout. One project invites you to take off your shoes, settle onto a floor pillow and watch the artist’s video while another provides refreshments and bean bag chairs while viewing a movie. All engage a variety of senses yet provide transitions that also offer respite. Lighting, seating and information areas are also particularly cognizant of visitor needs while still integrating into the total design.

    Often the individual artist’s project draws you in before finding the signage to explain its reasoning. In a way this contributes to the exhibition’s interactive nature, though I am not completely sure this is intentional. For example, I did not discover that specific spots were carefully included within the exhibition to listen to the audio guide until I had bypassed the majority of these spaces. Because of my enthusiasm moving through the museum I simply missed the wall text explaining this fact. However, information was available in a variety of formats for those seeking more background on the artists’ intent.

    Overall this exhibition embodies the visitor experience. It highlights disorientation to orient. Curiosity and mystery are rich even when one “finishes” viewing the space. Various features consider the physical and social needs of the visitor, while also working to satisfy the intellectual desires of the audience. It would be interesting to see this exhibition multiple times because I suspect that it is the human energy, both from those who created it and those visiting, which generate the vitality of its content.

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