2 Hours in the Museum

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Kick off of Unit XVI. Engaging all of our senses and designing an experience or (for lack of better word at the moment) object that can communicate that experience to an audience.

Given two hours in the RISD Museum, we were prompted to experience the experience that is the RISD Museum. Not strictly at face value, as a museum, but rather to experience the space and environments from “a beginner’s” perspective. I think that’s how they had phrased it.

This reflection will make more sense when I accompany the images of sketches I made during my venture into the museum. (I am attempting to refrain from abusing the word experience too many times in this entry.)

I observed pieces of artwork that were missing (marked with a dispatch form); a sterile hallway where the offices of the museum staff are (reminds me of my grandparent’s house/a doctor’s waiting room), a mystery of the unidentified sculpture (that many of the guards could not identify for me), locked doors and misleading entry-ways, reflections and refractions and moments of overlap through windows.

I was particularly interested in: the idea of public vs. private, spaces that are accessible and not in the museum; the feeling of being watched and as I traversed through the galleries the unity of the museum that established an atmosphere of prestige and restriction (a bit of uncomfortable-ness, as some of my peers mentioned); looking through the glass of a window or a piece as a means of mediation impeding access to and direct interpretation of the piece: and, more specifically, looking through a window, into a window of another room through a window on the opposite wall of that room.

I adore the museum and their collection but found myself more interested in the spaces and context of the art work and the setting of the museum.

The highlights for me were speaking with the guards and asking them about the missing Matisse painting, Still life with Lemons. Apparently on loan. The guards were surprised that the museum had left the space empty, but that was most likely because of the setting up of another exhibition in the adjacent gallery and the elevator being broken.

The mystery of the sculpture in the “not the Rotchke garden but the small other garden with the table and chairs…” I had noticed it through a window in the Thompson House side of the museum and thought it was fascinating and very inaccessible. Three of the guards I asked didn’t know what it was, who made it, or when the museum had it. They had mentioned themselves that they would like to know. Prompted by the guard on the fifth floor (who I was directed to from the lady on the 4th floor), I asked the front desk to call one of the curators to identify the piece. And alas the great mystery was resolved. “Rhythm,” 1964. Donated by the artist in 1965. Of course the name of the artist is slipping me now and is written in my other sketchbook. I joyfully took the news back to the guards who I had inquired before an they were all happy to have the mystery resolved. It was fun playing detective for a little while.

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In sections we shared our reflections, and I found it interesting and insightful to hear what other people were affected by. (See the scan of my notes when I upload it here). We performed John Cage’s 4minutes and 33seconds. And Paul gave us the assignment for Monday with the encouragement to revisit the museum and make more observations. I hope to have more engagements with the guards and people and to observe the space with a fresh perspective later this week.

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