Thoughts and Notes : Mediation in Contemporary Art Museums


Today there is a very popular discussion in the museums of Contemporary Art. How to change the strategies of mediation so people feel more comfortable and welcome when it comes to talking about contemporary art. It is quite a delicate issue indeed. Very very delicate. I dont feel like writing a formal article about it so I will just share some thoughts and notes :

-First of all, today I attended a conference specifically about “Mediation in Contemporary Art Museums” The mediators were suggesting the best way to approach contemporary art was through a method called VTS (Visual Thinking Strategies) in which the mediator is completely neturalized so the audience can approach the art piece in its own terms and does not feel intimidated by it or any “clever” comments around. One of the mediators excerized this technique with us, and I was actually not very convinced of its effectiveness because of the following reasons:

1. I feel that it is a really comfortable position to asume that contemporary art presents a great “threat” to the audience and that no one is interested of knowing what the mediator has to say about it.I think becuase of that they  choose  to promote a free (everything the audience says is valid and true) position and not interfering at all in the medation. Dont you think the learning comes also from what the mediators have to say about the art piece? I felt in the excercize we did,  all of us narrated our own interpretation about the art piece but in the end there was not a reinforcement from the mediator to reach a main idea about it. I felt it ended the way it started.

2. It has been decades since Contemporary Art took off and we are still talking about the fact that the publics are so scared and intimidated about contemporary art and how some people feel its a “fraud” when it really is not, etc, etc. Lets get over those speeches. There will always be people who doesent like Contemporary Art or even Art itself and I think that is something we need to respect. If it has value for us, then it is everything that matters. It is not necessary to look for its validation in everyone.

3. Of course the role of the mediator works towards the audience and not towards the art work becuase without the audience there is no mediation. But somehow I feel that if the mediator only asks questions like “What is happening in this painting?” ” What makes you think this?” “What else can you see there?” There is an assumption that the mediator does not have anything else to say about the painting and for me the deepness of the experiencie is lost. The mediator should of course, leave some space for free interpretation but  also share some of his/her knowledge about the piece, and the artist as well. In my opinion that will make the experience more rich for the audience. (If all mediations would be VTS does that mean that anyone could do it? Because it sounds you dont need much previous preparation if all the contribution comes from the audience)

4. Of course there are so many types of audiences coming and going in a museum and it is not real to think about a formula of mediating everybody in the same way. I think different strategies have to be applied for different types of groups; maybe the VTS does not fit a type of group that is really interested about knowing a lot about the art pieces. As it could be applied succesfully in other cases. Mediating sounds hard, but I think we should accept and embrace that fact and act with flexibility and full attention towards the need of the groups.

I think I wrote this becuase I feel that Contemporary Art of course, it looks scary, but it is so fascinating, and it is worth to know more about it. I love when I see a contemporary art piece and I have my thoughts about it, i dont really know if I am wrong or I am right and then comes someone that knows a bit more about it and fills me up. Its great. I dont feel intimidated or offended by it, I feel I am learning more. In the end I can embrace what the mediator said or not, but at least I had the chance to have my own perception of it, and at the same time know the intention behind of it. That contrast is so valuable and so important

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