Notes - Cool Museums and Hot Museums

I picked out a book from Sheridan’s library called Cool Museums and Hot Museums the week before going to the AGO for a field trip. It’s by Jorge Glusberg, originally written in Spanish I believe, and published in 1980. I have no idea if anyone’s taken it out from the library since then. There were definitely parts I disagreed with, or felt were very dated. But there were also some interesting bits, which I’ve save below. On most spreads the left page had a simple illustration, on the right, text. The title refers to Marshal McLuhan’s theory of hot/cold media.

It is evident that such active consumption [of artwork] can be facilitated by technical or architectural features. However, criticism goes beyond that: it considers the general social and cultural aspects in addition to the functional and technological aspects. Active consumption may definitely be facilitated in special circumstances by constructional or environmental features. For example, the Ahmedabad Museum in India, which opened in 1963, was built in memory of Ghandi and is a centre for the study of his thought and philosophy. The design and construction of the museum is adapted to the environment and the nature of the exhibits; the materials are simple and unobtrusive, and sunlight is used as much as possible (p 21)

^ reminds me of Wabi-sabi, description of the teahouse and how small + low the doorway was, which forced people (esp. high-class officials) to literally lower themselves when they entered the space

It is interesting to note that the museum is not an invention of a specific historical period. It is the institutional expression of a function encountered, in some form or other, in all societies to the extent that they preserve and exhibit objects that are representative of their values. This function of exhibition and preservation is sometimes confused with a need for large spaces which are of touristic value or which have certain features which serve to make them centres of attraction. (p 23)

Unlike the artist, who can take refuge in the illusion that he is creating something for himself — as is borne out by the countless declarations of talented creative artists — the critic has to produce for consumption and should be fully aware of his position… a critic cannot write ‘for himself’, nor can he fall back on such a claim to justify an unintelligible piece of criticism. (p 35)

Some museums have adopted the ‘two museums in one’ system. In this case, the museum includes main rooms for the permanent collections, smaller rooms for temporary collections, and repositories for items which would only be of interest to the more learned visitors who could request private visits subject to the presentation of appropriate credentials. It would even be useful to have ‘triple’ museums. Public buildings are hung with anecdotal pictures which are generally mediocre when they are not mere copies. Both these works and those which are kept in therepositories could ‘tour’ the walls of official buildings and make up a kind of rotating exhibition stages throughout the city. The practice can be followed with those sculptures adorning public squares which are reasonably mobile. The whole city would in this way become a vast mobile museum, for which it would be necessary to print catalogue cards and arrange lectures and guided tours, particularly for schoolchildren and pensioners. (p 45)

[The Beauborg,] apart from its museum of modern art, it houses a public information library, an industrial design centre, an institue of acoustic and musical research and creation, a debating room, a film library and a children’s workshop. The implicit argument is that culture is life and is for the man in the street. The MoMA does not have enough space to exhibit the various permanent collections and its complete stock of artistic works. It is not easy to gain entry to the various libraries. The area avilable for temporary exhibitions is small and limited to the cultural categories of the past (painting, sculpture and the graphic arts). The Guggenheim museum suffers from these and other drawbacks. Built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1946-59, facing onto Central Park, its splendid bold architecture does not even reflect minimum museological standards. Its linear sweep suggests a set text, a discourse without alternatives. The spectator is led by the hand like a child. By contrast, the Beaubourg changes appearance every day. Nothing is permanent. There are few restrictions. The spectator is encouraged to participate. (p 49)

The mediaeval museum was dominated by archaeology; the possession of a Roman bas-relief was proof of ancestry and the display of a Byzantine or Islamic trophy implied participation in the Crusades. Painting and sculpture acquired a privleged position. They were entrusted with the task — an archaeological task, in the last analysis — of making a record, for posterity, of the refinement of the courts and the protection given to artists in exchange for embracing the world view of their lords and masters. The museum did not collect pictures; the artists painted for the museums (p 53)

Not even the major museum (such as the Vatican, the Uffizi, the Louvre, the Ermitage, the New York Metropolitan and the Prado in Madrid) are complete. They do not contain everything ever painted. They do not contain all the painting of a period. They do not even contain all the work of any single painter. The[y] only have what they have been able to buy. Can purchasing power really serve as a fair criterion for selection? (p 61)

Should museums serve to provide leisure, information or education? How can the museum compete in the industrial society which offers the alienated masses so many more exciting and attractive ways of spending their free time?… Should museums be objecive (neutral) or educative? Should they simpl[y] wxhibit objects, or should they, for example, provide background information, diagrams, economic statistics or other items of information needed for an intelligent appraisal of exhibits? (p 61)

turned into research laboratories, museums would not merely be a precinctfor the preservation and possible communication of visual material. They would also serve as places of study… they would serve as places where works of art are not merely exhibited and preserved, but are analyzed. Such material, which would be the fruit of the proposed kind of interdisciplinary collaboration, could be integrated into the complete range of media of para-artistic communication. (p 64)

‘Imaginary’ museums or ‘museums without walls’ André Malraux imagined a possible situation in which each person, acting according to his own criteria of selection and combination, would undertake, in his own home, the kind of exhibition which museums put on, frequently with difficulty owing to the actual presence of the consumer of art and the relative visual distance of the works. This situation would be possible because of the development of the most advanced techniques for repreoducing visual works. …At the same time, we have to bear in mind that the consumer of art will need to have received a broad artistic education if he is to be capble of selecting the works or their reproductions. …We believe that this opportunity will arise out of the very function of the museums, which become laboratories in the development of their fundamental functions: the technical function in the preparation of the faithful reproduction of the works which they store and preserve, and the training function, at the service of the extension of the artistic culture of the community. (p 65)

The relationship with the museum will cease to be characterized by the mere spectator role and become an active relationship. The same preservation and care of the original works should be a common venture instead of being the sole responsibility of individuals trained in this field. Such training should be within the reach of anyone seriously interested in museoographic work who wishes to become actively involved in the development of museological criticism. The ‘imaginary’ museums would acquire the status of real museums, as the result of the joint efforts of the members of the community interested in artistic activity. (p 67)

^ reminds me the Hamilton Mini MoCA project, and artist projects where they set up exhibits in their spaces (ala Shed in TO, the Rountable resident…), and storefront / apartment balcony displays that happen through BIAs or in response to the pandemic (Was it artreach that had the mini-grants?)

We propose the following stages of development:

  1. Initially, creative teams are set up around the museum in connection with the exhibitions.
  2. These teams, led by artists of renown, would be responsible for workshops or similar places of creative activity.
  3. At the same time, these workshops would operate at a third level, as educational and training centre, with the (initially passive) involvement of the spectators who would assist in some areas of the work.
  4. Forums would be set up in an educational context to discuss and evaluate criteria for the presevation and archiving of works of art.
  5. Teams of architects and theorists would decide on the physical characteristics of suitable premises for each ofthese specific functions and the exhibitions
  6. The formation of technical teams who would decide on the best way to reproduce the works. Their activity would initially centre around two-dimensional works, with a view to the creation of ‘imaginary’ museums, as well as a special archive of microfilms or slides which would document the history of the exhibitions of the museum (p 71)

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