Elastic Museum


This article was written on 15 Jan 2013, and is filled under art engagement.

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Artist’s Process As Exhibit?


I was watching a short on Art21 (“Tools and Strategies”) with Richard Serra. He was talking about his process and gave a succinct overview of ‘the artist’s process’.

As we know, he has had plenty of time to refine, share and teach in this realm– and as such, is able to boil down its value and  articulate effective approaches. Serra began by talking about his beginnings where he would start with a verb list (to rip, to curl, to splatter) and played it out into a space- artists are extending their vision to create:

“…you don’t become involved with the psychology of what you or are making nor do you become involved with the after-image of what it’s going to look like. … it gives you a way of proceeding… in relation to making, that divorces you from any notion of metaphor, any notion of easy imagery.”

…I think what artists do is they invent strategies that allow themselves to see in a way they haven’t seen before to extend their vision… they constantly come up with ways of informing themselves by inventing tools or techniques or processes that allow them to see, into a material manifestation in the way that you would not, if you dealt with standardized or academic ways of thinking.”

I don’t think Serra’s is simply one typology of practice, but rather, it is a model for how to do focused work. It struck me that this articulation could be extrapolated into a variety of exhibits or activities to not only create vehicles for visitors to walk in the shoes of an artist, but as a way to immerse and build confidence in an open-ended form of creativity.

Since my visit to Sweden, I’ve been trying to work out how to do that in an exhibit or activity form (ala the Sally Studio Method I wrote about). I also think this is a vehicle for the creative process of exhibit development- given some context and framing. I think I will put this into the hopper for the San Francisco Mobile Museum exhibit in development (Observatorium). I’d like to mesh the artistic practice with the experiential goals of an exhibit, and see what outcomes can result.


  1. Katie Bowell
    January 16, 2013

    I was thinking about this very thing when I read a great piece on Jerry Seinfeld in last month’s NYT. It was fascinating to see behind the curtain to the process and methodology that goes into building a good joke. In the education world, we used to refer to the process as “invisible creativity,” acknowledging the necessity of the amount of behind-the-scenes creativity to produce anything worthwhile.

    I wrote a little more about it here: http://museumsaskew.com/2013/01/04/invisible-creativity/

  2. mortati
    January 16, 2013

    Katie, thank you, that’s a great post, and the Seinfeld analogy is apt. I heard an interview with him along those lines and sounds as if we all share the refinement obsession.

    Also, I like the fact that many aspects of making these days are getting inverted (or extroverted).

  3. mortati
    January 17, 2013

    BTW, I just came across this in prep for a public interaction design class- via the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design:

    “Students were exposed to magic-trick techniques and experienced and learned optical and physiological deception, mostly by using simple everyday objects like coins and cards. This was to demonstrate that the process of perfecting a magic trick can be viewed as parallel to the process of developing an interactive object. This is also closely related to performance art, where audience feedback is vital. Once a concept for a trick is established, or say a joke in a stand-up comedy show is drafted, training commences. Whereas a magician practices his/her actions and checks his/her instruments, a comedian tests the manner of portraying the sketch to reach the best, and funniest phrasing and timing. This is crucial for the success of each, and for improving on the initial model. Agile-usability- engineering use similar methodologies, such as backtalk of a situation, where challenges of the creative progress, themselves teach and educate, rather than just present obstacles (hinting to a conclusion that the developer must also get better, not just the product).”

    Source: http://ciid.dk/education/portfolio/py/courses/toyview/syllabus/

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