Off-Tracking at the Museum: Let’s do it !

We all have been to a museum, either on our own free will or under the yoke of social constraint.

We usually spend a good amount of time there. But it can also be an unpleasant experience when we spend so much time there that we get bored.

So yes, a museum can be an extraordinary place where we can experience culture; however, the way we visit it needs to be updated and innovated.  We need to get off the beaten track!

An invitation to Off-Tracking:

An Outdated Setting?

The current museum setting and how art is presented to the public is not always conducive to making the most of your visit.  The museum experience often comes with:

– Routine-like walking paths to follow

– Monastic silence

– Limited social interaction

– Few seats or places to relax and take viewing breaks

Photo credit Kevin Laminto

The typical visitor will begin his journey by passing in front of the artwork, one after the other, usually rather quickly. He will soon be so overloaded by the sheer quantity of art he has looked at, he’ll begin to lose interest in and appreciation of it.

Between the centuries old canvases, a churchlike silence, the analogy is clear to the museum visitor: Museum = Art’s Graveyard.

It shouldn’t be so! Art is immortal. The challenge is to bring the artworks that are hanging on the walls back to life by questioning them, provoking meetings, and encouraging personal reflections and ideas.

Off-Tracking Guide

Consider the museum to be a restaurant and enjoy it as such. Look at the layout and exhibitions as you would a menu that you can select from and not as a list where you must eat everything in one sitting. We tend to swallow too much artwork and not leave enough time to digest it. Like a fine meal, select what you want to eat and then take the time to enjoy and savor it.

Start out by sitting in the cafeteria. Purchase the exhibition’s magazine/guide/brochure, which is often available at an affordable price. The off-tracking idea here is to move backwards on the path. Sit in the cafeteria and flip through it with a cup of tea or coffee. It’s an excellent way to be better informed about the artwork you will soon discover.

Photo credit Yuya Hata

– Encourage Human Interactions

  • A museum is an ideal place to meet friends and share thoughts and impressions while viewing artwork. What do you think of this piece? What does it inspire in you? These types of social interactions will certainly add a new dimension to exchanges with your friends and loved ones.
  • Ask the security guards questions. They are also there for that purpose, and they often have excellent knowledge about the room they are standing in. They can teach you interesting things about the art you are viewing, and you will be brightening their day, which is often, much too solitary.
  • Share your feelings and impressions about a piece of art with a fellow museum visitor, and ask him what he thinks too! The museum is an excellent place to meet new people with similar interests but different points of view. Just take the step!
Photo credit Mihai Surdu
Bring children — they are world-class museum guides. Why?
  • They ask simple questions
  • They do not automatically accept standardized explanations
  • They see things from a totally different angle
  • They have a very low verbal filter and are fearless in expressing their opinions

These are fundamental qualities in art criticism!

Photo credit Louis Francia

Listen to music while looking at a piece of art. Bring your headphones and music to an art exhibition. Music has the power to articulate and enrich the emotional power of a piece of art.

Photo credit Mika Kotsch

Be Confident, Speak Out!

People around you will usually act as if they understand the artwork they are looking at. Don’t be intimidated; most people are often in the same situation as you are:

  • Puzzled
  • Not understanding the artist’s message
  • A little confused

Is it really crucial to understand the message of the artist? No!

If you interpret art in your own way, you will always be right!

Certainly, a true art expert has an exceptional palette of tools at his disposal. He will be able to discuss his knowledge of art history, cultural movements, art techniques, the life of the artist…etc. He will be able to understand the work in its context and explain its essential qualities.

The novice will have fewer tools, but he will still have the three major ones: his instinct, his sensitivity and his life experience. He will be able to talk about any piece of art, as long as he speaks from a position of truth.

Photo credit Christian Fregnan

Free yourself from mental barriers that block you. Express yourself in front of artwork.

But don’t expect to be stimulated by every piece of art. Observing art does not necessarily mean that you will make sense out of it or like every piece. Perhaps you are just not attracted to it.  Don’t worry, and don’t hesitate to express your opinion! This is normal, in fact, anything less would be cause for worry.

In Conclusion

Artistic initiation is a journey that must be cultivated; the more we are interested in art the more we find it exciting.

One can compare the experience to other “sharp” areas, such as the enjoyment of wine. No need to be an oenologist or sommelier to appreciate a good wine. The same is true of art appreciation. You can never be “wrong” about what you like!

What we need to enjoy art is simply:

– A nice setting

– A good state of mind

Photo credit Serguei Akulich

Art lives of the imagination of people who contemplate it

Keith Haring

Jean-Louis Derrey – ArtWe Founder

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Bibliography:How to visit an Art Museum by Johan Idema