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Re-thinking the museum as a ‘way-station’

Tue Nov 14th, 2006

The Artists’ Panel provides artist(s) with the opportunity to engage with the public in a secure and supportive environment.  Artist(s) generally develop their ideas for the workshops in relation to current exhibitions, drawing on a multitude of ideas, from the exhibited works to the use of materials and concepts.  There may also be a consideration of historical, political and social contexts that the exhibited artists have formalised in their daily practice.

For the public, who are participants and observers in workshops, familiarity with the exhibitions is an integral aspect of the programme; therefore, regular visits are encouraged from studio workshop to the exhibited show.

These ‘visits’ not only set a context for the work between the artist and group

but potentially open up the museum as an accessible public space, where discussions can take place between the artist, the participating public and museum mediators.

It is this notion of public space, which relates the Museum’s role to civic life. This space, identified as a ‘contact zone’ by James Clifford in his book Routes, is a re-thinking on the idea of public space and cultural institutions as temporary and mobile situations conversed between a broad spectrum of communities.  This also draws attention to the social and political complexity of ‘communities’ in themselves – no longer viewed with fixed or stable tags of identification.

This supports the fluid and inter-active location for exchange operating from the performative aspects of cultural production and site-specific practices opened up through the dialogue between public space and community involvement.

The only requirement for public participation in IMMA workshops is an interest in and willingness to engage with cultural knowledge and artistic practice.  Therefore, the museum as a ‘way-station’ becomes a temporary site for exchange, a space for debate and collaboration between the public, artist and museum.  This presents the audience/participants with a platform to practice a close reading of exhibits through a broad and non-descriptive forum for discussion.  This extends the tradition of an art-workshop, from a taught, skill-based approach to a supportive space for investigative and dialogical practice, exploring new methods and ways of thinking about art practice.  From my own experience, the most valuable workshops for both artist(s) and participants are those based around the particulars and ongoing interest and methodologies of the artist.

To frame this practice as community art or to name the profession ‘community artist’ renders the work passive and secondary to studio practice and exhibition work. I consider the artist(s) role in society as one of inter-relation, contingent on audience participation, in essence an extensive social practice.

In this respect I quote from Edmond Jabes: ‘I dreamed of a work which would not enter into any category, fit any genre, but contain them all; a work hard to define, but defining itself precisely by this lack of definition, a work which would not answer to any name, but had donned them all’.

Having delivered a number of drawing workshops, one of the few draw backs of the IMMA education programme is the lack of funding to develop and deliver a thorough workshop programme in tandem with the participants for a substantial period. The educational aspect of the Museum needs to be supported by the government on a greater financial scale. A resource centre within the Museum should be developed for artist(s) and the public as a research and educational space. The philosophy of the Museum should be a balanced approach to the idea of a collective practice rather than an emphasis on the collection as an isolated resource.

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Further Reading

Artists´ Panel

The Artist and the Museum: Another Way

Clíodhna Shaffery selected, at random, three artists from the Artists' Panel: Patricia McKenna, Beth O’Halloran and Cliona Harmey and interviewed them about their experience. She also considered written feed...

by Cliodhna Shaffrey / Tue Nov 14th, 2006
Artists´ Panel

The Artist and the Institution

In his essay The Artist and the Institution, Mick Wilson, artist and writer, and currently Head of Research and Postgraduate Development in the National College of Art and Design, considers aspects of the ro...

by Mick Wilson / Tue Nov 14th, 2006
Artists´ Panel

The Role of an Artist in a Museum or Gallery

The artist can have many roles in a museum or gallery. The focus of this series of articles for Artist's Panel 2005-6 is on those artists who are specifically concerned with the encounter between the art wor...

by Lisa Moran / Tue Nov 14th, 2006

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The Artist and the Institution

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