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Death and the Museum

In this text by Daniel Libeskind the word “museum” is used as the semantic contrary of “living, vital”. Libeskind thinks that Paris, as a city, has fundamentally rejected the idea of being “vital”, and opted instead for a “museum” image.
You might recall when, last March, the US President Barack Obama, spoke at Selma, Alabama. He was standing at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, 50 yeas after the “Bloody Sunday”, a brutal police crackdown on civil rights marchers.
His speech was great, passionate, and morally unquestionable. But he equated to word “museum” to the expression “static monument to behold from a distance”.

Death mask made of plaster. The Horniman Museum, London

Perhaps we should just accept the notion that “museum” is forever linked to the idea of death, and exploit this for dramatic purposes. After all, death as a concept has a narrative potential that is, well, very vital. Here are some basic ideas.

The Museum of the Living Dead

This is quite obvious. George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead might be unsuitable as an aestethic experience for some museumgoers. What about Poe, then? Surely Poe has been disinfected by the years. Ligeia tells the tale of a marvellous woman who dies, only to return somehow inside the body of another.

How to do it: late hours museum visits where the audience is asked to pick their favourite deceased artist, dress and act like him.  Detailed information about artists required. Great for white-cube museum, who can exploit their ghastly pallor.

Dead All Along

This is another well known pop meme. A bunch of people in a closed environments makes all sort of weird things that defy logical explanation. It turns out they were all dead in the first place.

How to do it: a reversed guided tour. One member of the audience, seven performers who impersonate dead artists and stroll together around the exhibition halls. The intruder’s aim is to convince the artists that they are in fact all dead.  He might point at labels, gather clues of commonly known events happened after the deaths of the others. It could be quarrelsome.

Contagious Exhibits

This really needs no explanation. Cough cough.

How to do it: I see this as a smartphone in-gallery game. You form a group by gathering friends close to an iBeacon. they depart and reach locations. One of them is infected with a disease. He can spread the hideous thing by infecting artworks, and that is done standing in front of them for a sufficient length of time. Other players might purify the infected artworks discovering facts about them. Or die while trying.

Do you have any better ideas of how to exploit the lively allure of death inside a museum? Let me know.

Horror Bike Tours

Bikes are the perfect choice if you want to explore places that induce that kind of tickling. You could plan a tour that includes your museum along a variety of cemeteries, isolated motels, location of not-entirely-forgotten local murder stories, and abandoned powerhouses. That’s what I tried to do here with Komoot.

Filed under: musei

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Sono un giornalista e un consulente per musei