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Critical Writing - on Art Curating & Exhibitions
Scenography as New Ideology in Contemporary Curating
and the Notion of Staging in Exhibitions
Revealing Meanings through Multi-Sensory Experience :
A Paradigm Shift in Exhibition Display Culture
New Interpretive Paradigm in Curating the Contemporary :
Objects in Conversations, Fictional Language and Exhibition Design Interventions
In the frontier of the exhibition scene, a significant phenomenon is observed that a contemporary artistic staging practice, called scenography, has grew out from the theatre context and keeps expanding its influence in the exhibition context in recent time. Scenography has been acting as a transformative force to reform the traditional exhibitionary complex, and consequently, this has led to an unprecedented intersection where scenography meets contemporary curating, which further informs a radical ideological shift. This paper aims to exploit a new land of discussion to look into this intersection between scenographic practice and contemporary curating, its mergence and the subsequent revolution it has caused. By seeing museums and exhibition spaces as metaphorical stages, it fundamentally reconfigures the infrastructure of curating practices, in terms of a shift in authorship, architectural embodiment of ideas, field of experience, layered narrative, dramaturgy and the hybrid expressions of new media. Three case studies will demonstrate scenography’s wide-ranged capacities and various methodologies in dealing with contemporary issues. Cases include: BMW Museum (Reopened in 2008), Cultures of the World (Opened in 2010) and Leonardo’s Last Supper: A Vision by Peter Greenaway (2008, 2010). Respectively, they prove scenography's overarching influence of acting as a brandscape, as a site of cultural mediation and as interference and discourse. The whole discussion cuts through major discourses in the field, both responding to the increasing awareness of the notion of staging experiences in the rise of experience economy, and the expanding notion of curating, in parallel.
A Digital Exhibition to Pave Way for V&A’s Future :
Decode: Digital Design Sensations
Museum as a Site of Negotiation :
Mediating High and Low Culture The Curatorial Landscape in the Face of Challenges
Curating contemporary exhibitions is now more than a profession of connoisseurship, but rather a creative and artistic venture. Due to a paradigm shift in the heart of interpretive ideology, exhibition-making is going more experimental even in museum context. One might observe that there is a changing status in museum objects, and a progressive transformation in the exhibitionary language - shifting from descriptive to fictional, poetic and novelistic. Artworks are also functioning as text initiating dialogues, while exhibition designs are no longer merely fabrications, but becoming artistic interventions that could re-contextualize the experience of space. Unprecedentedly, curators nowadays could embrace huge potentials in creating imaginative narratives for the present time, and thus, to further produce innovative museum experiences. This essay aims to examine the changing attitudes and assumptions in the new interpretive paradigm. Through three case studies, it goes on to uncover the dynamic interpretive strategies undertaken which have created various unique curatorial voices. Cases include: The Surreal House (Barbican Art Gallery, 2010), David Bowie Is (V&A, 2013) and The Concise Dictionary of Dress (Blythe House, 2010).
Decode: Digital Design Sensation was V&A’s large-scale debut digital exhibition in its culture. From a curatorial angle, it was not just an exhibition to inform the new trend of digital art and design, but it also acted as a milestone for the museum to change its face and maintain a world’s leading role in art and design field. With this mission in mind, the whole situation became unique. This essay aims to investigate how this situation has affected the curatorial approach, and analyze the exhibition’s forward-looking objectives, then go more in-depth to find out how curators came up with wise decisions to meet those objectives. The discussion will focus on four main areas of Decode’s achievements, and zoom in to look at the essentials for the success: Firstly, the encompassing curatorial idea - Code, Interactivity, Network. Secondly, their bold marketing solution Recode Decode campaign. Thirdly, its collaborative platform which both achieving integrity of content and allowing openness for discourses. Lastly, its underlying agenda to bridge to the future. Throughout to the end, the essay unfolds a whole picture of Decode’s missionary accomplishment that had manifested V&A’s evolvement into its digital culture.
Between high and low culture, there was once a deep and wide gulf. The clear division was never a natural phenomenon, but rather a result of a cultural act. Throughout the history, the conflict in-between had taken a long way to resolve and the whole subject matter had caused marathon debates among modern cultural critics. Museums, as institutions once with absolute powers in its operation, had been forced to face a worldwide revolution. There were much more mixed emotions towards mass culture - questioning, inquiries, struggles, seduction and temptation at the same time - which constituted a push-and-pull situation. What were museums for? Was it a time for museums to reconsider their role and democratize themselves? What kind of resistance and temptation had museums encountered? To what extent would curators act as pioneers to eliminate the gap in-between taste diversity in art and design? These questions are worthwhile to take a look into. This essay aims to unveil the ways curators liberated themselves from a singular-voiced museum practice, which resulted in revolutions of curatorial models that incorporated multiple voices. Cases include: High and Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture (1990-91, MOMA), The People’s Show (1990, Walsall Museum and Art Gallery) and Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990 (2011, V&A).
Displaying art objects in exhibition is not only an artistic expression in the heart of curating, but it is also an essential interface for curators to present stories and convey meanings. How to engage people beyond purely-visual-appeals is always a top-of-mind-question embedded in curators’ mind, and the discourse has become a major concern among pioneers in recent times. Over the decade, frontier exhibitioners were attempting to breakthrough from a purely vision-dominated museum culture. Some exhibition experiments were successful, and the movement has fundamentally changed the way curators think about exhibition-making, including the ultimate purpose of displaying objects. The paradigm shift actually rings the bells and requires contemporary curators to pay attention to. It is crucial to realize that the recent success was not only about the artistic sense of the artists, but it is also the revolutionary belief of the frontier curators that has made it happen. This essay aims to uncover the distinctive differences in the core beliefs of multi sensory approaches, in order to find out dynamic answers to new display strategies. Cases include: Partners (Haus DerHunst, Munich, 2003), Rain Room (Barbican Centre, London, 2010), and HeinerGoebbels-Stifter’s Dinge (Ambica P3, London, 2012).
(Anchor Academic Publishing, 2014) ISBN: 978-3-95489-217-4
(Grin Verlag, 2013) ISBN: 978-3-656-56957-2
(Grin Verlag, 2012) ISBN: 978-3-656-56711-0
(Grin Verlag, 2012) ISBN: 978-3-656-57206-0
(Grin Verlag, 2013) ISBN: 978-3-656-56956-5