Yes that’s correct. I am a social media, Web 2.0 failure. For until Sunday morning I had not been at all bothered with QR codes. I didn’t choose that weekly activity last year during Information Programs. And I am the kind of person who keeps forgetting what the Q and R actually stand for. I think the little squares are aesthetically interesting. I have a smart phone. What was holding me back from jumping on the QR code bandwagon? Well, they seemed like a bit of a gimmick, an extra, superfluous to my information needs. Of course, that was my untried and untested opinion.
So on Sunday morning when I popped along to the Modern Woman exhibit at the Queensland Art Gallery I decided I should make a slightly more informed opinion about the codes and actually try them. Verdict?
Well it was simple enough to download the QAG app and reader after my snap decision once I was actually in the exhibition. And the technology worked beautifully. It was probably a pity that I didn’t have headphones with me though because I had to hold my phone up to my hear so I didn’t disturb the other visitors to the exhibition. That meant while I could hear the little talk that added to my knowledge of the art, I missed seeing the extra images (given that the phone was stuck to my ear). I also found that by the time I had scanned the code and started listening I had actually already seen enough of its accompanying artwork and was ready to keep moving around the exhibition. I felt that I had to stand there though until I finished listening to the extra bits before moving on or my experience of the exhibition would have been “out of synch”. This disrupted the flow of my experience of the exhibition to some degree. I don’t know that I will bother with them again in a gallery setting.
Do I need to try QR codes again in a different setting? Yes I probably do. Am I going to put that at the top of my list of things to do? Probably not. I might save that up for a rainy day.
One thing I love about going to Brisbane is visiting GoMA. Last weekend I took my Mum there on Saturday morning to see the Matisse exhibition. So many elegant and beautiful drawings. I dutifully noticed the QR codes throughout the exhibition and then ignored them, preferring instead just to wander about at my leisure without being hooked to my phone. So really I didn’t fully participate in this part of this exhibition. However, I was inspired to draw something in the drawing room through which you exit (along with the cafe and the gift shop). Like David Tennant’s Doctor Who I love a little shop and I did spend some money in there on a some postcards and bits and pieces. We also drank a coffee and ate some biscotti while I made my first attempt at art of any kind since Year 8 art. I am not good at drawing. Here is what I came up with.
So in this way, the exhibition did “catch me”. It got me, the gallery user to be all participatory in a way I would never usually do. Good work GoMA.
The highlight though was the Kusama exhibit which I knew nothing about save twitter friend @KatyaHenry had recommended that I made sure I saw it. Dots, spots, colour, size. This was an immersive and participatory gallery experience and one that left me smiling and joyful. I wish I’d taken more pictures. Here is just one. Tell me, that doesn’t make you feel happy.
I jumped at the opportunity to visit MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) on my recent holiday to Tasmania. I didn’t know a great deal about this very new institution before my visit. My Mum’s cousin had told her it was a “must see”. And our Tasmanian friends had been before and were enthusiastic to take us again. Words like controversial, confronting, shocking seemed to be associated with it. MONA is a privately funded cross between a Museum and a Gallery. It also has a small reference library (no borrowing allowed) which looked like a pretty relaxing job for the librarian who was on duty we visited. The only other people in there were a man and his baby son taking a break from looking at the art and things.
So while MONA calls itself a museum, it also incorporates aspects of an art gallery in the items on display. There is indeed a mix of old (Egyptian relics, greek coins, ancient pottery, tablets etc) and new (the “poo machines”, the casts of 151 vaginas). Sex, death and religion are all very close to the surface. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it (I am still undecided) MONA is a thing of striking beauty. Before we get to the collection (of which I only managed to get to part of) there is the building itself..carved into a sandstone point with views of the Derwent. It’s built on a grand scale. Visitors enter at the top of the hill and then are transported down three floors into the ground via a lift (or stairs if you prefer). Then you lose all sense of location. So much of the MONA experience is intuitive and unexpected. Follow this corridor, walk through this door into a new room, move quickly from dark to surgically bright light, stand in shadows. Sure there’s a map but I didn’t even try to follow it. It was better just to wander about and see what was around the next corner. Surprise is built into the curation of the collection in the space.
The other delight was the iPod, satnav guide device that you wear around your neck as your wander about. Set up with MONA’s collection, at any time it tells you where you are, which artworks are nearby, a little bit about them and asks you whether you “love” or “hate” it. So the building is filled with people alternatively staring at installations and then peering at their iPod guide. You have to you use it. There are no friendly white cards next to anything to tell you the artist or the title of any work. It forces visitors to actively take part in the viewing experience. It invites your opinion. I would have liked a button that said “indifferent”…there were some things that I didn’t love or hate. Still…I felt compelled to make a decision on everything I looked at. This was perhaps the most participatory museum/gallery experience I have had.
Finally, I really liked the fact that you could get up close and personal with the pieces. You could also take photos. What a bonus! No scary security guards telling you to take your backpack off or to stand behind the line. You were allowed to touch things if you wanted to. Again, visitors are encouraged to be involved with the viewing experience. And then, if you have entered your email into your iPod guide you get home and find a virtual replication of your tour that you can return to at any time through the MONA website.
Here’s some photos I took with my phone: