With Art Lesson the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza
is concluding the programme of exhibitions and activities organised to mark its 25th anniversary, in this case encouraging visitors to reflect on the role of education in museums. This innovative project, devised and produced by the museums Education Department, takes as its starting point a temporary exhibition of works by contemporary artists which establish a dialogue with the Permanent Collection. In addition, it includes a series of artistic interventions that take place in time and space in different parts of the museum while the exhibition is open to the public. Art Lesson thus aims to forge ties between cutting-edge cultural creation and the museum, and between its works and the activities of museum educators.
The project is devised as an organic whole that is gradually completed, which means that the museum will be particularly active during the months it is on display, changing its habitual rhythm to one of experimentation, participation and investigation. A comprehensive programme of activities will allow visitors to become active agents and to be part of this process of transformation. In addition, for the first time the museum will become a space for creation, with an artists residency to be awarded in collaboration with the Casa de Velázquez, Fundación Banco Santander and CNP Partners. This residency will allow two creative figures to work with the museums Education team both on the process of preparing the exhibition and while it is on display.
What is Art Lesson?
Can a museum offer educational experiences outside traditional education? Who creates the meaning of what is on display and where? How can an exhibition produce emotions and sensations?
In museological contexts exhibitions traditionally possess a historical development of a linear nature. Art Lesson questions that model and proposes other ways of reading objects from the past using a contemporary viewpoint. The title encompasses numerous readings, from the most literal to the most ironic, given that this is a non-lesson in art. It looks at arts relationship with different sectors of the public and the educational strategies that aim to connect them. The exhibition will thus focus on the generating and management of knowledge, offering a reflection on who generates it and where; for whom it is created; who receives it and how; how it is transmitted; and who endows that knowledge with authority.
Overall, Art Lesson refers to the emancipation of the public and how that publics contributions can, if not change the idea of the museum as we know it, at least transform its place in it.
The museums Moneo galleries, located on Basement level 1, house works by Cinthia Marcelle, Luis Camnitzer, Pavel Kogan, Eva Kotátková, Rineke Dijkstra, Alicia Martín, Dennis Adams, Dora García, Rivane Neuenschwander, Erwin Wurm and Ryan Gander, among other contemporary artists, which question where knowledge resides, refer to the museum as a personal experience and seek to transform the role of the viewer and his/her place within that museum.
A second part extends the exhibition into other spaces of the Permanent Collection through a series of installations by artists such as Kota Ezawa, Antoni Muntadas, Herz Frank, Mateo Maté, Oriol Vilanova, Olafur Eliasson and Raphael Lozano Hemmer. These establish dialogues between past and present which reinforce concepts contained in the museums works and aim to transform the viewers experience, placing him/her in situations different to the habitual ones. This section also features interventions by the artists in residence and by the museums Education Team.
THE EXHIBITION: Questioning / Reformulating
The first part of the exhibition is organised into the following concepts:
1.- Questioning knowledge. Some works on display in the initial galleries, for example This Same World Over by Cinthia Marcelle, or Ruth Drawing Picasso by Rineke Dijkstra, offer an invitation to reflect on the processes of learning characteristic of each person: where they come about and how we personally experience them, what is the truth and if there is no one, single truth, and in what places these procedures arise. In order to explore whether there are other accesses to knowledge the exhibition proposes analysing the need for change in teaching/learning processes.
2.- The role of the viewer. Educational action aims to change the visitors role from passive/receptor to active/producer: an inquisitive viewer who contributes to the museum and helps to construct it. The viewer as a generator of knowledge and thus as an active participant is the starting point for this second section, in which the public can play at changing its role and move from being mere spectators to become or not the work itself, as suggested by artist Erwin Wurm.
3.- The made to measure museum. This section looks at the idea of a museum for people, a museum of small things, inviting the visitor to wander around Malrauxs Imaginary Museum and to change their experience, as in Dennis Adamss performance. The dialogue focuses on the works, offering new narrative threads that connect them in order to show visitors how interpretation can go beyond the limits that tradition, through education, has imposed on us.
4.- Materializing the impossible. Art is a utopia and we are unable to define it or assimilate it all. Art, however, is a mediator between the utopian and the real and can make the invisible visible. Dora Garcias 100 Impossible Artworks became real when she materialises them. The educational act comes about on those immaterial boundaries where the conversation between the public and the work of art is located. Educational action facilitates paths that bring us closer to artistic creation and this takes place in another impossible space, the museum; a fictive, symbolic space in which the works follow on from each other on the gallery walls, in a time and space other than the one they were intended for.
THE INTERVENTIONS: Transforming
With the interventions that take place on the three floors that house the Permanent Collection the act of combining the paintings hanging on the walls of the galleries with those by present-day creators aims to generate new interpretations. This interaction between the museums works of art and contemporary artists arose from the desire to find answers to the same questions as those asked in the first part of the exhibition, as well as in the Education
Departments daily life when working with the public, in the conversations that emerge from that activity and in the educators reflections on those situations.
1.- Interventions on the idea of Questioning knowledge. The installation in Room 8 of six works by Kota Ezawa, alongside various elements from a 15th-century German altarpiece suggests several narratives. Again, two works by Mateo Maté, Uniformed Landscapes and Restricted Area, in Rooms 28 and 29, openly question acquired knowledge and propose that the work of art can be understood from other positions.
2.- Interventions based on The role of the spectator. We Only Meet When We Move by Olafur Eliasson, installed on the museums ground floor, aims to involve viewers and modify their perception. A video by Herz Frank entitled Ten Minutes Older, refers to the transformation of the observer, on the second floor. In Room 45 of the permanent collection the work 33 Questions per Minute [Relational Architecture 5] by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer encourages an active approach to the generation of knowledge, proposing that what is generated should become part of the museums own knowledge base. Pursuing that direction, the educational tools and resources devised to facilitate access to the works in the collection aim to read the artistic art from other positions, through the sensory and the experiential.
3.- Interventions on the idea of The made to measure museum. The criteria that give rise to collections and how collections are shown and interpreted are ideas latent in both the installation by Oriol Vilanova in Room 43 and in the work of the museums Education team. The concern that the museum should not become enclosed within its own walls has led to projects such as the educational suitcases, Big Valise, which aim to offer a response to this idea of a de-localised museum.