Monday, July 15, 2024

Revisiting Nick Cave and Nick Cave


I've recently been enjoying the art of Nick Cave and Nick Cave, so I thought I'd share this encore post about two masterfully creative people, each named Nick Cave (pictured above.)

Nick Cave is an artist known for using sound in his work, most notably in his multifaceted pieces called "Soundsuits."

Nick Cave is a musician who brings an artistic sensibility to his deeply strange and personal musical compositions.

Here is a YouTube video of Nick Cave speaking about his artistic choices while creating a particular Soundsuit, on display at The Smithsonian.  Nick Cave's work rewards careful observation.


 

Here is a YouTube video of one of Nick Cave's songs called "Girl in Amber." (You can read more about the background of the song on another Nick Cave website called "The Red Hand Files.")


 

After exploring each Nick Cave's work, I'm struck by some commonalities:

• The work of each Nick Cave is informed by their own personal experiences, shared in ways that resonate and connect them to their viewers/listeners.

• Nick Cave's work pays strict attention to seemingly small details, that really do add up to create a greater whole.

• Each artist creates a visual and sonic environment that defies easy categorization.  In fact, each Nick Cave is his own category.


And wouldn't we all like to bring these elements into our own creative work?




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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Thursday, July 4, 2024

A Google Search is NOT Exhibit Development


First, let me state that I really like Google --- I've even been to the Googleplex.

But Google has a tendency to erode exhibit research and let some museum folks think that a Web-infused shortcut is a substitute for the tricky work of actually understanding and connecting ideas.

The Web is a great purveyor of information. Still, bits and bursts of information do not necessarily equal knowledge --- the type of deep understanding of a subject that leads to compelling stories and exhibitions. (This is also why many "digital panaceas" like AI applied to exhibition development are often so trivial, but that's for a future posting ...) 

Recently, I've been bumping up against three types of Google abusers during the exhibit development process. These are perfect examples of the axiom that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."


1) The Google "Expert" This first googly-eyed abuser is really someone who should know better because they are often experts in their respective fields. I've recently worked on several science-related exhibits where content experts on the exhibition team just sent links or URLs (or cut-and-paste sections of web pages) as responses to specific questions about scientific content.

Ummm ... I could do that Google search myself! How about providing nuanced advice or expertise if you're an advisor or exhibit team expert? Otherwise, why bother having exhibition advisors in the first place?


2) But Google says ...  The second miscreant always does a quick Google search of a particular exhibit content topic or material, and if the first (or first few) Google "hits" somehow differ from the direction the exhibition is heading, they'll pipe up with, "But Google says .." whether they actually have the foggiest notion of what's actually being considered.

Recently, a museum administrator claimed we couldn't use a particular item in an exhibit demonstration because "Google says it's dangerous."  Even though I produced the correct references and material safety data sheets, that particular idea was dropped from the exhibit programming.

Here's a news flash: The top results in a Google search (or Wikipedia entry or AI query) can often be misleading, if not completely incorrect. Web searches are a place to start, but to set Google as the ultimate arbiter of exhibition content, design, or activities is just plain silly.


3) The Google "Quick Draw Artist"  This last item is as much an etiquette issue as an exhibit development one.  Namely, people whipping out their screen-based devices to poke and search on -- even in the middle of a conversation.  Checking email and taking "Google potshots" during exhibit team meetings or discussions is just plain rude.  If we're taking the time to schedule an in-person meeting, can't we just turn off the screens for a bit?


What do you think?  Is Google gumming up your exhibit development process?

Let us know in the Comments section below!




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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Monday, June 24, 2024

What Just Happened to the Ontario Science Centre?



The short story. The Ontario Science Centre was forced to close by the Ontario government on Friday, June 21, 2024.


The slightly less short story. Ontario Premier Doug Ford's government decided to abruptly close the Ontario Science Centre as part of its larger plan for OSC. As reported by the CBC, the Ford government already planned to move the Science Centre from its current location to a redeveloped Ontario Place site, next to a planned spa being built by Austrian company Therme, an expanded Live Nation concert venue, as well as new public space and beaches. Under those plans, the Science Centre building won't open up until 2028.

Many reasonable people question the motivations for these plans.  To quote Alex Bozikovic, Architecture Critic for The Globe and Mail, "This closing is a choice. It is a deeply cynical political manoeuvre based on a bogus reading of an engineer's report. The Ford government wanted to close the Science Center, so it did."


The slightly longer story. Who knows what happens next?  Even if the current Ontario Science Centre got served lemons, perhaps they can use this as an opportunity to reinvent themselves as a new type of interactive science museum, building upon their 50+ years of experience at their original site.


The real longer story (for the rest of the field.) There is a whole cadre of large science centers that sprung into being in the later half of the 20th century. These science centers may, in fact, be too large to serve their original purposes effectively. Dealing with a large physical plant inherently makes the mission of a modern, interactive museum much more difficult and the organization less nimble.

What lessons can we learn by looking at museums like the Milwaukee Public Museum, which is intentionally "downsizing" as it moves to its new home? Or the Rubin Museum, which has decided to jettison its physical NYC museum building altogether in order to present exhibitions and programs worldwide?

Of course, I wish the OSC staff (and the citizens of the Toronto region!) much good luck as they figure out the path forward to a new (and different?) interactive, community-oriented science/education institution.



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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Friday, June 14, 2024

Bringing Dark History to Light



In the past few months, I had two interconnected experiences related to Belene, a forced labor camp in Bulgaria.

Belene was a prison camp in northern Bulgaria on an island in the Danube River that was active from approximately 1949 to 1987.  Belene was one of the places where the Bulgarian regime would send dissidents or just about anyone who disagreed publicly with the policies of Bulgaria's socialist state.

This past March, I had the opportunity to tour with a local volunteer guide the site of the former Belene camp, a remote natural area filled with decaying buildings that are slowly being interpreted and restored.  It's a bit of a strange experience since a penitentiary still operates in the western part of the island, while the eastern part is a managed natural reserve filled with pelicans and other wildlife.




Of course, being in a place where so much human tragedy occurred is a deeply moving experience. But how do you interpret the stories from such a remote place? And how do you push against many people's reluctance to bring up such painful memories from Bulgaria's past?

Enter the Sofia Platform Foundationa non-governmental organization. One part of the Foundation's mission is focused on "promoting remembrance and dealing with the communist past through historical dialogue and education."

To that end, I recently visited a pop-up exhibition entitled “Belene—A Bulgarian Resistance Story” in Washington, D.C. The exhibition drew upon hours of video interviews with Nikola Daskalov, a Belene camp survivor. The exhibit experience provided visitors with the unique opportunity to have a "conversation" with Mr. Daskalov through an interactive AI-driven video system.


The exhibition is one part of the Belene Camp project < 
www.belene.camp >, an effort of the Sofia Platform Foundation, with the support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, to preserve the memory of Bulgaria's totalitarian past using state-of-the-art technology.

And isn't bringing the past, even the painful and uncomfortable past, into the light of the present in new and engaging ways an essential part of our museum work?  

I urge you to visit all of the organizations' websites linked above to learn more about their important work, including opportunities to "converse" with Belene survivors via a Web interface.





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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Being Braver


I have been studying Bulgarian for the last year or so with an excellent (and extremely patient) tutor based in Sofia, named Billyana.  The other day, during our Zoom lesson, Billyana reminded me to "Be Brave!"

For me, learning a new language as an adult is paradoxical.  You need to acknowledge, right upfront, that you will be making mistakes -- even if you don't want to make those mistakes.  It may be that to really learn a new language, you need to make LOTS of mistakes! And it is important to learn from those mistakes.

So, when Billyana tells me to "Be Brave," it's a shorthand way of encouraging me to dive in and do my best and make mistakes. можело!

Being "braver' carries over to other aspects of life, of course, including museum work. Your first attempt at creating an exhibition or museum program is unlikely to be "perfect." You'll likely need to encounter a few setbacks before you end up with a really great program or exhibit.

Maybe that's why I enjoy doing exhibit prototyping so much. Prototyping actually gives you permission to make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and bring "brave" ideas and energy to your work.


I hope this post encourages you to be "braver" this week in your own creative work!

 
Благодаря Биляна!


 

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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Don't Forget Your Workshop Suitcase!


I recently helped present a workshop on prototyping and exhibit development at the annual InterActivity conference organized by the Association of Children’s Museums.

Ably assisted by my co-presenters, Joe Cook and Blake Wigdahl, the three of us touched on how to move from basic exhibit ideas to testing and evaluation to the creation of the finished products. I even got to reveal the connection between ELVIS and museum exhibit prototyping! (Check out this related post here.)



A great workshop not only requires careful planning, but you also need some “stuff “to help take your stories out of a PowerPoint presentation on the screen and into the real world. I always bring a suitcase full of prototype examples and exhibit pieces to pass around and to help illustrate my main talking points. That combination of "stories" and "stuff" really creates a memorable social learning experience for your workshop participants.

So, the next time you are thinking about how to share your stories during a workshop or presentation, don’t forget to pack some extra ‘stuff” for the road!




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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"