The Museum Visitor Experience at Marina Abramović’s "The Artist is Present"


Term Paper, 2017

17 Pages, Grade: 1,8


Excerpt

AGENDA

1. Introduction

2. Falk and Dierking's Contextual Model of Learning
2.1. Joint approach

3. The Interactive Experience Model
3.1. The Museum Experience (1992)
3.2. The Interactive Experience Model
3.2.1. Personal Context
3.2.2. Physical Context
3.2.3. Social Context
3.3. The Contextual Model of Learning (2000/2004)
3.4. Comparism of the two models

4. Example
4.1. Short term learning
4.2. Long term learning

5. Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present
5.1. The Visitors Experience at „The Artist is Present“

6. Conclusion

1. Introduction

Artists have to be warriors - Marina Abramovic

Today between two and three out of every five Americans visit a museum at least once a year. This number is likely to increase, assuming that soon the majority of Americans will visit a museum at least once a year. Looking at this development, the two scientists Dr. John Falk und Dr. Lynn D. Dierking want to examine the question of what the visitors of museums actually learn from their visits to educational institutions like museums. Therefore they describe a theoretical model for thinking about learning in their work „The Museum Experience“ (1992) and „Learning from Museums“ (2000), raising the question of what the process of learning is in gerneral and what and how museum visitors learn from their experiences. To answer the „how“, they created a model for thinking about learning - the Contextual Model of Learning. This model analyses the visitors experience and the learning from it, taking into consideration the personal, sociocultural and physical context af the person visiting the museum with reference to how the learning developed over time.

In their collaborative work „Learning from Museums“ (2000), Falk and Dierking bring on an example of the contextual model of learning where they observed two women in their late- twenties visiting the Smithsonians Museum of National History in Washington for about 90 minutes, learning something completely different, depending on their personal, sociocultural and physical contexts.

In order to analyse the visitors experience with another example, the visitors experience and the learning of it is being explained by the example of the exhibition The Artist is Present by Marina Abramovic in the Museum of Modern Arts in New York, putting it in reference to the Contextual Model of Learning (2000/2004) by Falk and Dierking. The exhibition took place in the MoMa in New York from March 14th until May 31st 2010 and showed the career of Marina Abramovic with about fifty works spanning over four decades of her early interventions and sound pieces, video works, installations, photographs, solo performances, and collaborative performances made with Ulay (Uwe Laysiepen). In addition, Abramovic performed an original work, that marked the longest duration of time that she has performed a single solo piece. Underlining the title of the exhibition „The Artist is Present“, for this performance Abramovic sat on a chair in the middle of one level of the MoMa, in front of a table and another chair. This performance for the show asked visitors to come sit with her and essentially become a part of the performance piece.

To see what the visitors experienced and learned at this exhibition, the personal experience at The Artist is Present, written by Fracis Prose in the article Marina Abramovic: When Art Makes Us Cry on the website of The New York Review will be analysed, aswell as the things she has potentially learned during and after her visit at MoMa. Her statements about the visit to MoMa will be examined based on her personal, physical and sociocultural context in order to find out what she has ultimately learned during and after the visit to Abramovic's exhibition.

2. Falk and Dierking's Contextual Model of Learning

The two scientists Dr. John Falk und Dr. Lynn D. Dierking, who are teaching at the „Institute for Learning Innovation“ in Maryland, describe a theoretical model for thinking about learning in their book „The Museum Experience“ (1992) and „Learning from Museums“ (2000), trying to explain and predict the learning in educational institutions like museums. Therefore they raise the question of what the process of learning is in gerneral and what and how museum visitors learn from their experiences. To answer the „how“, they created a model for thinking about learning - the Contextual Model of Learning.

Thirty years about one in ten Americans went to museums on a regular basis. Today it is somewhere between two and three out of every five Americans, who visit a museum at least once a year. This number is likely to continue to increase so that we can assume that soon the majority of Americans will visit a museum at least once a year, even though museums have changed what and how they present exhibitions and the types of programs they present, they have not changed that much that this would not necessarily explain this increase in popularity. The change rather suggests, that here must have been a shift in the public view on and the perception of museums. Nowadays museums enjoy a high level of prestige and visiting a museum is almost as popular as going shopping in America.

As the main cause for this sudden shift in appreciation and popularity in museums, Falk and Dierking argue that learning is the reason people go to museums and that learning is the primary thing visitors of a museum take with them after their have experienced the exhibition in a museum. The core question Falk and Dierking are trying to answer with their model is: Do visitors to museums learn, and if so, how do they learn and what do they learn?1

2.1. Joint approach

The joint approach of the studies by Falk and Dierking is the importance of context as a mediator of learning and understanding the world from the learner‘s perspective. In this context, learning symbolizes a continuous, cumulative process. Falk and Dierking describe a „Free-Choice Learner‘s Bill of Rights“2, which they see as the right to become and remain a life-long learner, who goes through a life-long, life-wide and life-deep learning.

Falk and Dierking define the term museum as all different kinds of locations. To the group of museums they include history museums, art museums, national history museums, science centres, botanical gardens, aquariums, zoo and even historic homes.3

3. The Interactive Experience Model

3.1. The Museum Experience (1992)

In their collective work „The museum experience“ (1992), Falk and Dierking seek to understand museums from a visitor's perspective and the total experience in museums. The key questions they are analysing are: Why do people visit museums? What do visitors do inside the museum and why? What meanings do visitors take away from their museum visit? If we knew the answers to these questions, how could we use them to improve museum practice? The first framework they developed and use in order to answer these questions and make sense of the museum experience was developed in 1992 and is called the Interactive Experience Model.4

3.2. The Interactive Experience Model

3.2.1 Personal Context

According to Falk and Dierking, the personal context of a museum visitor is represented by the experiences, the knowledge, the interests, the motivations and concerns a certain visitor has. In addition, the expectations and anticipated outcomes for the visit are influencing the visitors experience in a museum.5

3.2.2. Physical Context

The physical context includes the architecture and “feel” of the building where the exhibition takes place. Additionally the objects and artifacts which are exhibited in the museum and the way the museum is decorated and furnished - for example if there is a carpet or if there are seats or benches - plays a role in how the exhibition is perceived by the visitor and how the visitor therefore experiences the visit overall.6

3.2.3. Social Context

As far as the social context in concerned, for the visitors experience it plays a role if the person comes alone or in a group and if the visitor is in contact with other visitors or the staff and if the museum is crowded or empty in general.7

3.3. The Contextual Model of Learning (2000/2004)

Falk and Dierking expanden their interactive model of learning in 2000 and 2004. In this reviewed and expanded contextual model of learning, Falk and Dierking added a dimension to the model: Time. In their opinion, the visitors experience depends on how the sociocultural, personal and physical context develop over time. They have added some slight changes in the different contexts of the model. In the newer model the personal context now consist of the motivation and expectation, the prior knowledge, interests and beliefs and the choice and control of a visitor. The now called sociocultural context is influenced by the within-group sociocultural mediation and the facilitated mediation by others. The physical context got advanced by the following aspects: Advance organizers and orientation, design and reinforcing events and experiences outside the museum.8

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Image 1: The contextual model of learning (2000/2004)9

3.4. Comparism of the two models

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Image 2: Comparism of the Interactive Experience Model (1992) and the Contextual Model of Learning (2000/2004).

If we compare the learning model from 1992 with the model from 2000, we can see that Falk and Dierking have added a new dimension to the model. Not only the personal, social and physical context form the visitors experience, but the interaction of these contexts over time. Whilst the initial model form 1992 includes the social context, the model from 2000 and 2004 changed this context into the sociocultural context, integrating factors like the within-group sociocultural mediation and the facilitated mediation by others, which had not been displayed in the first model from 1992.

4. Example

In the book „Learning from Museums“ (2000), Falk and Dierking bring on an example of the contextual model of learning where they observed two women in their late-twenties visiting the Smithsonians Museum of National History in Washington for about 90 minutes, learning something completely different, depending on their personal, sociocultural and physical contexts. This case study is real data, from a larger study with 50 visitors. The museum shows an interactive exhibition about dinosaurs, aquatic dinosaurs, the ocean, spiders, birds, mammals, and amphibians, geology, gems and minerals and an insect zoo exhibitions. They walk through the exhibition together and leave after 90 minutes. Falk and Dierking describe the visit of the two women as follows:

Two women in their late twenties visit the Museum of Natural History on a Sunday morning in early fall. They begin by walking up to the elephant in the rotunda. After a brief pause there, they obtain a map at the information desk and head for the dinosaur and paleontology exhibitions. They quickly make their way around the dinosaur exhibitions, stopping occasionally to read a few labels here and there. For example, one of them seems particularly interested in the head of the Triceratops. After about ten minutes they exit again by way of the rotunda and, checking their maps, head down the escalator to a temporary exhibition on spiders. They spend about fifteen minutes in Spiders. Sometimes they watch other groups interacting with exhibits, and sometimes they interact with exhibits themselves. Most of the time, the two women stay together and look at the same exhibits; occasionally they drift apart and look at exhibits separately. Next they go back up the escalator and walk through the other temporary exhibition at the museum, Ocean Planet. This exhibition they view at about the same pace as Spiders; total time in the exhibition is also about fifteen minutes. Next they briskly walk through the various vertebrate exhibits on birds, mammals, and amphibians, briefly pausing at a few scattered exhibits but never for more than a few seconds. They take the elevator up to the second floor and very quickly walk through the ,Geology, Gems and Minerals, and Insect Zoo exhibitions. Ninety minutes after entering the museum, they are ready to leave.10

4.1. Short term learning

The two women were interviewed directly after the visit in the museum, being asked what was interesting or new to them and what their personal experience in the museum was. Firstly, they were questioned for the favourite part of the museum. The first woman says, that the spiders and insect zoo seemed interesting to her and represented her favourite area because of the interactive parts the nice design. The second woman liked the Ocean Planet best, but for no specific reason other than „it is important to save the planet“. After that they were asked, what they had learned in the museum. The first woman learned about the diversity of spiders and different spider webs, shapes of aquatic dinosaurs and the size of a Triceratops. The second woman thought that the quality of displays was quite good. To summarize, in general the women have learned a greater apprecation of spiders, they gained a richer sense of the size and diversity of dinosaurs and lastly they are more committed to the ocean. Though, it seems as if they have learned pretty little after a ninety-minute visit to a museum, for what it is worth taking a closer look at the long term learning of both.11

4.2. Longterm learning

After five months the women were interviewed again, being asked if they have thought about their visit to the museum and what they remembered from the visit. The first woman remembered the spiders exhibition and the insect zoo and its impressive design. She also mentioned the good displays and interactives for kids and adults and that it was presented in a colorful and interesting way. She also remembered details about the exhibits in both the spiders and insect zoo areas, what they looked like and how she interacted with them. Seeing the spiders exhibit made her more aware of the types of spiders that live in her community and she had never realized that there were poisonous spiders living in her hometown. She found her natural history museum experience useful for a chapter about insects she was writing in a childrens textbook and told her parents about the architecture of the building, because it was so distinctive. She also remembered the elephant at the entrance of the museum and that it reminded her of the elephants at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, where she lived. Also when she saw black squirrels in Michigan, she was reminded of the museum. She was particularly interested in new aspects of the museum, such as the Spiders and Insect Zoo exhibitions. Also she had been to the museum before and wanted to see what was new. So, the first woman learned quite a lot and remembered detailled informations in particular. On the contrary, when the second woman was asked what she had learned and what she remembered from her visit, nothing really stood out in her mind and she said that she only was reminded about the museum when she read a book about amphibians.12 Why did both women learn such different things even though they went to the same exhibition? Two women who are demographically nearly identical individuals (well-educated, professional, both children's textbook editors-white women in their late twenties living in the same Chicago community) visited the same museum on the same day, saw the same exhibitions for exactly the same amount of time, even viewed and discussed some of the same specific exhibit elements, and yet what they learned was totally different.

Refering to the Contextual Model of Learning by Falk and Dierking, they were influenced by prior knowledge, interests and the museum experience itself and subsequent experiences - these are all great factors in affecting what the women were able to remember and what they ultemately learned.

[...]


1 Falk & Dierking 2000, p. 2f.

2 Falk & Dierking 2002, p.134

3 Falk & Dierking 2000, p. 2 & Falk & Dierking 1992, p. 1

4 Falk & Dierking 1992, p. 1f.

5 Falk & Dierking 1992, p. 2

6 Falk & Dierking 1992, p. 3

7 Falk & Dierking 1992, p. 3

8 Falk & Dierking 2004, p.140 ff.

9 Falk & Dierking 2000, p. 12

10 Falk & Dierking 2000, p. 3f

11 Falk & Dierking 2000, p. 4-7

12 Falk & Dierking 2000, p. 7-10

Excerpt out of 17 pages

Details

Title
The Museum Visitor Experience at Marina Abramović’s "The Artist is Present"
College
Leuphana Universität Lüneburg  (Kulturwissenschaften)
Course
Visitor Orientation and Research for Museums - Theoretical and Empirical Foundations
Grade
1,8
Author
Year
2017
Pages
17
Catalog Number
V1254166
ISBN (Book)
9783346689870
Language
English
Keywords
Abramovic, MarinaAbramovic, Museum, Visitor, Exhibition, ModernArt, Art
Quote paper
Maleen Junge (Author), 2017, The Museum Visitor Experience at Marina Abramović’s "The Artist is Present", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1254166

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