The Museum as Stage
by Chris Lorway
“Museums are a constant work in progress and are constantly changing and transforming. That is the definition of contemporary arts today…Contemporary art is performance, projection — we need to provide spaces for events, live arts, time-based arts, as well as small events such as lectures, symposiums and films.”
Chris Dercon, Director, Tate Modern
In today’s museum world, we are seeing increasing examples of institutions incorporating live performance into the visitor experience. From performance art in contemporary art museums to re-enactments on a small or large scale at historic sites, the lively arts are now becoming integrated into an overall institutional program strategy. While some institutions are building or enhancing designated spaces for music, dance and theatre others are using performance to animate foyers, exhibitions and gallery spaces.
The two examples below illustrate how dance companies in England and Germany were given raw architecture space in two of the world’s leading museums to make new work.
In March 2009, acclaimed German choreographer Sasha Waltz was invited to create a “choreographic exhibition” in David Chipperfield’s renovated Neue Museum in advance of it opening. The empty galleries, staircases and hallways gave the dancers and musicians who participated a chance to make their mark on the space though allegorical vignettes on human nature. In addition, the company created an interactive website that documented the work.
The video excerpt below illustrates the confluence of movement and space.
This was the second time the company was had been invited to choreograph a new opening for a museum in Berlin. In 2000 – one year before its official opening – they were invited to make a new piece in Daniel Libeskind’s new Jewish Museum.
In the summer of 2010, the Michael Clark Company was in residency at the Tate Modern in London. The company set up a rehearsal area in the immense Turbine Hall where they experimented and practiced with core company members and a group of 75 non-dancers. Visitors to the Tate were able to observe the creation process from the balconies and terraces overlooking the hall. At the end of the residency, there were a number of public showings of ideas developed to date and the following year (June 2011) a new site-specific work entitled th was premiered in the space.
As the quote above from Chris Dercon suggests, this trend is likely to continue as museums explore innovative ways to get more visitors through their doors as the competition for consumer leisure time increases. We at Lord think it is also an exciting opportunity to explore ways in which a variety of artists can animate these community spaces.
The examples presented are just two of many such examples. We would love to hear from you about other successful illustrations of partnerships between museums and performing artists in their communities.