Enchanted teleidoscopes : multimodal interfaces reframing experience in the museum
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A teleidoscope is a form of kaleidoscope that has a lens and an open view. It is used to form kaleidoscopic patterns from objects outside the instrument itself. I use the image of a teleidoscope to introduce the context of the research which explores mediatised environments in museums, here referred to as ‘multimodal interfaces’ given their potential to reflect and refract ‘objects’ from the outer world and to translate them within the time and space of the museum. Objects, in this context, comprise the tangible legacy of physical artefacts, artworks, material records, cultural objects, buildings and landscapes, and the intangible heritage of oral histories, customs, and knowledge that was inherited from past generations and held for the benefit of future generations. Technology is transforming all aspects of museum activity, from access, to interpretation, representation, engagement and learning. Museums, heritage sites and landscapes can all be looked as part of an electronic ecology, that is, the pervasive and networked technological world in which we are immersed. Exploring ‘experience’ as a new territory for curatorial design, the research argues for an ‘ecological’ approach to the artistry of experience-making in museums and the devising of integrative strategies that enable encounter, intimacy and embodied interactions between people, places, memory, cultural objects and the things we preserve from the past. Opening up a discussion around experiential approaches to the interpretation of cultural heritage and its inherent ambiguities and paradoxes, questions are posed regarding the opportunities of digital technologies for embodied engagement as a new way of knowing about the world, the ‘other’, memory and ourselves. Participating in the current discourse on the inclusive role of the multimedia museum in a multicultural society, the research poses questions on how curatorial design practices can develop an integrative approach combining spatial design and digital mediation in order to create a zone of contact between cultures and histories that is both responsive to interaction and open to participation. The research case studies explore from a critical perspective the strategies adopted by designers and curators to mediate difference and facilitate intimacy with contested topics and representation of marginal and counter-histories. The studies comprise both critical analysis of existing exhibitions in various museums, as well as original creative works developed by myself as a curator and designer. The research practices offer an experimental ground where to critically explore and reflect on the possibilities of the mediation of curatorial design in negotiating experience and (re)constructing the past, thus extending the notion of the museum beyond exhibition spaces to comprise landscapes, objects, digital spaces as well as physical bodies.
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