ART CAN BE ENTERTAINING
On a recent visit to an exhibition in Berlin’s Alte Münze – the former State Mint – I had an experience of art of a kind I’ve never known before. On the four walls of a darkened room animated large-scale video projections of the paintings of famous artists were playing. Pictures by Van Gogh, Paul Klee, Gustav Klimt, Claude Monet and other artists were moving all around me. Video projections instead of the original works – can this really be good, I wondered.
A blend of cinema and art
Such a novel exhibition concept is undoubtedly geared to the ways of perception now common to our media-driven age. To claim that museums and other exhibition centres must move with the times and walk the cutting edge might just sound like blatant opportunism. And yet there’s a grain of truth to it. To ward off the spectre of dwindling numbers of visitors to museums, operators and curators need to think afresh and open up to new ideas. Obviously, as critics quite rightly say, a video projection can never hope to reach the quality of the original work. After all, this is why I travelled with OUBEYs original works to encounter people across the whole world, not with video projections of these paintings.
However, the exhibition in the Alte Münze certainly wasn’t seeking to offer some sort of second-rate substitute to an encounter with the original works. What they were rather intending to do was to use simple and relatively inexpensive means to gather the works of all these great artists together in one spot and present them in an unusual and highly entertaining manner. Cinema and art mix and mingle to create an unprecedented viewing experience in which static paintings begin to move. The accompanying music soundtrack was certainly an integral part of the presentation even though at times I found it an unnecessary distraction to the actual viewing experience.
Even so, the other people in the room were obviously taking immense pleasure in this show. They let the whole thing simply flow over them – nobody asked for explanations and nobody gave them.
Analogue and digital worlds in playful interaction
I was particularly surprised at the large numbers of young people there whom you wouldn’t normally rate as enthusiastic visitors to art exhibitions. They spread themselves out on the large beanbags in the middle of the room, lay back and watched the play of colours across the walls, occasionally passing whispered comments to one another which nobody minded at all. Had this exhibition concept perhaps found a way to make the art of the past 150 years appealing to today’s young generation?
The grown-ups too were obviously enjoying this relaxed unconstrained atmosphere and kept changing their places to get a fresh angle on the art on the walls. What the whole show might have lacked in deeper intellectual substance, it more than made up for in the immediate sensuality of pure enjoyment.
When classical painting from the analogue world can be transferred to the digital world in such a spectacularly successful manner, then seriousness and entertainment no longer stand in contradiction but embrace and complement each other. And when such an approach leads to more people finding interest and taking pleasure in art then the venture has certainly fulfilled its purpose. At the end of the day the way will always lead back to the original works and this, I think, is just as it should be.