THE EXHIBIT (09.07.2017)
"Are you familiar with our backpack policy?"
The steps themselves are made of a the same stone tile on the first floor and the landing of the second. This consistency of material communicated well where a user needed to travel and also contrasted with the glossy, probably, linoleum tile of the galleries. Stepping back and analyzing the material from the context of user interaction, it again indicates speed and comfort in a setting.
There is a table with chairs at the second floor landing, equipped with books to encouraging visitors to read up on what they find interests them. From this point I stopped for a minute and watched how people interacted with the space.
Once on the landing, the visitor is presented with two options: the temporary exhibit on the right and the permanent collection on the left, both of which are behind glass doors and in their respective traditional, white gallery space. The glass-doors are the most obvious threshold that needs to be traversed to enter the exhibits.
As my goal was to get to a video art piece in modern art, another threshold, though quite large, was the entire traditional art section
In order to get my piece I had to navigate through all these other rooms to get to the modern section. As I've been to the museum before, I had already known that it was back there. However, if I were a first-time visitor in search of this specific piece, I can't see an easy way of locating it besides simply asking someone.
What is also worth addressing is the shift in lighting. When a visitor is outside the gallery and on the stone, the light source is rather heavily dependent on the massive windows. However, once inside the gallery the lighting shifts to diffused and artificial.
I chose migration(empire) by Doug Aitken and it is pretty well hidden within the museum.
A visitor would hear it a while before they actually see it. In brief summary, the piece is a video that tackles the juxtaposition of humanity and the natural world, while accompanied by a soundtrack of urban life. The video itself is intentionally set in a sterile built world, thus it is fitting that the environment it's housed in is "sterile" as well.
Aitken's piece is hidden behind one by Becky Woodman instead of in it's own viewing room, but a visitor would hear it long before they see it. Because the exhibit features more than one piece with an audio track, the entire gallery space sort of buzzed with the soundtracks of the pieces. It felt almost fatalistic and post-modern, a stark contrast from the traditional art galleries I needed to walk through to get here. I found this placement rather interesting because there are other video installations in the gallery isolated in their own viewing rooms, but instead the museum decided to further integrate the piece into the exhibit.
The video was projected onto a painted black wall with a white rectangle that was the same aspect ratio of the video format. The only lighting in the space was the ambient lighting from behind the Woodman piece and the reflective light from the projector. This minimal treatment was clean and appropriate for the piece and didn't take away from the video. With the exception of the lighting and projection wall, the material and color choices didn't differ at all from the rest of the exhibit, furthering it's cohesiveness with it's surrounding pieces.
The room was equipped with two minimalist white benches to invite viewers to sit down and watch the video. A problem I discovered was that people either didn't sit down or stayed for very little time, thus the back bench seemed rather extraneous. Because it was flush against the back, it didn't seem ideally situated in the space it was given, it looked almost like an after thought and literally no one sat there for the entirety of time I was there. It's possible my presence was interfering with their experience, but even when I wandered out, no one lingered in the video installation long enough to need to sit in the back
Lastly, the "secret" room on the third floor of the Natural History Museum.
The thresholds we needed to pass through included the transition from art to natural history, the elevator from the first to the third floor. and the hall of birds itself. As we walked down the hallway in search of this door, the hallway was lowlit to draw attention to the birds and filled with bird sounds.
When we found the door, nearby visitors were immediately intrigued, but their attention did not last. I found that the "secret" door relies too much on the novelty of it being "secret" and doesn't provide very much substance to someone's museum visit.