From temple to museum

May 2, 2012

 

The latter extract exposed us the different aspects of the exhibition complex. The different roles it played in the society (from educating people to galvanizing a crowd of workers around the newest industrial productions). If, as in the prisons, we are still talking about power relations, there is a switch: “The Panopticon was designed so that every one could be seen; the Crystal palace was designed so that every one could see.” (Tony Bennett, The birth of museum, p.65).

 

The first expressions of museums where found in the royal “studiolo” or in the Church (as the cabinet of curiosities in the Vatican). We could take the Christian church as a part of the evolution of exhibitions complex. As in the first public exhibitions the inside of the church was a temple of knowledge with it’s glass painted windows, wall paintings, altarpieces and other sculptures. It is known to be a way to communicate to the illiterate crowd of worshippers. But as in the public exhibitions the aim was also to showcase the greatness and the power of the community, in that case of the church “through the representations to which they were subjected, they formed vehicles for inscribing and broadcasting the messages of power.” (idem p.61). Another point that we could take from the text is the discipline or the way you should be: “instructions booklets advised working-class visitors how to present themselves, placing particular stress on the need to change out of their working clothes (…)” (idem p.73)

 

Nowadays another phenomena can be observed. On one hand some temples and churches are more visited by the tourists than the worshippers. This becomes in another way a new form of museum, a living entity conserving a period of the history of art in its walls. On the other hand, most of the new buildings are made in a more spare way, playing with light, textures and volumes rather than ornamentation. This is maybe a way to get rid of this power showcasing or take distance with the consumerist industrial society that was growing in the great exhibitions?

 

_Thomas

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