Visiting a museum, a friend once said, is a little like being at a big conference on a great subject. You go in full of good intentions, plan to hear many speakers, yet often leave with the feeling that you missed a lot of the good stuff.
Noticing that a lot of people left museums often feeling overwhelmed by the sheer mass of information, an Israeli artists decided to make it easier for people at the Haifa Museum of Art to find the art they most want to see. Artist Maya Shimony created a personality questionnaire that can help visitors find a personalized museum route.
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Shimony tells NoCamels: “The idea was born to be applied in a museum, because that’s the classic place, where we are totally led by structure and less likely to wonder around.” When the Haifa Museum of Art opened a huge exhibition in the beginning of July titled “Formally Speaking”, displaying works from 40 artists, it seemed like a great place for Shimony’s project, titled “Directions”.
Based around the artworks displayed, the artist wrote a personality questionnaire and according to visitor’s answers suggests one of three alternative routes around the museum.
At the top of the questionnaire Shimony wrote: “In a fast paced world swarming with stimuli, it often happens that by the time you come by interesting, novel and exciting encounters, they are lost in the exhausting, mind numbing tide of endless possibilities. What is the point of trying to see everything? After all, not everything is right for everyone.”
She adds: “Art today is so intense both in quantity and style, that when you walk around in a museum, you quickly become tired, but you are afraid to miss something. I want you not to waste your energy or your time, and give you the perfect route that fits to your needs. The questionnaire is basically a pre-screening of all the artworks that the visitors would most likely find unsuitable, uninteresting and irrelevant to their personal profile.”
The short questionnaire includes questions like “How many children do you have?”; “Have you ever been arrested?” or even; “Do you own a Nirvana CD?”. “Just like those tests in Cosmopolitan magazine,” says the artist, laughing.
“We always want an easy recipe to find out who we are, but at the same time, we usually don’t trust it. In my system though you do not get an ‘evaluation’ according to your type. Instead, it is the art pieces that will give you an insight into who you are. That’s why it’s so exciting.
“It’s not just an idea I came up with, it’s also an art project. It’s very conceptual and practical. All my artwork is about trust and manipulation and the border between the two.”
Shimony now hopes her technique will be adopted in other museums and exhibitions to make it easier for visitors to exit the space feeling satisfied with what they’ve seen, she says.