Culture Clash | Uses of language | Breathing space

Breathing space

One way to get around this transfixion on language would be to change the words that we use. If people were expecting to see art because they are in an art gallery, then what would happen if we no longer called it an art gallery? Is there another word we can use, one that would allow all of the experiences within the gallery to exist without the danger of them being compared unfavourably to a pre-existing paradigm?

A gallery may not be able to allow every visitor engage with the experiences that it offers, but is it not worth considering tactics that would increase the odds of this happening? A change in language could be one such tactic. If the term ‘art’ has become a hindrance to the experiences within the gallery, then is it worth considering an alternative that may allow more breathing space, both for the work and the visitors?

A name like ‘Experience Centre’ may be approaching something more suitable. The amorphousness of the name would be a clue – a prime – as to how a visitor is to approach what awaits inside. They aren’t here to see art, although they may apprehend things that they wish to label as such. Rather, they are here to have experiences.

What are the benefits of this name change? Primarily, the visitor would no longer be looking for ‘art’. The question “is this art?” – a question that so often stops an experience before it can even begin – would become redundant. The nearest question available – the nearest defence against experience – would now be “is this an experience?” The use of a capacious term like this would allow for the breadth of experiences that the modern art gallery offers; the language would better prepare the visitor, and experiential expectations may have less of a chance of hindering experience itself. A term like this could work in the gallery’s favour, not against it.

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  1. This changes the whole concept of what art is, and dismisses the last 30/40 years (or even 100 years) of art development. The idea of 'experience centres' reminds me of 'The Public' in West Brom which puts itself forward as an art gallery but seems to have been totally designed by the architect. The fundamental problem, (and why it is/was failing/ed) is that the "art" is meant to be an "experience" where viewers can interact yet half the work doesn't work or it is so complex that no-one know's how it works.

    Contemporary Art is about discussion and communication not just experience, and there are plenty of crappy places you go to for that. This is one of the problems with when museums are redesigned with lots of buttons and lights to try and be interactive rather than the "stuffy Victorian" look of before (which I much prefer). As a result people are to busy pressing buttons watching flashing lights to actually take in what they are actually looking at (I have been guilty of this), and half the time the technology doesn't fully work.

    As someone who believes art does have power for social change and possible agency for the viewer, the idea of entertainment centres walk's into the hands of bourgeois ruling bodies who want art to be sanitised to rid art of radical revolutionary ideas. Granted this kind of art is rarely seen in large art galleries, there is still a possibility for this, which the idea of the 'Experience Centre' doesn't allow.

  2. The idea of an 'Experience Centre' (or some other such name) was more about a change in language, rather than a change in the content of the gallery.

    If the name suggests those ideas, then that is unfortunate, and perhaps a more appropriate name should be considered. However, the point is that a name change can provoke other change.

    Really, art galleries are already 'experience centres', whether you call them that or not. They accommodate the experiences that don't fit elsewhere, because their remit is broad.

    I'm sure there is a better name. The question is whether a name change could be useful.

    Ideas have the power for social change. We dress them up as art, or literature, or psychology. We try our best to communicate them. But what if the method of communication is being held back by the language surrounding it? Are these ideas being communicated effectively within the 'Contemporary Art Gallery'? Is the Contemporary Art Gallery not already a very sanitised, commodified, safe bourgeois idea? Surely a name change makes things a little less safe, and a little more unknown?