Tuesday, 18 August 2009


Photographer: Leonard Gren

”…you don´t need much to educate, but to lead the student to his own knowledge you need a lot more.”
”…L. Vygotsky (my translation)

A person´s meeting with art, whether it´s a painting or an installation, a piece of music or theatre, often gives rise to an emotional experience where we learn something about ourselves or about the society around us. The meeting may also provide us with knowledge about the artist behind this piece of art. A pedagogical process has taken place.

This means that the communication of the content in a piece of art or an exhibition fundamentally is a matter of pedagogy. How we design the logotype and the image which is going to carry the exhibition and attract an audience is about pedagogy, because if we pick the wrong font or the wrong picture we may not reach our targeted audience. How pictures are hanged and objects are placed in the gallery will affect how the audience moves through the exhibition and these kinetic patterns will affect our experience and what we get out of an exhibition. This means that this is about pedagogy as well.

So pedagogy is communicative by character. It exists in a social and a cultural interaction between people and artifacts. Since I work in a context where exhibitions are produced I will from now on call this perspective exhibition pedagogy

Why is it important to discuss pedagogy in context with art and exhibitions?

I mean that we need to understand the exhibition as a meeting place, a social arena for meaning making. To the child the exhibition offers a possibility to explore the world around their own self. Through concrete experiences, objects filled with narrations, through playing and exploring, the museum is turned into a perpetual source of events where the child can learn about colors, forms, animals, objects etc. Experiences and narrations which will contribute to a cognitive experience of the self and the world.

To youth the seeking of an identity and the construction if the own self, I-Topia, is a contemporary and a future project at the same time. Contemporary art offers through its multimodality fantastic possibilities for reflection and meaning making on the own self. The exhibition as a medium can function as an arena for youth participation and influence, a social meeting place for dialogue and reflection. I see it as an obligation to society to create these arenas, where also museums have to open their doors for youth and allow for their thoughts and perspectives to be heard.

To many pedagogy is about learning. Others equate learning and education. To me pedagogy is communication and dialogue where we learn in collaboration with others and the world around us. The opening quotation from Vygotsky is interesting from several views. Above all because ha already in 1930 did put the individual at the centre of the learning process. This paradigm shift, where we have moved from teaching to learning, has been accentuated by the web and new media. The process of learning is no longer teacher centered but student centered. For a museum or a gallery this puts the visitor at the centre if things. This means we have to understand exhibition pedagogy from the broad perspective I laid out at the beginning of this blog and not as applied pedagogy. Applied pedagogy is about methods how we work with the audience in an exhibition, school programmes and guides. This is only part of exhibition pedagogy.

To Vygotsky fantasy, play and creativity were key words when discussing learning. Let us understand pedagogy as the process where we in social collaboration develop knowledge and creativity.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


Photographer: Leonard Gren

One of the questions we currently try to focus on at the Swedish Travelling Exhibitions is how to view the audience. The significance of how it will affect the activity at a museum or a gallery and the consequences that will emerge if you move the visitor to the centre of target and policy documents.

We also mean that tomorrow´s audiences i.e. the Young, which naturally also are today´s audience, carry with them new demands on how exhibitions are produced and how they are presented. Communication scientists, sociologists and pedagogues agree on that the technical development, which means unlimited possibilities to look for information and to communicate, has created a paradigm shift. This is a development which we who work with the production of exhibitions have to address.

It is about a view on the visitor where he or she is transformed from a statistical neuter to a face and a name. It is about offering processes and participation instead of passive spectatorship. It is about being relevant through both content and ways of communication.

The challenge is big and it is easy to dismiss it and settle with the old middle class audience which is already there. But a lot of institutions in Europe have recognized the danger and taken action on it. I have earlier in this blog mentioned projects at Gulbenkian in Portugal, Musée Bargoin in Clermont-Ferrand in France and Zeeuws museum in Holland. Another interesting project is “Hot spot” in Malmoe, Sweden. To this list I can add mambo in Bologna and their ”City-telling” project, Tate Modern in London, the latter presented in our publication Future exhibitions which can be bought from our web-site.

As I am writing this I´m on my way home from the Venice Biennale and several great experiences of art, many which could serve as a starting point for a process of art-based learning. At the same time Almedalsveckan has started back in Sweden. It´s a week where people from all over Sweden gather in Gotland, the island in the Baltic Sea where our organization is placed, to present seminars on all sorts of topical subjects. More than 900 seminars are presented during the week, all free of charge and all open to anyone who wants to participate. It´s a gigantic Open source event with almost endless opportunities to informal education and discussions.

I believe that events as large as Almedalsveckan, or the Venice Biennale, are important as collective manifestations where views, thoughts and knowledge can be communicated from person to person. As Internet has developed and the globalization has rolled over of the World, immaterial property rights as a construction has to be challenged. I believe we need to understand that collective access to knowledge and information is important for a sustainable future. In this also museums and exhibitions have to contribute!