Western Museum Association’s first WestMusings: 10 Minute Museum Talks took place at their annual meeting in Salt Lake City this year. One of our favorites was a talk done by Scott Stulen, in charge of audience engagement at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, “How I Won the Internet by Taking it Offline” and his infamous International Cat Video Festival. The momentum of support for this Festival have many in the museum space wondering if this collection is in fact art, and if it is, what does it mean for our society today?
One of my favorite lines Stulen references comes from an article by Scott Denton. In this article, Denton was ranting about his conceptual downfall of the museum, wondering “Where is the muse; where is the theater; where is the joy?”
An interesting discussion point, considering the new trend of intimate audience engagement driven by technologies the world has never experienced work so well. Weather, wet and scenting effects have entered the museum space but not only is the technology different, so is the art. As we finesse our participatory environments, what becomes the centrifugal force of community attendance is relevance and sincere connections. In our digital age, we have what looks like a way to catalyze these sentiments in a way like never before, but what Scott Stulen shows us is that participation is much more than going into the museum space with a really good idea of what’s going to happen; the secret, rather, is to create an environment where no one can tell what will happen next. This truly is the life blood of culture cultivation.
We’ll never stop re-defining what a museum is to us as society’s aesthetic interests shifts and the organic dynamic of what drives audience engagement changes. Whether it is in the digital space or the physical realm, the fact remains that in order for our museums to thrive they must deliver content we want. Right now, there truly is an International Cat Video Festival, created by one of the most progressive art museums in the country. 10,000 people showed up.
Watch the video and tell me why.