Fuller Craft Museum & The Future of the Museum
Jared visits the Fuller Craft Museum, where motion and sound are at the forefront in Machines and Mechanizations: Explorations in Contemporary Kinetic Sculpture. Also hear Jared's interview with art historian and Harvard professor Joseph Koerner to learn more about a discussion hosted by the Boston Athenaeum on “The Future of the Museum.”
>> JARED BOWEN: Welcome to Open Studio,
WGBH's weekly spotlight on arts and culture
from around the region and the nation.
I'm Jared Bowen.
Coming up on Open Studio, Artists getting a move on.
>> The artists see motion as one of the tools
in their visual vocabulary.
>> BOWEN: Then, the future of the museum,
a series that's taking a hard look at how museums
are struggling to adapt in a fast-changing world.
>> We also have, like any moment in the history of museums,
questions about where museums are going to go in the future,
how they're going to respond to the economic challenges
once you build these buildings.
>> BOWEN: Plus, the dark past of one of the original thrillers.
>> Poe has become arguably the most illustrated
author of all times.
>> BOWEN: And we'll show you where East meets West.
>> But what comes very often in all those art is the time,
>> BOWEN: It's all now on Open Studio.
First up, at the Fuller Craft Museum right now
things are rockin' and rollin', movin' and shakin'.
Machines and Mechanizations is a new show that looks at
how artists compose motion.
There is at the moment a movement at Brockton's
Fuller Craft Museum, an exploration of sculpture
that refuses to stand firm.
Pieces that twist and turn, wind and whirl.
>> Kinetic sculpture is artwork in an
two dimensional or three dimensional form
that incorporates motion into the work,
whether it's implied motion, the illusion of motion,
or actual motion.
The artists see motion as one of the tools
in their visual vocabulary.
So much as artists will use paint and metal
and steel, they see motion in the same wa
that they would see color or form, and that that's
one of the tools that they use.
>> BOWEN: David Lang, he's a local artist.
This piece is so mesmerizing, The Swine Flew.
>> Yeah, yeah, he's an interesting guy.
His history is he had a stroke a few years ago.
And he was formerly a painter and watercolorist.
And after his stroke, he could not pick up a paintbrush.
So he started thinking more about the mechanics
of kinetic sculpture, and decided to start going
in that direction.
He loves gears, and he loves all the machinery of it.
And he really wants the guts to be hanging out of that work.
>> BOWEN: Elizabeth McLaughlin is curator of
Machines and Mechanizations, pieces she says shimmer
and swirl on the surface, but often belie what's beneath.
>> Erica von Schilgen, the mechanical collages,
her work is initially very playful and very fun,
but in fact she's looking to bring the visitor
to that place of childhood imagination.
But then the closer you get to them, it's really about
nostalgia and a longing for days gone by.
And if you turn the crank, it plays a music box.
So it really has these connotations of just a lost age.
Chris Fitch's work also, on a first appearance,
has this playfulness to it.
And then the deeper you get into the work,
it does have a mournful quality.
His Good Dog, for example, when you first look at it,
it looks like a rubber toy.
And then there's a bulb that activates a pneumatic switch.
And the dog, you know, collapses onto itself.
And there's this sadness that's evoked through that.
Mark Davis's pieces here, as the pieces move,
the composition shifts.
And to him that's really his message,
is the sense of balance, and how, as the pieces shift,
it reflects what's going on in our own lives
and our own quest for balance as things continue to shift
and change in our lives.
>> BOWEN: With a start in the early 1900s
and a heyday in the '60s, contemporary kinetic sculpture
references the past, sculpting in color,
but also employing fresher technology,
like David Lang's Babel, made of doormats, fortunes, and sound.
>> David Lang's Babel, for example, he uses sound,
and it's on a motion detector, so as you approach the piece,
you start to hear all these voices.
And they're layered on top of each other.
He created this piece to suggest the failure
of communication that we as human beings have,
and how very often we are stymied by how to
express ourselves to each other and to listen to each other
>> BOWEN: No stymieing here, though.
For the movement, we are mesmerized.
Next, about a week ago, the Boston Athenaeum
held the first of three sold-out salons it's hosting
this winter about the future f the museum.
Don't worry, you'll be able to catch the remaining ones
as they stream live.
But they're tough conversations about how local and national
museums are struggling to adapt to meet the needs
of a rapidly changing public, technology, and economy.
Joseph Koerner, you are Professor of Histor
of Art and Architecture at Harvard, also on the board
of a couple of museums.
When we first started talking about this, you told me
that one billion people visited museums in 2013.
Last week at the first session some of the directors
talked about how this is a great time for museums,
they're sort of flush, but there are challenges.
What have you noticed are the biggest things
confronting museums that you'll talk about
over the course of this series?
>> Well, one thing, just in Boston, we're in
a really... a golden age, in a way, of museums
and museum expansion.
We have the Gardner's new entrance, we have
the fabulous Art of the Americas wing.
And the Harvard University Art Museum is going to
rise again with a fabulous building opening in 2014.
And so we have buildings, but we also have, like any moment
in the history of museums, questions about where museums
are going to go in the future, how they're going to respond
to the economic challenges, once you build these buildings,
how do you keep them running, and how do you compete with
and use the new technologies, media technologies,
which are able to broadcast the holdings of museums,
but also transform the experience of museums?
>> BOWEN: In all of the research that you were doing about this,
do you feel that the museums in this country are where
they should be right now, in trying to anticipate
how to keep evolving, especially with technology?
I think new technologies are wonderful ways of capturing
a much larger audience.
We learned in the discussion last night that more people
sign on to the Web site at the Met by far
than actually visit the museum.
But on the other hand, you've got to get people
in the door.
And in a way, by looking at things online,
you get a kind of hunger for seeing the original object.
But at the same time, people are not necessaril
going to go see objects that are obscure to them,
historical periods that they don't know about,
unless they're educated, and unless the curators
are able to bring people into a conversation
with these strange objects.
>> BOWEN: Well on that point, and this is something
that I noticed came up right at the beginning
last night, as I was just mentioning, I was reall
stuck by what Malcolm Rogers had to say about this.
But for decades in this country the thought has been
that you have to have a big blockbuster show
to get people in the door.
But what I heard from people at last week's session
was that they're moving away from the blockbuster.
>> It's nice to have a blockbuster, but to be
dependent on them isn't a good idea.
Exhibitions are becoming smaller and more varied,
which I think is a good idea.
But also I think we're all trying to invest
more in what we call our permanent collections--
I'm not sure that's the right word--
and not to let an exhibition suck all the energ
or rather the resources out of the museum.
How do we give our gallery, our public galleries,
the magnetism, the excitement, of a temporary exhibition?
>> I think that people, when they go to a museum,
they want to have a special experience,
and they want to see objects, original objects, and have
a kind of profound, moving experience
in front of them.
And you can't have necessarily that experience
unless you're in the right light circumstances
and the right time frame.
And what happens in a museum, then, is if the curation
of the permanent collection and the way the visitor
from Boston, say, comes to the
museum that's their museum, they know some of the works,
they've looked at some of the works, and they're going
to look at them again, and they're going to see them
in a new light.
That's probably as challenging and as interesting a task
as bringing in the gold of Tutankhamen or the gold
of the Aztecs.
So I think the challenge is, once you get people in the door,
how do you move them?
And the permanent collection, the fabulous works
that any museum has, is an opportunit
which I think we have somewhat lost in the last few decades.
>> BOWEN: Going back to the blockbusters for a moment,
and from what you discern from panelist, did you have
a sense that there was a turning point, that it became
We also know what the high cost of insurance is
for traveling shows in particular.
But why wouldn't... I'm thinking of a couple
of the most recent MFA shows, for example.
Why wouldn't a big Mario Testino show or Impressionist show,
John Singer Sargent show... granted that was largel
from their own collection shared with Brooklyn,
but why wouldn't those shows be the big audience draw
that they had seemed to be for so long?
>> The economy of these blockbusters
is a problematic thing, too.
They're very expensive to mount, they have, as you say,
But I think there is also a sense, just what is it
that makes an exhibition successful?
It doesn't have to be moving things
from all over the world into one venue.
The risks are great, and insurance doesn't cover
You can't... once a Surah is destroyed by some accident,
it's never going to come back, even if the insurance value
I think people are more cautious,
people know that conservation of works of art
is one of the most important features
of what a museum's responsibility is,
and I think people are more skeptical
about both the experience of a blockbuster show
for the visitor, and also the risks that are incurred.
>> BOWEN: Also speaking to last week's session,
one of the questions that you posed that got
quite a dynamic response and a difference in opinion
was the issue of loans.
>> What's your view about leasing, loaning works of art,
and sending them abroad, when it's not necessaril
a major... an exhibition of a scholarly kind?
>> There is clearly a big pressure in the field
at this moment, because we're seeing
with the developing world the growing prosperit
in Latin America, in the Middle East,
in Eastern Europe and in Asia.
We're seeing an evolving middle class, a growth
of interest in culture in these parts of the world,
and the rapid construction of large numbers of museums
and cultural centers.
And there's an increasing demand from well established
Western museums to send exhibitions
to these institutions, many of which don't have
their own collections to draw on or to lend back.
And so what they're offering is cash.
>> Just to do it for operating costs seems to be
close to an irresponsible act.
>> If you earn some money to pay for the, in my case,
curators' salaries, conservators' salaries,
to make things that have been in store for years
because they're in poor condition, to bring them
into good condition,
that's a great benefit of this sort of program.
Things come out of store, they're studied by scholars
in another country.
>> BOWEN: Finally, something I hadn't thought about
which you brought up last week which was so interesting,
was the issue of contemporary art.
Here before you had the Museum of Fine Arts,
the Getty and the Met, which have great
encyclopedic collections of largely older works,
What is the place, and should there be a place
for contemporary art in museums like those?
>> Well there always was and always will be
and needs to be a place for contemporary art,
because as one famous line says, "Every art at one point
But when you look at the developments of museums
right now, you see big wings for contemporary art.
You usually recognize them by giant white walls,
huge panes of glass, and usually a fairly predictable
group of artists represented.
And I do think that there is... there may be a distortion
in the history of museums caused by this new emphasis
on contemporary art.
So you have a giant wing of contemporary art,
and then you have a small corridor for, say,
There is an imbalance.
American museums have fabulous collections
of medieval art, and they're very, ver
hard to see, because they usually aren't on view.
Is that because medieval art is unpopular?
I don't know, but it's contemporary artists
who are teaching us to actually look at medieval art.
And so there's an irony, I think, there.
>> BOWEN: Well, Joseph Koerner, you are presiding over...
you're moderating a really, really important discussion.
Best of luck with the rest of the series,
and it's a pleasure to have you here.
>> Thank you.
>> BOWEN: The recent exhibition Terror of the Soul
at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York Cit
brought together more than 100 items related
to Edgar Allan Poe's poetry, fiction, and literary criticism.
Co-curator Declan Kiely speaks about the author's
writing process and the influence
of his tales and poems, which have frightened
and thrilled readers for over 150 years.
>> Edgar Allan Poe: Terror of the Soul is reall
an exploration of Poe as poet, as critic, as teller of tales.
What Poe meant by "terror of the soul"
is the absolute horror of contemplation of reality.
Poe is interested in exploring the realm
of the possible.
And of course he's also tapping into very, very common
fears at the time.
He is heavily influenced by the Gothic tradition,
but he takes that in a new direction.
The manuscripts and books in this exhibition
are largely drawn from the Morgan Library's
permanent collection, but there are some
spectacular items from a private collector,
Susan Tane, as well as from the New York Public Library.
We have two scrolls in this exhibition.
It appears that Poe wrote on small sheets of paper,
which he then subsequently, using sealing wax,
created lengthy scrolls.
Why he did this is subject to a lot of hypothesis.
My feeling is Poe loved the look and the feel of scrolls.
He loved the antiquity.
And it made sure that the page order wasn't disrupted.
Many of the manuscripts in the exhibitions
appear to be fair copies, by which I mean
there's not a lot of revision evident.
It's hard to imagine an author who had
a more disorderly life than Poe had.
But he clearly worked in a very methodical manner,
and expressed his thoughts in a surprisingly clear
and orderly way, and in a very neat, uniform hand.
The daguerreotypes that we're using
in the exhibition really provide the best visual chronicle
of Poe's life.
We know that Poe underwent a great deal of suffering,
and it's really very much there in the daguerreotype
known as the Ultima Thule daguerreotype from 1848.
He had just attempted to take his life
with an overdose of laudanum.
And it's evident in that photograph.
There's a very doctored image by Matthew Brady,
where it allows Brady to create and perpetuate
a legend that he photographed Poe.
He never did.
We also have in the exhibition the last image taken of Poe,
just a few weeks before he died.
This portrait of Poe was commissioned
by the US Postal Service in 2008 in order to produce a stamp
to mark the bicentennial of Poe's birth in 2009.
It's by an artist named Michael Deas,
and it's a sympathetic portrait of Poe.
And he incorporates many of the contemporar
descriptions of Poe's iris color, his eyelashes,
the expression that would move across his face,
that kind of thing.
The striking thing about Edgar Allan Poe
is that he only published nine books in his life.
All his other work appeared in periodicals.
None of those periodicals or books were illustrated,
and yet Poe has become arguably the most illustrated
author of all time.
For example, there have been so many illustrated editions
of The Raven.
Manet obviously the most famous artist that deals with
Le Corbeau, The Raven, in 1875.
And some of the very famous illustrators of Poe's work
are Beardsley, who did his very characteristic
We've got the great Irish artist Harry Clark.
So this is a testimony to the diversity of artists
that have become absolutely fascinated
by the kinds of imagery that Poe uses in his work,
because Poe is actually trying to explore something much deeper
Poe was very influential on a surprising number
of different authors, authors that you on the surface
wouldn't think have very much in common
either with Poe or with each other.
George Bernard Shaw admired Poe's work as a poet,
as a storyteller, and as a journalist.
Poe was at the very forefront of science fiction writing,
at the forefront of the detective novel.
Poe's notion of the double clearly influenced
Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
And of course in the case of Arthur Conan Doyle,
you see him in all of the Sherlock Holmes stories.
I think there's no closer reader of Poe then Nabokov.
Certainly Lolita is an engagement
with Poe's life and work.
Nabokov originally titled his novel
The Kingdom by the Sea, a line that directly from
the poem Annabel Lee.
I think the critic that said, during Poe's lifetime,
that Poe's work would not really be understood
until after his death, was absolutely right.
And I think it's taken us 150 years to really catch up
with Poe and fully catch on to what Poe was trying to do.
>> BOWEN: From our Texas outpost now, a fine arts fair in Houston
highlights the contemporary arts scene in Korea.
Many of the artists represented there
experiment with traditional themes, but bringing them
into a contemporary context.
>> (translated): The new Korean government has really tried
to support Korean culture and art.
At this fair, we're delighted to have the opportunit
to introduce the American public to a glimpse of Korean art.
Korean artists are some of the most highly educated
in the world.
This, combined with their excellent craftsmanship,
gives great depth to their pieces.
A theme that comes up often in Korean art
is not just the fusion of Eastern and Western art,
but also the mixing of traditional and modern.
>> That mixture of Eastern philosoph
with the Western visual means has created something
What comes very often in all this art is the time,
the history, what lies behind.
For example, we have a U-Fan Lee's Wind series.
U-Fan Lee is one of the best known Korean artists
in the US or in Europe.
He is from an earlier generation that studied in Japan
and started this whole movement called Mono-ha.
>> Right now, contemporary art, there's no boundary.
You know, all of these are the same, you know?
everybody using every material, especially contemporary art,
Internet, all that kind of things.
So I don't think there's a difference
between Korean art and Western art.
>> I think what Korean artist has tried was that
when they start coming out with the traditional medium
and images, they couldn't get away from people saying
that, "Oh I've seen that image somewhere before."
It was just a very hard barrier for them to break.
So what began to happen in Korea was that they start using
a lot of new medium.
>> (translated) Park Seung-Mo layers a number
of aluminum steel screens to create human forms
and animal movements.
Park has an excellent grasp of the material, and he can even
describe facial movements in his sculpture.
>> Hwang Ran works actively in New York as well as Korea.
And her image also cherry blossom, which is
very Asian image, traditional image.
But what makes it very different is that she uses buttons
and pins in a certain angle that actually creates
such a three dimensional, beautiful image, and the shadows
create even more dimensions to the piece.
>> (translated): I use a traditional Korean
traditional paper, and the colors are stone powder
mixed with a very old-style glue.
That's why the texture is so unique.
The main point is the sky and the ivy that's flowing
up to the wall.
And what I'm trying to do is the ivy, whenever there's
a space for it to go, it keeps going up,
no matter what happens.
But once it reaches the highest point
and has no more place to go, it falls down.
But it's the same with people.
>> Yong-Duck Lee has studied in Germany.
He has always been very interested in negative
and positive space as well as what makes a sculpture,
what makes a painting.
When you stand far away from the piece, it looks like
the person is almost coming out.
And his whole idea was that there used to be a person.
That person leaves, and there's only the remains
of the person in that space.
Park Sung-Tae has created a whole sculptural images
with aluminum screens.
And from the flat screen he cuts in a general shape
and he sculpts them all individually by hand,
so they're individual pieces.
>> (translated): I drew pictures of different faces,
and the drawings on the faces describe different peoples'
memories; what they've been going through in the past.
This is the face of a mother.
It's a very traditional Korean picture,
and the little drawings on the face being the memories
that she'd had.
In the last few years, Chinese contemporary art
came in the European market and the American market,
they did a very big success.
Now Japan and Korea and even India or Taiwan
Hong Kong, they want to come to New York, and Houston,
Los Angeles, Chicago, even in European countries a lot.
So we are expecting more booming in Korean art.
>> BOWEN: And that is all for this edition of Open Studio.
Next week, Diane Paulus follows up her Tony-winning turn
directing Pippin with the new musical Witness Uganda.
Its creators join us.
We'll have that and much more next week.
Before we go now, I just want to mention
that this marks our first anniversary on the air.
Thank you for joining us over the last year,
and we hope you've enjoyed watching the arts
as much as we've loved covering them.
For all of us on Open Studio, I'm Jared Bowen.
Thanks for watching.
As always, you can visit us online at wgbh.org/Open Studio.
And you can follow us on Twitter, @OpenStudioWGBH.
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