Friday, 5 March 2010

Design Safari

For assignment 3, I to walked into town with a few flatmates and wandered about looking for a spot to observe the public. My thoughts were a place I hadn't been to in a while but loved to go to, like a coffee shop or even just a shopping centre (these involve money unfortunately and temptation to buy!). However we all immediately marched towards a shiny new sign saying 'The McManus gallery', had no clue it was the re-opening of it last Sunday.
Which is when I came to my first observations; I knew as a general rule that museums and art galleries admissions are free, neither of my flatmates new this, and there were no signs telling us otherwise. I assured them it should be free and there would be a box for donations somewhere if you wished to do so. (I didn't see one myself) Plus on the way in in the very busy fast moving queue we were given leaflets (including a map) of the gallery. We still did not know that it was the opening day but soon figured this out as it was extremely busy inside, especially for a Sunday in a museum I guess.
Since this was the opening day as a general I'm guessing that I may not have found the same sort of people as I would have done on a 'normal' day. There were families, couples of all ages, students, art students (I recognized quite a few) just...all of the public were in the gallery!
I think my challenge then for observing was to see how these different 'groups' of people acted.
I noticed that when looking at paintings, an adult would perhaps walk past and stop double backing a bit if it catches their eye, read the blurb beside the painting, and then stand back a bit to look at it again, perhaps to take in what they are seeing in more detail. I couldn't quite figure out if the art students were doing this too, but I noticed that when someone was looking at an abstract painting in the contemporary section, they took one quick look at what it was and then immediately read the information to find out what it was/what it meant etc to understand what they were looking at, as I do the same. Either that or I try to figure out what I think of it first, or how I interpret it, and then see if I'm right. Most people seemed to read the info after a quick glance first of all and then have a look at it though, like an automatic action.
Parents tend to explain to their children what they are looking at, either because of unlogical questions they ask, or ones that adults may never have thought to question... I saw a boy of about 5 or 6 run up to a drypoint sketch of a tree, onto a glass frame, and announced that 'the tree is on the glass on this side, and then there is another tree on the paper!' and then ran off into the next room to look at the next piece of work. I hadn't even noticed that the light in the room was creating a shadow from the tree onto the green paper behind it to produce another tree until that little boy had said...
From my observations so far it looked like families got a quick run round the gallery as children's attention spans are short or are elsewhere completely so parents just have to keep up with them, and on occasion children spot other things some adults wouldn't.
I could quite clearly recognize some art students when I saw some with their SLRs gathered round some paintings or sculptures and taking pictures, one also made me spot a sculpture right up in the rafters when she was pointing her camera towards the ceiling, of a gargoyle. I think the piece was called 'the king is dead' other than that i don't know much about it..
In general everyone was tending to circulate the rooms in an order, if they realised they had missed a room they would double back.
Children were most interested in the rooms with interactive screens, and running around the free-standing wall spaces.
Most with young children are lead to something that catches their eye in the room first (such as the interactive screens) then the parent slook around the room in a circular order. Everyone else does circulate as normal.
I might have listened in a little bit to a family who were all gathered round a painting by Pompeo Batoni. They were discussing the story of the painting, then refered to the information beside it, and associated it with a tv programme. As people tend to do they refered to what they could link it to in their daily lives maybe.
I think my favourite part of observing (and maybe listening in a bit although they were standing right next to me when I was taking photos of an exhibit piece) was when a father and his two girls were looking at a large Mayan headdress. One of the girls said 'that looks stupid' and the dad said 'well it may have look silly to you but it was important in their culture because the headdress showed that the woman who wore it was very wealthy..' (which i think definitely realtes back to the Taste lectures!) '...which is why it was covered in precious jewels, and also men would want to marry them'. Haaaang on a minute there, I had just read the information on the headdress and it had said that this was actually a wedding piece and that the newly-wed woman would wear this for most of her married life (god knows how as it looked extremely heavy and impractical as it was pretty big). So...he did tell his children some truth in it but has also told them his own interpretation without really knowing himself...I'm not sure if he would be too bothered to know that he got it half right or wrong, but I wasn;t too sure what to make of that myself.
It made me tell kids the truth...(which in this case wasn't really an extreme truth to tell) or to keep them happy with what we know? Children soak up information ... I'm not sure if this was the 'right' thing to tell two very young girls. It could have also been a father who was exhausted from the questions and didn't quite realise the explanation he was giving was maybe a little behind the times? I'm not keen on judging too much but it was an interesting observation for this assignment anyway!
I did enjoy doing the Design Safari, could have maybe spent a little longer in the gallery and maybe explored the rules and regulations of the way the gallery shop works or the cafe, but I felt the gallery itself was a more interesting topic for me. Also not sure if I went into too much detail or perhaps snooped more than I should have into passing conversations but I felt like that's what I was there to do!
I have to say I didn't feel too uncomfortable doing this assignment because the place I chose was a public art gallery, i would not have listened into people's conversations in a coffee shop but merely observed, as more private/personal issues would have been main topics in such places which i wouldn't have posted. I feel like thoughts and ideas in a gallery are shared with other people looking at a piece/painting anyway, sort of public opinions coming to light as i spoke to other's standing beside me about some paintings, so i decided focus on that for this task and got some interesting results.

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