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Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

This week, guest blogger Peter Kimelman, founding director of the FLUX Foundation, previews his group’s participatory art project at the upcoming AAM annual meeting. One of PK’s recent projects was conducting research on wine and design for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s exhibit, How Wine Became Modern, so maybe you want to find him in Minneapolis Saint Paul and ask him out for a drink…
Just a few weeks ago in this space, Charlotte N. Eyerman, the director of FRAME, North America wrote: “Collaboration, engagement, community, and technology are key terms of the day for museums.” We at the FLUX Foundation could not agree more. We are honored to have been selected by The Museum Group to be Thought Leaders at this year’s AAM annual meeting in Minneapolis Saint Paul where we will be addressing these themes directly. In addition to our Thought Leader presentation on Tuesday, May 1; FLUX will engage with the AAM community in a unique participant driven installation. Individual installation components will be distributed to all 5,000 conference attendees. After customizing each piece with content, we will be inviting all attendees to stop by the FLUX/TMG Lounge at the Expo Hall. The Lounge will be an innovative designed environment; a piece to take a break, pause and reconnect with your creative self. There you can add your individualized piece to a larger collaborative artwork.

In Ms. Eyerman’s post, she refers to the importance of collaboration, engagement, community and technology in guiding museums’ inter-institutional relationships. For FLUX, these themes are even more important in guiding the museum’s relationship with the public. The FLUX Foundation exists as a new model for the exploration and creation of art. We apply collaboration, engagement, community andtechnology to the production and experience of artworks. At its core our work is about the transformation of the spectator into the participant.

Much has been made of breaking down barriers at the institution. This has often been thought of literally, starting with Malraux’s Le Musee Imaginaire and continuing with endless “museums without walls” 

For us, the barrier to break is between content and viewer, object and public, and between people themselves. Ms. Eyerman’s four terms are how we do it.

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Collaboration. FLUX is a collective enterprise, a 501(c)3 non-profit led by a team of experienced artists, architects, designers, social sculptors, and community organizers. We pursue projects which create and empower communities through the public art-making process. We enable ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things. The Foundation investigates creative methods that encourage involvement and participation of large numbers of people from the community to create interactive site-specific works. FLUX not only creates public art; it creates public artists. To us, the process of building and making is fundamental to a project’s success and is just as important as the completed piece. People of all skill levels are invited to contribute to our process and each person’s contribution is regarded as a fundamental part of the whole. By focusing on the process and collaboration we challenge the dominant notion of the singular Artist or Designer.

Engagement. Our artworks require collaboration not only in their production but as part of the piece itself. They are incomplete without the participation of the public. In some cases they require the input of the public in their ongoing fabrication. This will be the case in the installation we are designing for this year’s meeting in Minneapolis Saint Paul as it was  in our eponymous piece the Temple of Flux (2010). There participants shared personal messages by writing upon its walls, and adding personal mementos and constructions to its mass, before being burned in a collective moment of release. The sculpture becomes the collective embodiment of the community that made it.

Community. Engagement leads directly to community. By breaking down the barrier between the individual and the artwork, this novel experience creates a shared commonality that breaks down the social barriers between individuals. This starts with the creation of the piece. The process of creation is just as important as the completed piece. People of all skill levels are invited to contribute to our process and each person’s contribution is regarded as a fundamental part of the whole. As such, the projects reflect the needs of the community in which it is sited and benefits the larger community by whom it is created. Our goal is to further integrate these communities as much as possible so that the production of art and design is central to everyday life. At once an abstract large-scale formal sculpture and a bench, the Spire of Wishes (2010) creates a connection between the strangers that sit and reflect upon it. FLUX projects create a space for community. Through the creation of shade and mist by day, and the warming glow of fire at night, BrollyFlock! (2011) invites crowds to sit on its handles and gather beneath its soaring umbrellas. This shared connection is often instigated by our works through the spectacular. Our works create extra-ordinary conditions in which normative social codes are disrupted and allow substantive social interaction.

Technology. Technology forms the connective tissue between collaboration, engagement and community. Our collaborative methods rely on internet-based platforms such as Google Docs (where this post was crafted, reviewed and edited), email list-servs, DropBox and wikis. Ideas and content are shared, worked and reworked by different people with different vantage points at various locations and times. This type of process would have been inconceivable over a decade ago.

Technology is one of our prime artistic tools in creating engagement. Our work utilizes computer controlled effects to create pieces that change over time and respond to their environment. In the FishBug (2009) computer controlled pneumatic systems allow the body of the sculpture to expand, and the flames along its spine to raise and lower, creating an almost living/breathing presence with which to interact. A remote allows participants to shoot flames out of the FishBug’s tusks to spectacular effect. In BrollyFlock!, oversized buttons on the handles allow participant to directly engage the artwork, changing light patterns or flame effects. This direct control radically challenges the normative relationship between the exhibited and the public.

Like our past work, our installation in MuseumExpo will also challenge the relationship between exhibit hall and exhibited, artist and audience. The piece will be continually evolving, morphing along with collective input. With spaces to work, relax and participate, we invite you to collaborate, and become an engaged part of the community.

If you haven’t already, be sure to register for the AAM Annual Meeting by March 30, after that registration will only be available on site.

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