Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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An exhibition is a mixtape

May 29th, 2012 by Seb Chan

The best mixtape is made with love and care.
The best mixtape requires deep knowledge and skill to make.
The messages contained in a mixtape are simultaneously opaque and clear.
A mixtape is an invitation.
A mixtape is not a compilation.

I’ve been thinking a lot about exhibitions recently. They are expensive beasts and tend to still be produced with the same models of high risk cultural production as cinema.

As the museum educator has risen in prominence and institutional power over the last three decades, exhibitions have been challenged by the ‘event-driven museum’. So much that exhibitions, themselves, have become ‘events’ – in the most contentious and problematic form of ‘blockbusters’.

At the same time we’ve seen the spread of the verb ‘curate’, and the noun ‘curator’. Some people even want appropriate credit for their online ‘curatorial’ skills.

Researching and then assembling a narrative told by music selections to communicate messages of love, hate, ambivalence, or just to assert your superior (sub)cultural capital – that’s what making a mixtape was all about. Exhibitions, in their most primal form, are not that different.

The mixtape is dead.
The mixtape died with MP3.
The mixtape died with iTunes.
The mixtape died when it became an ‘unconstrained’ playlist.

So where is the new model for exhibitions in a world where mixtapes have been replaced by iTunes and now Spotify?

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