TRANSLOCAL: MUSEUM AS A TOOLBOX

In October 2015, Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź joined a two-year multistage international project funded with the European Union resources that aims at generating innovative tools of communication.

Within the framework of the project Translocal: Museum as Toolbox we want to present the museum as toolbox, understood as the source of practical solutions, something useful, which is not limited to just walls, buildings or temporary exhibitions but offers tools to “dismantle” our perception, providing a different perspective at the world and our activities within it. One of the first and primary tools that we wish to exploit in our programme is “communication” interpreted not only as messages sent out to our audience or informing about our initiatives but rather a dialogue, a conversation with visitors that engages both sides. Communication means also dialogues with space, dialogues of the institution with its local surrounding. The objective of Museum as Toolbox project is to present the museum as a place to relate to, to work with, a place that has grown from urban fabric and local community. This is how we would like the audience to approach us, to reach out for these tools also in very practical, provisional and often local contexts.

Under the project, Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź collaborates with four museums from different cities in Europe (Graz, Zagreb, Bolzano, and Tallinn), actively operating at two levels: working with the so called “young adults” aged 15 – 25 who are considered challenging target audience hard to mobilise and collaborating in delivering local initiatives. Cooperation takes the form of study visits of curators and educators as well as artists’ residencies during which they design, engage in artistic interventions or carry out workshops.  

We invited students from junior high schools in Łódź to the project Translocal: Museum as Toolbox. 16 students aged 15 - 17 participated in workshops run at the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź by our staff from the Department of Education: Agnieszka Wojciechowska-Sej and Leszek Karczewski. On 17 May Aldo Giannotti – an artist representing  Kunsthaus in Graz, project leader of Translocal: Museum as Toolbox, came to Łódź. He spent subsequent evenings meeting junior high school students at a workshop planned for 10 days. The starting point for this activity was the artist’s own work, in which he frequently designs interventions as manuals placed in public space.  

Toolbox project is supposed to ask questions about the museum of the -future – its role, format but also about the museum’s raison d’etre. Aldo Giannotti proposed joint reflection on the future of the institution; the answer was to be given as a slogan, statement or question placed in the public space. The content resulted from young people’s searches and ideas. In response to inscriptions scattered throughout the city space they were trying to verbalise their expectations vis- à-vis the museum of the future. Some of them referred to football rivalry between two teams of ŁKS and RTS football clubs whose fans wage open war on slogans across the city, e.g., “Safe Limanka” or “You can save the world, but not Limanka”. Others addressed institutional restrictions and rules: “Touch everything!”, “Scream loudly!”. Young people applied a variety of methods and, step by step, they were getting closer to working with large format printing in urban space. Finally, after long negotiations the following statements have been selected: “Where contemporary art becomes ancient?”, “When will we touch everything in the museum?”, and a diagram that is a kind of a word search game that instructs the viewers to “Find art”. Kind assistance of the Miejski Punkt Kultury Prexer [Urban Culture Centre Prexer] enabled the participants and the artist to place the slogans in Pomorska 39 in Łódź where they naturally interacted with the passers by interested in what was going on.  

Activities designed by young students in cooperation with the artist can be considered a communication model for the museum of the future. Taking account of our experience, we plan to expand the scope of artistic intervention and make it more visible in our city so that similar actions could involve bigger groups of young audience and potential visitors.  

Further stages of the project focus on international meetings of curators and educators who by using objects, prototypes and ideas generated in the course of the workshops in different countries will put together a travelling exhibition on how museum will communicate in the future. The exhibition will arrive at Łódź in the first half of the year to come. Before proceeding to further stages of the project, we are awaiting a report form the residency of a Łódź artist Marcin Polak and a curator Ewelina Chmielecka who worked in Italy in Museion Bozen in Bolzano on the aspects of communication with, inter alia, residents of the neighbouring refugee camp.

The Museum as a Toolbox programme is one of the first such large-scale initiatives of a still informal Translocal network established on the initiative of Peter Pakesch from the Universalmuseum Joanneum GmbH in Graz and Jarosław Suchan from the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź. The network brings together European museums of contemporary art based in similar locations, with similar collections, size, educational programme and facing similar challenges.  

Project Toolbox engages the following museums: Kunsthaus Graz (Austria), Kumu in Tallinn (Estonia), MSU Zagreb (Croatia), Museion Bozen/Bolzano (Italy), Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź (Poland). The goal of the network is to pursue joint research and exhibition projects embedded in local contexts and history. Tension between the local and the global lies in the core of Translocal network interest.

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