The ESSL MUSEUM is known for its participative approach to art education, but it has also set new international standards in the often elitist field of exhibition curation, for example with the acclaimed exhibition project >FESTIVAL OF ANIMALS< (2011). Children, teenagers, adults, and e.g. Facebook friends designed parts of the exhibition themselves and chose the artworks to be displayed. It was an extremely exciting process for all those involved in this innovative project, which will be continued in the >LIKE IT!< exhibition.
Read an interview with head of the art education and curatorial department at the ESSL Museum Andreas Hoffer to get more info about this exiting project.
Viennese people – as I have noticed – are not that active on Facebook . Why are you doing this project?
Andreas: Many Austrian museums are active on Facebook, but mostly they just do some photo-posts, contests, and create easy content; sometimes it seems like a kids workshop for younger art lovers. For me it is very important that if we do something on Facebook it should make sense and also should have a great output for people who will join the project.
Are all of your friends from the Vienna’s art world on Facebook ?
Will you invite somebody to join Facebook to curate?
Andreas: No, no, no. Never (laughs). We did a similar project in a exhibition four years ago. We decided to use two huge exhibition rooms, which were curated by different groups, while the exhibition took place and one of the groups were Facebook friends.
So basically you use Facebook just as a tool for communication?
Are you on Facebook?
Andreas: I think I’m too old for this. If I want to be on Facebook I should spend plenty of time with it, otherwise there is no use for me!
Tell me about the “like it” project :
Andreas: The project is divided into two parts: The first part is that you can choose between 120 artworks from the collection to like on Facebook; and the second – more important part for me – from all of the people who liked the ESSL Museum page and described why they would like to be the curator on Facebook, five are going to be chosen to curate the “like it” show in the great hall in the ESSL Museum. We took 120 artworks from artists who are presented in the ESSl collection and born after 1973 (so they are around 40 or younger) and in all media (mostly painting, photography, and video; no installations). We photographed their work and put it on Facebook for everybody to like, comment, and share. The pictures with the most likes will be presented in the exhibition.
Can one person like all pictures?
Andreas: Yes, of course they can, even if it wouldn’t make that much sense.
Do you think that the opinions of the regular people who use Facebook and the curators will be completely different?
Andreas: I don’t know. It’s very interesting, but I’m very open to it. Let’s see what happens. It is an experiment.
Aren’t you afraid to give the job of the curator to inexperienced Facebook users?
Andreas: For me it’s very important that as a curator you are in this small, very elite realm with linguistic codes and so on. Sometimes you should open your mind so you can see how others look at it. You can’t say that Facebook users only choose a piece of art because they like it – it can be, perhaps – but there can also be something unique with this image/person. I’m really curious about these ideas.
Is it a one-off project or you planning to do more?
Andreas: No it’s a one-time project. Somebody asked me if it should be a project for other museums, but I don’t think that’s a good idea. You can see it as a one-time experiment, but the next time you have to ask another question.
Many people create their profiles with a made-up name in the social network. Are any of your friends doing this? And why?
Andreas: Yes, some people I know do this. But I don’t really know why. I think it’s like a play. To be somebody else – you have the chance to create a new personality there.
Do you think it is important for museums to be present on Facebook as an institution?
Andreas: At the moment, yes. Probably in a few years there will be other forms of social media or communication. But for now I think it’s adequate, but only if you really do something more, not only to be present and that’s it.
Do you have a lot of young visitors in the museum?
Andreas: Yes, we do. But more children than youth. We are not a cool museum in the center of Vienna, but what’s interesting: Also young People who visit our museum stay much longer here than normally in museums.
Internationally, museums have recognized the significance of social networks and are working with them. The ESSL Museum, too, has a large community of Facebook friends who are actively involved in events. These will now choose their personal highlights from a representative cross-section of works by young artists in the collection. Absolute favorites will then be shown in the Large Hall in an exhibition conceived jointly by Facebook friends and the museum curators: like it!
During VIENNAFAIR 2013, visitors are invited to curate their own part of the >LIKE IT!< exhibition by digitally voting for their favorite works on Facebook. Christina Steinbrecher – Pfandt and Vita Zaman have made a pre-selection of the works. The top 5 works voted for by VIENNAFAIR visitors will be shown for some weeks in the framework of the exhibition at the ESSL MUSEUM under the title “VIENNAFAIR The New Contemporary 2013 Special Selection”.
Andreas Hoffer, born 1956 in Bremen. Studied Art, Art Education and Art History in Braunschweig.
In the 1980s and 1990s different free projects in Berlin, art and cultural education in Vienna (e.g. StörDienst at the MuMok), curator of New Media Art projects together with Lucie Binder-Sabha. Since 1999 he is head of the art education at the ESSL Museum, since 2006 he is also head of the curatorial department.