Todd Smith, Executive Director at the Tampa Museum of Art, recently filmed a video for the Tampa Bay Business Journal on what he’s observed as the change in how people view art. He compares the anachronistic way of focusing intently on one subject that is characteristic of his generation (“vertical” thinking) with the new wave of technologically-centred “horizontal” thinking. This brings to the fore a new challenge for art museums, like the Tampa Museum of Art, in how they educate visitors who are not accustomed to “vertical” or deep thinking. Smith poses the question “what does a museum experience look like, now and going forward for both my generation and older… and the younger generation?”
Smith sees this new way of thinking revolutionizing how museums curate their exhibitions, based on their observations of whether visitors take their time and look at works slowly or if they jump around and “make their own stories”. Smith foresees this adding another dimension to curating, in that “we’ll put the work up and tell our story, but we are interested in what the visitor is making of their own stories about the work,” essentially thinking of the visitor as the curator.
At Slow Art Day we, of course, advocate for a slow looking that fosters the “vertical” or deep thinking cited by Smith. Postulating the visitor as curator has the potential to foster a freer way of thinking that might lead to this kind of deeper, or “vertical”, way, vs. the merely “horizontal”. What do you think?