Pamela Bianchi

The Random Placement of Art: An Alternative Presentation of the Collection

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Studies in Visual Arts and Communication – an international journal / December 2016 3(2)


In recent years, the collection’s presentation has experienced an important development in terms of display methods and theoretical and ontological reformulation. From the abandonment of the diachronic approach, to the “narrativity” of the collection’s set-up, to the Carte Blanche given to artists, or the performing arts’ interaction: among the main goals, there is the collection’s re-thinking and the museum’s enhancement, through the highlighting of its “spectacular” nature. Event strategies.

On the basis of these considerations, this essay focuses on the aleatory method of presentation (based on the computer choice) and its relation to traditional exhibition approaches, as a new form of “spectacular” event. The paper studies the relationship between the new exhibition practices and the discourses of art history, alongside the analysis of historical examples. The exhibition organized by Rudy Fuchs in 1983 at the Van Abbe Museum, as well as exhibition experiences of John Cage, introduce the main case study: the cycle of homonym exhibitions, Rolywholyover (2007-2009), at the MAMCO of Geneva.

These examples, by introducing the idea of random arrangement, propose a new and different gaze on the concept of Collection, which erases the implicit subjective nature of a traditional exhibition arrangement. Therefore, a (seemingly) “non-narrative” form of collection emerges, relying on the mechanical matching and the ephemeral juxtaposition of works.

Considering the Collection as an “abstract” place of possible and endless exhibitions, it emerges not only the holistic nature of the art’s museographic placement but also a trend in the contemporary practices of collection’s presentation that chooses the new, the spectacular, the unusual.

Keywords: Collection, Exhibition display, Randomness, Museums, Contemporary Art

Biographical note

Pamela Bianchi is a Ph.D. in Aesthetics, Sciences and Technologies of Arts, University of Paris 8, Fine Arts Dep., Lab. AI-AC.

Her research interests include the history of the exhibition space, the spatial aesthetic of contemporary arts, and the spectatorship experience. In addition to numerous articles, she is the author of Espaces de l’oeuvre, espaces de l’exposition. De nouvelles formes d’expérience dans l’art contemporain, Paris, Connaissances et Savoirs, 2016.