I’m not someone who makes a habit of seeking out museums. In general, I would prefer to spend my day walking around or hanging out with friends than within the walls of a normal museum. The Renwick, however, isn’t a normal museum, and the previously constricting walls are now pink!
Ever since the “Wonder” exhibit opened and became popular at the Renwick, I had seen a multitude of posts on social media featuring the colored string structures, twisted branches, and colorful nets that dominate the museum. When looking at those photos I always noticed that they were taken from the same perspectives, focusing on the same features of every piece of artwork, and generally beating the same images into my memory over and over.Most of the time when I, for whatever reason, visit an art museum with installations as unique as those in the Renwick, there is an element of “shock factor” to each of the pieces, or to the exhibit as a whole. The barrage of photos of the same perspectives, however, made my inaugural visit that much less surprising—at first.
Upon arriving in the museum, I was relatively unsurprised by the exhibits upon first glance as I had garnered a general idea of what the exhibits contained by looking at the photos I had previously seen. Interestingly, it was the fact that I was already somewhat conditioned to the exhibit that forced me to look at each piece from a different perspective to see if I could find something that hadn’t been seen before.
Approaching art in an environment like the Renwick’s where many people are taking photos at once was interesting in that it allowed me to observe what angles or pieces of art people found particularly interesting. For example, while many people loved taking photos down the trunk of John Grade’s Middle Fork, I didn’t see a single person taking photos of Booker’s ANONYMOUS DONOR. The Renwick is interesting in that, by encouraging patrons to take photos, the muse
um is essentially taking a poll of its patrons regarding which pieces they find most interesting.
With regard to Judkis’s suggestion that taking photographs hampers students’ ability to recall the exhibit, I think the Wonder exhibit at the Renwick certainly doesn’t eliminate that possibility (it’s easy to wander through quickly and take quick, generic snapshots). That being said, if one were to take more time and seek out different, more unique perspectives on the art, the extra focus that comes with framing these photographs would prove to be a way of memorializing them in one’s mind—not just physically.