Transcript of "Didactics 101 Vol. One by the Gallery Goddess"
~ Volume OneThe first of a multi-part illumination from: The Gallery Goddess Vicki L. Bower, 2011
The first volume of a multi-part illumination by The Gallery Goddess, A character created to help impart Arts Management knowledge by Vicki L. BowerAll Rights Reserved. For educational use only. This Ebook & The Gallery Goddess copyright, Vicki L. Bower 2011.
What is a didactic label? “The term Didactic is used as an adjective todescribe something (generally, a text), thatexists to instruct or convey information.” - Darryl Bank, March 26th, 2008, Curatorsincontext.ca. ~ a museum on the Isle of Wight~ 3
Didactic labels give instruction. They are found inmany forms. They can be as small as an arrow or aslarge as a whole wall of text. Museum of Modern Art, New York City In this case, we are focusing on the labels that are placednear individual museum or gallery objects, intended toinform the viewer of origin and give a deeper understanding. 4
Key Elements In a gallery or museum most items have a didactic (instructive)label, which identifies the work. Although institutions preferencesand protocols might differ in form or order, they almost alwayscontain:Artist’s name: The Maker of the itemTitle of work: What the creator of the work named itWho owns work (often a museum)Information if on loan from some person or institutionInformation if a gift from a person or other institution 5
The Visual ExperienceMerriam-Webster defines didactic as:a : designed or intended to teachb : intended to convey instruction and information as well as pleasure and entertainment <didactic poetry>-That right there is pretty interesting... To convey, or give an impression. 6
What we are describing is a visual experience, notone written in a book or on a page, but whats beenmanifest right before our eyes; an experience ofemotion and neurons, of human reaction, not a storynarrated to us through words. Text placed before an item sometimes gives a verbalprelude to work. In some cases, this is highlyundesirable, as this could interfere with a viewersunadulterated first impression. 7
Each piece of art has a Maker Individuals that we are, each experience will also be ourown, unique interpretation. There will be variables specific toeach and every viewer that ensure each and everyinterpretation will be slightly different and customized to thatparticular pair of eyes as paired with that particular brain. As a Maker, each artist mayhave more than one meaning ormotivation enveloped andembedded into the work and to tellsomeone what to think or seebefore they experience it could bedetrimental to their overall viewingexperience, and unfair to theoriginal creator of the art. 8
Didactic at Dictionary.com:1. intended for instruction; instructive: didactic poetry.2. inclined to teach or lecture others too much: a boring, didactic speaker.3. teaching or intending to teach a moral lesson.** Please note the second definition from Dictionary.com. The LAST thing a label should contain is *solely* boring, didactic information. ** 9
Ten Guidelines, as outlined by the V&A Style GuideGallery Text at the V&A: A Ten Point Guide , from Victoria and Albert Museum, "The world’s greatest museum of art and design," in London: One: Write for your audience Two: Stick to the text hierarchy and word count Three: Organise your information Four: Engage with the object Five: Admit uncertainty Six: Bring in the human element Seven: Sketch in the background Eight: Write as you would speak Nine: Construct your text with care Ten: Remember Orwells Six Rules 10
George OrwellIn his essayPolitics and the English Language(1946), Orwell wrote aboutthe importance of preciseand clear language, arguingthat vague writing can beused as a powerful tool ofpolitical manipulationbecause it shapes the waywe think. 11
Orwells Six Rules?1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech you are used to seeing in print2. Never use a long word where a short word will do3. If it is possible to cut a word, always cut it out4. Never use the passive when you can use the active5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday equivalent6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous* George Orwell, Politics and the English Language, 1946 12
Number 6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous*??? * Yeah, that. In regards to this last rule of Orwells, due to recent trending toward a more organic approach, if it seems to suit the situation, by all means be barbaric in nature, for not all art is quiet and reserved! How would YOUdescribe “Without Hope”by Frida Kahlo? Dont you think itsbest to let the viewer tofirst see for themselves?Frida Kahlo. Without Hope.1945. Oil on canvas mountedon Masonite. 28 x 36 cm.Dolores Olmedo Foundation,Mexico City, Mexico. 13
Lately, arts professionals are taking a more organicapproach. They encourage the audience into participating withthe art and ultimately, the artist based on their own uniqueperception. An attempt may be made to evoke the artistsmessage first, before doling out technical information of form,formation, and foundation. Sol Lewitt drawings at DIA Art Foundation. Beacon, NY 14
For example, wall text describing apiece might be put after the pieceaccording to the natural flow of exhibitiontraffic. This would allow the viewer to absorb andtranslate the work autonomously beforebeing influenced by outside interpretation,thus perhaps receiving the initial messagethe artist intended to evoke before being toldwhat to feel. 15
At Storm King, the great outdoor sculpture collection, thepieces in the landscape are identified by plaques set in theground near each piece. These labels have an appropriatelymuted visual vocabulary (words on flatland in the ground) inrelation to the pieces (sculpture in 3-space above the ground).Plaques mounted on sticks up in the air would not work! -- Edward Tufte, December 7, 2003 Ultimately, the didactic label depends on the art and theartists intentions. Sometimes it is up to us to figure that out.It is our responsibility, as arts professionals to maintain theintegrity of the work and preserve its original message. I look forward to expanding upon this further in Volume 2. 16
No mere words could express the vast magnitude andthe feel of standing in a Richard Serra sculpture (this photo taken at the Gagosian, NYC, October 2011). 17
About The Gallery Goddess Vicki Bower has Associates degrees in Gallery Management (2011) and Computer Information Systems (1997) from Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, NY and is currently a junior in Arts Management at Purchase College in New York. She has worked in The Teaching Gallery, HVCC,Troy, NY, interned at the Esther Massry Gallery atThe College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY, activelyvolunteered at Albany Center Galleries, andcreated and assisted with many public art spaceevents throughout New Yorks Capital Districtarea. The Gallery Goddess, “Gallery and ArtsManagement divine guidance and illuminations,with a New York focus” came about through herSocial Media and the Arts class and has gatheredquite a following, becoming a trusted source forArt News and Arts Management guidance andinformation. 18
The Gallery Goddess On Twitter: @GalleryGoddess On the web: www.thegallerygoddess.com Email: email@example.comCopyright 2011, The Gallery Goddess by Vicki L. Bower. For educational purposes only. All rights reserved. 19
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