May 12, 2014

The Basement, a new kind of moving image museum experience

During the Orphan Film Symposium at the EYE Institute, I visited their Basement exhibition. Without knowing much of what to expect, I decided to explore this free exhibit to get a sense of the EYE beyond the symposium.
The Basement is a free and permanent exhibition at EYE that provides patrons with a variety of  fun ways to interact with and experience the EYE’s moving image collection through multimedia entertainment and interactive installations.
When you first walk down the stairs, one was immediately in the midst of the exhibition space. This exhibit is divided into three different experience areas: Panorama, Pods, and Playground.
The yellow pods are the first thing one sees when you walk down the stairs.  Each pod is a specially designed semi-private viewing space complete with a bench seating area and Cinemascope screen where visitors can watch film clips, as well as complete films. Not sure of what to watch?  The touchscreen control panel in the pod allows access to a database of the collection materials, providing summaries, cast lists, and other information. For fun, patrons can also play film trivia.  This is up to a 3-player game (there are only 3 sets of answer buttons on the bench), and the game can be adjusted to varying levels of difficulty.  Some of my classmates and I took on the trivia challenge, and while we we had to guess most of the answers because they were about Dutch films, it was quite fun.  The game took a while to play as the transition between questions was slow, however once the game was over we put the database to good use looking up some of the films that had appeared in the quiz.
Near the pods is an interactive installation Body Paint by van Memo Akten. This installation allows users to create animation with their body.  Sensors in the installation interpret movements into an ever evolving composition.  This piece is more about the creation and what is felt during the experience of using it. A short recording of this interaction can be seen here: 

"Body Paint by Memo Akten in EYE", posted Mar. 8, 2013, by EYE,
On the opposite end of the room from the pods is the Playground.  Here are located two interactive installations where visitors can create short videos.  At the first, the Flipbook Machine, visitors can film a short sequence of themselves that is then dissected into individual frames, and can be printed and purchased in the museum shop upstairs.  At the second, visitors can shoot a short video of themselves against a green screen, adding in scene backgrounds and effects later.  At each station there is a viewing screen on which the finished product can be seen. Both of these stations provide another opportunity to have the experience and the creation of a work be more important than the product or its use.  Though in the case of the Flipbook Machine, both the experience and the product can be enjoyed.
The final experience area in the Basement is the Panorama, a separate room with wall-to-wall moving image displays. 

Elizabeth Alton, "Amsterdam's EYE Film Institute Offers Fun Twist on Visual Technology", 
Mar. 24, 2013,

As soon as you enter this room you are surrounded by walls covered in nearly one hundred scenes that change regularly. These film segments are divided into themes including: Discovery of the World, Colour, the Netherlands, Slapstick, and Battle. In front of each themed section is a screen with a lever that one pulls (like a slot machine) which causes the clips to jump into motion and spin before settling into a set formation and specific clips that can then be viewed.  Information will come up on the screen about the clip. While this style of exhibit pushes sound and visuals together, leaving little individual space to appreciate the selected segments, but the simply contextualized selection opens minds to the possibilities of the collection.

Overall I found this entire exhibit to be an engaging and fun way to actively incorporate the EYE’s collection into the museum. This exhibit makes the content accessible, and while Panorama is a unique curating choice, I think that this permanent exhibit makes it work. I understand that this exhibition is designed as an immersive and interactive space to be enjoyed and explored, it is not gallery display a specific artist’s work, rather this is an area to experience the EYE’s collection. This is a space that provides access (though only onsite) to materials that many of the patrons may not find - or learn about - elsewhere. And by making a space that is both child and adult friendly, it encourages visitors to explore cinema history and further the education of it.  This style of exhibit is something that more moving image based museums or exhibits could benefit from and while I was there I found myself why more museums do not feature ares such as these. 

How can curators in other museums recreate this experience? Would this immersive atmosphere be a positive or negative experience for most museum visitors? Could this onsite free access available with the pods be employed at other museums, archives, libraries, etc. for the public?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.