‘Masha and I Liked Everything, Except for the Exhibition!!!’: The Museum and the Problem of Participation

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‘Masha and I Liked Everything, Except for the Exhibition!!!’: The Museum and the Problem of Participation

Visitor book. Garage Archive Collection, inventory number G_2018_AUT_D5836 (courtesy of Sveta Mishina, 2020)

Can one consider the contemporary museum to be purely a space for the preservation, protection, and transmission of cultural heritage? What role do visitors play within the museum? How is the transmission of the heritage possible in the context of a constant reproduction by the museum of the distance between the ‘masterpieces’ and the public? This visual essay analyzes the relationships between the museum and its visitors. Their inclusion in the museum process—or exclusion from it—is demonstrated by means of visitor books of Garage Museum of Contemporary Art. Audience reactions to Garage exhibitions uncover a way of interaction between the visitors and the museum that is different from the one advocated by classic museology. Instead of the distance that protects the museum from the ‘ignorance’ of its audience and allows for the transmission of knowledge in a monologic form, we can see an example of participatory communication—a form of communication which allows the museum to reflect on its own activities, thus taking a more open and dialogical position in relation to its visitors.