It’s my own fault for traveling to almost exclusively capital cities but my entire time in Europe has been a sport in avoiding tourists. Here inside the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, I don’t know why I find myself surprised that so many visitors spend longer reading the descriptions, listening to their audio guides and playing on their cellphones than actually seeing the art. I keep getting run over.
You can view these pieces online, in books, and likely, even on television if you catch the right program. Why go to a museum? Is it just something to do? The acquisition of ticked boxes that make individuals feel like they are feeding themselves culture. Providing postcard and dinner fodder? They jump from one famous piece to another, quickly brushing by the rest. Do these individuals view these heralded artists because they have been told they are of importance?
Do these individuals not have interest in the artist’s journey? The general public seems to have an affinity for mankind’s (and other kind’s) journey and development when you apply this idea to film or literature. Is it our own fault for not teaching art like we teach literature? What about the artist has earned them such notoriety for their work? Do these individuals realize that they are even cheating their experiences? Does it even matter? Their dollars (euros, in this example) still help the museum survive. Is this why museums don’t seem to care?
I posted a quick tweet about my plans for the day on my way to the Van Gogh Museum and another notable Amsterdam museum, Rijksmuseum, responded to my comment about their current construction:
I responded that I could just save my visit for the next time I was in Amsterdam, when I could pay the same admission, and see much more of their collection, after their construction was completed in 2012. No response. It’s a bit frustrating when those who dedicate so much time, energy and passion to preserving and sharing some of the world’s richest media don’t even stand up for the experience and appreciation of it.
Perhaps this is a question, more largely, of differences in experiencing media. If you still purchase and read print books, are you more likely to spend twice as long or at least have a focus on the art, while in museums? How about in comparison to individuals who are strictly bound to their Kindle and mp3s? These experiences are very personal for some and less for others. Is there any correlation with media delivery or consumption?
The two men sitting on either side of me are both reading their Facebook News Feeds on their iPhones. Maybe this is why Van Gogh escaped to the countryside. An appreciation for the simple and a lack of distraction from relatively meaningless interactions.