The Cabinet: Turning an Open storage into a Game of Interpretation

Tuesday, April 4th: 9:30am - 11:00am


Curator, Learning and Interpretation @ M+
Assistant Curator, Learning and Interpretation @ M+ Museum

Paper Abstract

What does it mean to have an open storage in the middle of the galleries? What opportunity does it pose for to exploring digital and interactive element within the galleries?

In M+, there is a gallery where 40 panels displaying 200 paintings, posters, and photographs move in front of your eyes and are shuffled every two hours. There are no detailed work descriptions on wall labels, only questions on a screen asking what you think about what you see. It is The Cabinet, an open storage system and interactive digital experience that is distinctly different from the typical white cube gallery.

The inspiration for The Cabinet came from sixteenth-century collections of wondrous and eclectic objects: the Wunderkammern, otherwise known as the cabinet of curiosities. These cabinets acted as displays for the private collections of European aristocrats, showcasing anything from historical relics and archaeological specimens to works of art, antiquities, and other cultural objects. Meant to be encyclopaedic as well as sensational, they were seen as microcosms of the world in their arrangement and selection, reflective of the particular interest and worldview of the collector.

At The Cabinet, visitor’s viewpoint matters more than what the images are supposed to say. The digital screen displays game prompt based on research on visual interpretation strategies. One of them includes Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), which gives people a chance to consider different ways of seeing. The Cabinet takes these VTS principles as inspiration and asks the visitor, ‘what do you see?’ and ‘what makes you say so?’. Visitors are invited to draw connections between the works on display and their own observations, guiding them through the process of reading visual cues. The game also displays the input from the earlier visitors, showing an accumulation of exchanges and unique perspectives. The collective in-gallery game experience emphasises how there is no right or wrong answer in art a

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