One could assume that exhibitions in the 'West' often aim at representing “reality”. Henrietta Lidchi argues that arranging objects a certain way creates a myth by neutralizing the motivation of the curators. Therefore, the producers of exhibitions hold symbolical power (, 2013, p.183).
What happens if we don’t assume that an exhibition wants to display “reality”? What if it promises thevisitor the contrary of an objective truth but offers an individual, unique experience of objects? Where once there was an artefact which would refer to a distant culture in an authentic way or a representation of reality, there is now the re-presentation which is not claiming to refer to something “real” or authentic explicitly. It rather suggests leaving space for imagination and interpretation. This is what Wolfgang Kemp would call “the blank”, referring to literature theory, he means that “[…] works of art are unfinished in themselves in order to be finished by the beholder […]”. (Kemp, 1998: 188) In theory the idea about relocating the focus on the audience away from the author or the creator has already been established with ideas of Friedrich Hegel after 18th century aesthetics, moving away from considering art as self-explanatory (ibid.: 184).
Immersive exhibitions put the audience into focus by creating immersive experiences, hence atmospheres which trigger sensory reactions. The artwork and the beholder no longer meet on equal terms, but the relation turns into an asymmetrical equation, circling around the viewer and his or her emotions. This requires curators and exhibition-makers to rethink art spaces in terms meaning-making. Speaking to the visitor in a different way through the use of new technologies means to take on new responsibilities. Although immersive experiences in the art world are still rare, curators and cultural workers will need to make space for technological tools.
Kemp, W. (1998). The Work of Art and Its Beholder: The Methodology of the Aesthetic of Reception. The subjects of art historical objects in contemporary perspectives. M. A. Cheetham. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 180-196.
, H. (1997). The Poetics and the Politics of Exhibiting other Cultures. cultural representations and signifying practices. S. Hall. London, Sage Publications Ltd.: 151-223.