Decode: Digital Design Sensations(V&A, 2009)
Critical Analysis : Aims ofDecodeExhibition
Translating V&A’s Values? Or Transforming V&A’s Future?
Concise Curatorial Objectives
How to Meet the Aims? -Decode’s Strategies
Objective 1: Devise a Digital Curatorial Concept - Manifest Leading Role
Solution 1: Encompassing Curatorial Concept - Code. Interactivity. Network
Objective 2: Devise a Digital Marketing Tool - Raise Wider Awareness
Solution 2: Recode Decode - Open Source Exhibition Identity Campaign
Objective 3: Achieve Integrity in Digital Realm - Open Experiences
Solution 3: Expand 3 Themes for Discourses
Objective 4: Bridging to V&A’s Digital Future
Solution 4: Tasters for Future Developments
Appendix - Image Sources
Bibliography ( word count : 4,998)
Decode: Digital Design Sensation was V&A’s large-scale debut digital exhibition in its culture. From a curatorial angle, it was not just an exhibition to inform the new trend of digital art and design, but it also acted as a milestone for the museum to change its face and maintain a world’s leading role in art and design field. With this mission in mind, the whole situation became unique.
This essay aims to investigate how this situation has affected the curatorial approach, and analyze the exhibition’s forward-looking objectives, then go more in-depth to find out how curators came up with wise decisions to meet those objectives. The discussion will focus on four main areas of Decode ’s achievements, and zoom in to look at the essentials for the success: Firstly, the encompassing curatorial idea - Code, Interactivity, Network. Secondly, their bold marketing solution Recode Decode campaign. Thirdly, its collaborative platform which both achieving integrity of content and allowing openness for discourses. Lastly, its underlying agenda to bridge to the future. Throughout to the end, the essay unfolds a whole picture of Decode ’s missionary accomplishment that had manifested V&A’s evolvement into its digital culture.
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
Fig. 1Chosen exhibition for this essay’s discussion
Decode: Digital Design Sensation (V&A, 2009)
Decode: Digital Design Sensations (V&A, 2009)
‘The contemporary programmes section was incredibly successful in helping to reposition the V&A as a contemporary institution.”1 Louise Shannon
Curator, Deputy Head of Contemporary Programmes, V&A
Decode: Digital Design Sensations was Victoria and Albert Museum‘s first exhibition devoted to digital art and design, organized in partnership with SAP, primarily held in Porter Gallery in 2009. Co-curated by V&A’s Louise Shannon and Shane Walter, Director of UK’s leading digital media agency Onedotzero, the exhibition had created a huge buzz in London’s digital exhibition scene. According to the record in V&A ’ s Annual Report and Accounts 2009-2010, Decode attracted up to 94,500 visits2 throughout just four month’s time, setting a key milestone in V&A’s digital exhibition culture.
To get a glimpse into preparation time of Decode, its backbone mission related to V&A was the primary consideration. Susan Lambert, Chief Curator of Contemporary Design of V&A, had pointed out that ‘the role of the Museum was thus to engage and inform people throughout the chain in order to improve the international competitiveness of basic British industries’3. On top of that, however, Decode bear more responsibilities than that. When curator Shannon was in charge of Decode, she clearly knew that ‘her new role will allow the museum to better exploit its digital collections.’4 Correspondingly, Martin Roth, as the new Museum Director of V&A had also reassured that those new curatorial positions, such
as Shannon’s, ‘are essential [...] to create a meaningful legacy for the future and to maintain its status as the world’s leading museum of art and design.’5
Broadly speaking, Decode was much more than an exhibition to reflect the digital trend, and it acted as a stepping stone for V&A’s future. Whatever the solutions were, they carried a crystal-clear mission to lead the field. How did Decode exhibition refine V&A’s core values and achieve its forward-looking objectives in such critical moment? That is really worthwhile to unpack its strategies and understand its success elements.
This essay is to analyze the core aims of Decode exhibition that derived from V&A’s tradition, and further investigate how this exhibition had met its curatorial objectives, to create a new scene in museum-level experience.
The discussion will be carried out in two sections. Section one will be an overall analysis on the exhibition’s aims, in terms of translating V&A’s core values into digital context. Section two will be an comprehensive evaluation of how Decode had met its objectives. Four main aspects of achievements will be put into light. Firstly, the comprehensive curatorial concept; Secondly, the bold marketing solution to raise wider awareness; Thirdly, integrity of content in digital realm with an open manner; Lastly, the additional tactics to bridge to the future. Till the end, the essay will conclude that the success of Decode was a manifestation of a museum evolving itself to offer eye-opening digital experiences that had made it succeed.
Section 1 - Critical Analysis : Aims of Decode Exhibition
Translating V&A’s Values? Or Transforming V&A’s Future?
Decode, as a contemporary exhibition programme under the total framework of V&A, was inevitably a medium to translate the museum’s core values and the institute’s beliefs, but whether or not Decode was merely a mirror of the pre-set mission of V&A, that became another question. According to V&A Annual Report and Accounts 2009-10, it stated clearly about V&A’s traditional mission ‘to be the world’s leading museum of art and design; enriching people’s lives by promoting knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of the designed world’. Based on this, it asserted some points for the whole museum’s direction:
V&A key strategic objectives:
- To provide optimum access to collections and services for diverse audiences, now and in the future.
- To be acknowledged and respected as the world’s leading museum of art and design.
- To promote, support and develop the UK creative economy by inspiring designers and makers, and by stimulating enjoyment and appreciation of design.
- To operate with financial and organisational efficiency.6
However, there remains a critical question. When V&A was approaching to the digital age and curated such pioneering exhibition as Decode, how would the aims had been translated or even transformed to meet the needs in digital realm? As Louise Shannon, curator of Decode, took over the new responsibility for contemporary programmes, she emphasized that ‘the new curatorial structure will not be a total break from the V&A's previous setup’7. Nevertheless, that did not mean that everything should remain the same. Instead, Shannon had actually developed Decode based on the future strategies that had been set before. V&A’s aims had its transition and reformation.
Laura Parker, Former Head of Contemporary Programmes of V&A, had expressed in a seminar for Museum and Gallery Services:
The V&A is committed to developing its digital programming further.
- Supporting creative design in these field - interaction design, moving image, and digital installations. [...]
- Developing participatory relationships - interactive vs responsive, community building, seeing potential of this technology [...]
- Ambitious in scale and scope - within and beyond museum’s walls [...] Digital Responses exhibition and year of digital programming - running across the museum’s galleries, websites and off-site initiatives.8
Considering the new adjustments, it revealed a bigger picture of where Decode exhibition had started off.
Concise Curatorial Objectives:
It is important to note that Decode was put into an experimental stage to both achieving the aims of the old and new, in which all objectives were inter-woven. In order to better facilitate the discussion, the essay will reorganize the aforementioned aims, and transform them into concise curatorial objectives that required fulfillments as below:
- Objective 1: Devise a Digital Curatorial Concept - Manifest Museum’s Leading Role
Support new digital inventions in art and design, and realize international multidisciplinary collaborations.
- Objective 2: Devise a Digital Marketing Tool - Raise Wider Awareness
Optimize access to digital design and develop participatory relationships.
- Objective 3: Achieve Integrity in Digital Realm - Open Experiences
Ambitiously extend scale and scope of digital collections through expandable platform and new commissions.
- Objective 4: Bridging to V&A’s Digital Future
Establish stepping stones to build V&A’s leading role in digital art and design.
With these four key objectives in mind, the following sections will go more in-depth, and explore how they were achieved respectively.
How to Meet the Aims? - Decode ’ s Strategies
Objective 1: Devise a Digital Curatorial Concept- Manifest Leading Role
Solution 1: Encompassing Curatorial Concept- Code. Interactivity. Network.
A very wise decision had been made by the co-curators, Shannon and Walter. They succeeded to come up with a very comprehensive curatorial concept to embrace the width and depth of contemporary development in digital art and design. As Shannon had reported the goal concisely in V&A Research Bulletin 2009, the exhibition’s curatorial idea was to explore three encompassing themes: Code, Interactivity, Network:
[Firstly,] Code as a Raw Material will present pieces that use computer code to create new designs. [Secondly,] Interactivity, will look at designs where the viewer directly influences the work. [Finally,] Network, will focus on works that comment on and utilise the digital traces left behind by everyday communications’9.
Altogether, they constituted a guideline to ‘show latest developments in digital and interactive design , from small screen based graphics to large-scale installations.’10. This ambitious intention actually had led them to seek for international collaborations to accomplish the curatorial brief. Not only did they curate works of established artists and designers, but they also opened up opportunities to commission new works to extend the all-rounded types of exhibits. As Shannon responded to an interview:
It is an incredibly international exhibition. We have 35 artists from across the globe and all contributing to work in the show. But also lots of works involved a kind of global audience. So, they are inviting global participation. So, it is not just single offer in some of the works, but a kind of really global participation.’11
Through these globally collaborations, it significantly helped V&A to develop into the next stage. The further Decode ’s collaborations could reach, the further V&A could maintain its leading role. Devising a comprehensive curatorial concept like this could ensure them to get a world’s attention more effectively.
Objwective 2: Devise a Digital Marketing Tool - Raise Wider Awareness
Solution 2: Recode Decode - Open Source Exhibition Identity Campaign
‘We wanted to use the medium to promote the exhibition and to get people involved with the part. We wanted as much interaction as possible, [...] We created an open source marketing identity.’12 Louise Shannon, Curator of V&A
Choose to Stay Traditional? Or Leverage Advertising Force?
Getting wider audience was always V&A’s wish, but Decode wished to achieve more, since they wanted a world’s attention. One of the outstanding achievements was their penetrative promotional campaign of their exhibition’s identity image. Dating back at the beginning of starting off promotions, Shannon and Walter quickly noticed that although V&A had its own online blog and channel, there was not enough momentum to reach out to new audience. Therefore, they decided to go beyond traditional promotion ideology, and borrowed the effects of advertising. They acted boldly and briefed an UK digital agency Saint to create a promotional idea to advertise Decode exhibition.
Responding the Challenging Brief
The brief to Saint was really challenging. According to marketing specialist P.R.Smith and Ze Zook’s case study record, originally the brief was hoping to drive 40,000 visits over four-month period. With comparatively tight budget, the campaign should be able to inspire people to actively involve in it, in order to create a cultural buzz in the digital design field. As challenging as this, how could it be done?
Got Everyone to Participate in Art
Agency Saint has come up the idea of Recode Decode. As V&A puts it, they commissioned the world-renowned digital artist Karsten Shmidt to design ‘a truly malleable, digital identity for the Decode exhibition’.13 (Fig.2,3)
‘It was a great opportunity.[...] Digital art has always been seen as something between art and technology. It's not always been recognised as a true art form. But when you get a museum like the V&A running an exhibition on this scale, it forces other galleries to consider it as an art form.’14
David Gamble, Creative Director and founding partner at Saint@RKCR
Everyone could have free access to the fully-interactive micro-site, to download artist’s work and recode the artwork by changing parameters, in order to create his own artwork for Decode ’s identity image. Audience could then upload the original artwork to V&A’s online gallery. The winning art was used to promo in London Underground and other outdoor locations. That is to say, audience’s contribution and intervention were very key to Decode ’ s unique marketing process to make it a success.15 (Fig.4)
Generated Huge Momentum - Award-winning Campaign Saint was the most right agency that V&A has picked. What they did was about right planning. They were able to identify 30 influencers in the digital field to connect with. The small campaign grew to be big.16 According to Figaro Digital’s Case Study, Recode Decode Campaign ‘ensured that Decode became one of the V&A's most successful launches and visitor targets were exceeded by 100 per cent. It reached 1.57 million people online and was featured on over 1,100 media channels.’17 Apart from Grand Prix at the 2010 BIMAs, Recode Decode won in the Arts & Culture, Government & Public Sector, Community, Open Data, Innovation and Strategy categories.18 According to marketing specialist P.R.Smith and Ze Zook’s record, it finally attracted 80,000 visits, which was a doubled-up result.19
1 Disegno Daily, ‘New architecture, design and digital curators announced at the V&A’, Disegno Daily, (2013) <http:// disegnodaily.com/news/new-architecture-design-and-digital-curators-announced-at-the-v-a> [accessed 20/01/13]
2 V&A, ‘Victoria and Albert Museum Annual Report and Accounts 2009-2010’, Victoria and Albert Museum, (2010) <http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/v/v-and-a-mission-and-objectives/> [accessed 20/01/13]
3 Susan Lambert, ‘Contemporary V&A’, V&A Conservation Journal, Issue34, (2000) <http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/ journals/conservation-journal/issue-34/contemporary-v-and-a/> [accessed 21/01/13]
4 Disegno Daily, ‘New architecture, design and digital curators announced at the V&A’, Disegno Daily, (2013) <http:// disegnodaily.com/news/new-architecture-design-and-digital-curators-announced-at-the-v-a> [accessed 20/01/13]
5 Disegno Daily, ‘New architecture, design and digital curators announced at the V&A’, Disegno Daily, (2013) <http:// disegnodaily.com/news/new-architecture-design-and-digital-curators-announced-at-the-v-a> [accessed 20/01/13]
6 V&A, ‘V&A Mission and Objectives’, V&A, (2013)<http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/v/v-and-a-mission-and-objectives/> [accessed 22/01/13]
7 Disegno Daily, ‘New architecture, design and digital curators announced at the V&A’, Disegno Daily, (2013) <http:// disegnodaily.com/news/new-architecture-design-and-digital-curators-announced-at-the-v-a> [accessed 20/01/13]
8 Lauren Parker, ‘Interplay: Dialogue between museum visitors and museum spaces’, Museum and Gallery Services Queensland, <http://www.magsq.com.au/01_cms/details.asp?ID=298> [accessed 20/01/13]
9 Louise Shannon, ‘Decode: Digital Design Sensations’ in V&A Research Bulletin 2009, V&A, (2009), <http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/r/research-reports/> [accessed 21/01/13]
10 Louise Shannon, ‘Decode: Digital Design Sensations’ in V&A Research Bulletin 2009, V&A, (2009), <http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/r/research-reports/> [accessed 21/01/13]
11 Norburymedia,‘Decode V&A’, youtube, (2011) < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxsxGBFliYc> [accessed 21/01/13]
12 Craft Council, ‘Craft Curators’ Forum 2010’, Craft Council, (2010) <http://www.craftscouncil.org.uk/professional- development/for-curators/craft-curator-days/view/craft-curators-forum-2010/speakers> [accessed 20/01/13]
13 Decode V&A Decode Project, ‘A Chance to See Your Work on the London Underground’, Google, <https://code.google.com/p/decode/> [accessed 22/01/13]
14 Jon Fortgang, ‘Case Study- Recode Decode’, Figaro Digital,’ (2010), <http://www.figarodigital.co.uk/ case-study/recode-decode.aspx> [accessed 23/01/13]
15 Decode V&A Decode Project, ‘A Chance to See Your Work on the London Underground’, Google, <https://code.google.com/p/decode/> [accessed 22/01/13]
16 Adam Graham and Zaid Al-Zaidy, ‘Start small, aim big’, Campaign, (2010) <http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/news/1010153/> [accessed 22/01/13]
17 Jon Fortgang, ‘Case Study- Recode Decode’, Figaro Digital,’ (2010), <http://www.figarodigital.co.uk/case-study/ recode-decode.aspx> [accessed 23/01/13]
18 Jon Fortgang, ‘Case Study- Recode Decode’, Figaro Digital, ’ (2010), <http://www.figarodigital.co.uk/case-study/ recode-decode.aspx> [accessed 23/01/13]
19 P.R. Smith, Ze Zook, Marketing Communications: Integrating Offline and Online with Social Media, 5th edn., (London: Kogan Page, 2011), p.370
- ISBN (eBook)
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- Institution / Hochschule
- Kingston University London – Kingston University London, in Partnership with the Design Museum, London, U.K.
- Curating Digital Curating Museum Exhibition Narrative Space Performative Space Contemporary Curating Curator Curatorial V&A Experiential Art Museum Planning Artist-curator Cross-disciplinary Interdisciplinary Museum Studies Art Criticism Theory Critical Installation Art