The future of art mediation is hybrid

Jasmina JanoschkaPublic relations in art

Never before has it been easier to reach people through art, with our smart phones being our constant companions, whether we’re in our beds, on the toilet, taking public transportation, sitting in a restaurant, or on a date. Those who cannot make it to a museum are able to access art 24/7 using the internet. We are able to look at art on the other end of the world right from the comfort of our own homes. But what does this mean for art mediation?

Art, especially contemporary art, currently does not precede its reputation for being easy to understand. Art continues to be viewed as elitist and unapproachable, far removed from one’s own everyday reality. Yet it is modern artists who seek to deconstruct the current societal issues that impact our daily lives, such as society’s perceptions of traditional roles, identity, globalisation, and modern technology. Because many contemporary works are not instantaneously accessible—neither in its content nor in its aesthetic—the viewer often finds it difficult to find a certain connection to these works. The belief that we must have a certain set of skills, a certain knowledge of the artist, their techniques, or references in order to be able to comprehend art and form an opinion on it runs too deep. This is where mediation comes into play and is indispensable in the world of contemporary art.

The goal of art mediation is to build a bridge between the art and the viewer, to bring them to together, and to examine the question, “What does art have to do with us as humans?”. In an analogue manner, art mediators achieve this by directly interacting with their guests: Dialogical tours offer visitors the opportunity to converse with art mediators instead of being made simply to absorb. But how does this apply to a digital space? At the beginning of the Corona pandemic, the internet was flooded with digital tours and workshops, 360° gallery tours, and live talks. All these have in common that the participant is quickly placed in a passive role as a viewer. But art mediation lives and thrives as a dialogue on equal footing, whereby everyone is able to participate by offering their own perspectives and experiences. After all, art mediators are not the only ones allowed to interpret a work.

At the same time, digital mediation has unbelievable potential by allowing art to be easily accessible to a large audience. Most people always have a smart phone with them, allowing them to access digital offers anywhere, anytime, with many of these opportunities costing nothing. Depending on the situation, a preferable format can be chosen that suits an individual’s needs, whether it’s a short text on a piece that can be read while scrolling through Instagram, a Podcast listened to when cooking or riding the train, or a live talk enjoyed at home on the sofa. The easy accessibility of digital mediation formats allow art to become an integral part of our everyday lives. And in ideal circumstances, it makes art more fun to enjoy outside of virtual spaces.

This, however, doesn’t mean that digital art mediation exists for the sole purpose of drawing in potentional visitors. Those with this opinion fail to recognise its ability to break down barriers and facilitate access. Rather, it is about combining the positive aspects of the analogue and the digital, such as combining the dialogical principle of analogue formats with the open accessibility of digital spaces. This also requires personnel who not only have the necessary know-how, but also are able to develop and implement hybrid options.

Even small changes are enough to create this synergy: those who live stream events or provide a video at the end of an event help more people to be able to participate. If digital tours are offered in addition to on-site analogue tours, those who are not able to attend an exhibition due to either geographical or physical reasons are able to do so. Digital workshops can also be experienced sensually by sending physical materials to participants or using such things that are found around the house. The future of art mediation is hybrid. We have not even begun to utilise the potential this model offers to stimulate enthusiasm for art, especially contemporary art, in more people.

Translation: Kali Thaker
VOILÀ ist ein Kooperationsprojekt von MM, M und der Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken. Das Projekt wird gefördert von der Stiftung Kunstfonds (NEUSTART KULTUR, Projektförderung für kunstvermittelnde Akteur*innen) und Saarland-Sporttoto GmbH.

VOILÀ is a collabarotive project by MM, M and the Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken. The project is funded by the Stiftung Kunstfond (NEUSTART KULTUR, project funding for art-mediating actors) and Saarland-Sporttoto GmbH. 
VOILÀ est un projet de coopération entre MM, M et la Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken. Le projet est soutenu par la fondation Stiftung Kunstfonds (NEUSTART KULTUR, Projektförderung für kunstvermittelnde Akteur*innen) et Saarland-Sporttoto GmbH.