In his essay, The Imaginary Museum, André Malraux says that “the museum is one of the places that give the highest idea of man”. The French writer not only takes into account the primary meaning of the museum, as a space which gathers works of art, but also as a recollection of certain impressions and emotions that the visitor gathers and which altogether make up the “imaginary museum”. A similar concept, which is the result of a partnership between nine cultural institutions and the Ministry of Culture in France, is Micro-Folies. Initiated by Didier Fusillier, managing director of the Park and Grande Halle de la Villette, Micro-Folie presents the museum as a living space housing the direct interaction between the audience and the art object, a space in which experiences and emotions are born thanks to digital technology. The dominant feeling is no longer that of venerating the works of the past, but that of curiosity and the need to know. This very interesting idea will also be implemented in Sibiu during the International Theatre Festival at Casa Artelor, Piața Mică no. 21, where visitors will have the possibility to discover international and Romanian heritage art objects, to develop their creativity in workshops inspired by Romanian folk art or to have unique experiences with VR technology. Rebecca Bouillou, project manager of La Villette Park, was kind enough to grant us an interview about this project.
The Micro-Folie project presents a new perspective on the concept of museum. In what way does it change the relationship between the art object and its audience?
Rebecca Bouillou: From our point of view, the digital museum, which is at the heart of Micro-Folie, can represent an introduction to the museum experience. The digital museum will never replace the direct relationship with the art object itself. The project does not propose to do that but it wants to offer every visitor, irrespective of their geographical, social and psychological status, a first contact with works that, normally, they wouldn’t have had the chance to discover. We are employing digital tools that serve to democratize culture because we wish to make artworks that are part of our universal heritage available to everyone. The digital museum will never replace the visit to a real museum where you can see the artworks with your own eyes.
You have already answered a question I was meaning to ask you. Do you believe that art will survive in its traditional, classical form? What will become of art in the digital age?
Rebecca Bouillou: It is interesting that art and technology coexist in the Micro-Folie project. Using digital tools we can discover traditional art while also holding workshops. For example, in the Micro-Folie Sibiu hosted by the ASTRA Museum there will be a new section that did not exist last year and it offers to the possibility of creating prints of traditional Romanian motifs on T-shirts. We will also make 3D printing available for working with the traditional Romanian object that excellently represents the ASTRA Museum. By trying to revive and bring people closer to folk art in this way, we are looking to feed the curiosity of the public, to establish a connection between the past and the present, to show how tradition continues to nurture contemporary art. We are certain that the audience will be inventive in harnessing the human, crafting and traditional heritage of ASTRA Museum, that they will see it in a different light through the medium of machines, prints, textiles, etc.
What does the educational character of the project consist of and what kind of education does it promote?
Rebecca Bouillou: This project would not have been possible without the presence of a mediator or an animator. The works of art need explanations because Micro-Folie is a space where ideas are exchanged and discussions take place. In the digital museum all the explanatory texts are written by conservation professionals working in museums, by experts, but we are very much counting on the curiosity of animators and mediators on site to find out more and to search for information in museums that are close by or in books, at the library. We must understand that artworks are not so remote from us, that they do not only appeal to educated people or to those who have studied extensively but that they can impress and be interesting for all of us. Through this digital museum we wanted to offer an easier approach. You don’t really need to be familiar with many cultural codes to understand a work of art, sometimes it is enough to look at it with curiosity and to have the desire to know more about it. The mediators that are there at Micro-Folie can incite people to find out more.
Is the project meant for a certain age group in particular?
Rebecca Bouillou: No, the project is designed for all ages but, for us, it is very important to sustain a playful dimension of the digital museum, because the works of art are meant to be enjoyed in a fun manner. They are not something austere, reserved only for the intellectual elites. Everyone can enjoy them and visitors can discover them better by having fun. Color games and puzzles help to focus the attention on a certain work of art, they are meant to enhance details and elements that perhaps wouldn’t have been noticed otherwise. The playful dimension is very important and we will continue to develop it, to bring new playful content to this museum.
How would you respond to those who might say that a playful approach to art is synonymous with the lack of respect towards it?
Rebecca Bouillou: I would say that, on the contrary, this is a way of better discovering an artistic object. The playful dimension allows us to awaken the interest of young people, especially, to attract them and to stimulate them, but there are also adults who are amused by the games we have developed for children. In the digital museum, the visitors have fun, they discover the works and then, hopefully, they will try to find out more about the artworks in nearby museums. For example, those in Brukenthal Museum or ASTRA Museum in Sibiu, but there are a lot of museums all over Romania. People can start by visiting museums that are close to them and maybe one day they will step into museums in France or others all over the world. We hope that Micro-Folie will stir their curiosity to go and discover them for themselves.