"What does it mean for a museum to be responsive"?
COP26 | MUSEUMS | COMPETITION ENTRY | SPECULATIVE | CLIMATE ACTION
Reimagining Museums for
Climate Action, 2020
Featured in the Longlist for the RMCA 2020 competition
'The Responsive Museum' was a competition entry for 'Reimagining Museums for Climate Action 2020'- a project contributing to COP26 to be hosted in the UK (Glasgow).
The proposal was birthed around the central idea of not creating new forms, but to rethink how can museums could leverage their existing resources to become responsive. Could we create a living, breathing model for all museums which response to our current climate context?\
Yasmeen Ayyashi, Ekta Raheja, Prachi Joshi
Visual Design:: Yasmeen Ayyashi
Illustrations: Prachi Joshi
“How?” is probably the most pressing question today within the context of reversing the effects of global climate change. The ambiguity of the answers to that question is where most inaction is rooted, but rather than letting the story stagnate there, we see an opportunity to turn the moment of acknowledging that lack of clarity as the key to catalysing action.
Our proposal relies on museums acknowledging that they don’t have all the answers, and pledging to stand with whoever is willing to search for them, thus empowering visitors to engage in that search, and to rally the public, in hopes of creating cascading movements. We aim to convert museums from temples of knowledge and answers, to places for questions and action. A humbling step down from a pedestal, is a step up to opening up spaces for experimentation, inclusion, and collective action, and to brazenly confront our present ‘earthly’ reality.
It is not enough to create these spaces without highlighting the urgency for action. To do that, the symbiote leverages the museum's collection to shift the narrative towards one centred around personal accountability, by transforming it into a tool for gauging the current state of (in)action towards climate justice. Based on IoT interconnectivity, the museum experience starts with an assessment of each visitor’s lifestyle choices, and the ‘weight’ of the climate injustice that they’ve contributed to.
It uses material provenance to localise those injustices on a world map, and denies the visitor access to any content that stems from the most affected areas, rendering it ‘lost’ to climate injustice. The museum urges visitors to take action in order to recover the lost content, and unlock the full museum experience. It provides visitors with guidance on how to approach issues that have been diagnosed through their assessment, and helps them identify their preferred route of action. The museum becomes a breathing entity that shrinks & expands, signalling the urgency of the climate threat with its rapid and shallow “breathing”, prompting increased action.
A data visualisation in each of the Tinker Labs enables visitors to track action in labs around the world, gauging our position in relation to the zero hour. Consciously designed as a 10-year model only, these symbiotes work collectively as one, to remind the world of the need for positive action, as little or as large, while also forcing them to pick a future: one where we’ve already crossed the point of no return, or one where we’ve collectively risen to the challenge and saved our planet.
The Quintessential Museum EXPERIENCE
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Weight of Climate Injustice
1. THE CONFRONTATION
We imagine a future where every form of production is required to demonstrate absolute transparency with regards to provenance of materiality.
In our intended museum experience, the visitor is scanned at the entrance for every 'material' possession they carry at the time (clothing, footwear, makeup, food/ beverage item, bag and its articles etc.). The visitor is also asked to respond to a diagnostic tool that factors their lifestyle choices into the assessment.
The scan cultivates an extensive data provenance map to determine the "weight of choices" on the planet, resource usage, social and material weight, and role in climate injustice.
A Museum holds its breath
2. THE CALL TO ACTION
The collection responds to the visitor as they tour the museum. Collections from communities and regions impacted by the visitor's choices are shielded from view. The level of accessibility of objects is directly related to the amount of environmental impact and climate injustice caused by the visitor.
The museum thus expands and contracts with each visit, in relation to changes in the visitor's lifestyle choices and behaviours, almost like a living organism, reminding the visitor that their actions have had and continue to have consequences.
NOW. ACT. NOW.
3. THE SYMBIOSIS
The now restricted version of the museum that is then available to the visitor warns them of the need and urgency to act, now. It invites them to consider different forms of action that they could take, rallying behind them as their +1 for any action they want to take towards climate justice.
The justice is in the action to change.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier
4. COLLECTIVE WORK-IN-PROGRESS
The visitor heads to The Tinker Lab to atone for their injustices. The museum, in turn, acts as the catalyst, facilitator and launch point for any action that visitor(s) plan or take.
With time, the space of the Tinker Lab becomes an exhibit, as well as an archive, that would challenge the traditional authoritarian/didactic model of exhibitions. Rather than presenting itself as a finalised work, it is positioned as a continuous WIP - an unfinished space - inviting initiatives, tactility and implementation. These Tinker Labs encourage ideas which fail forward and gather momentum the more they exchange hands, becoming continuously growing entities - fuelling themselves, the museum experience, and the planet.
5. IDEA TO ACTION
By implementing action and becoming a tinkerer, the visitor works towards a healthier planetary future. The symbolic blocking of objects - a reminder of the insignificance of geographical distances, and the cascading effect of climate injustice - is removed.
With time, The Tinker Lab becomes an ongoing, continuously growing and evolving exhibition of action generated from the museum.
An online data visualisation serves to track action coming out of Tinker Labs around the world, and the issues that are being tackled, as well as our moving further away from the zero hour.