As we enter a museum, we are choreographed by the curatorial rationale: museum architecture, the arrangement of art works in galleries, verbal descriptions (labels, panels, audio-guides), and the museum's tacit codes of behaviour are powerful tools in shaping our interpretation of art works, especially if we have little or no prior knowledge of art. Like choreographic instructions, they configure our movement in space, direct our gaze and condition our thought.
Working in partnership with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, I propose an experimental interdisciplinary methodology that reframes the visitor's movement in the museum space as choreographed performance. Building on my experience as a dance practitioner and a museum professional, I will combine visitor research strategies and choreographic practice to study the interaction between museum 'instructions' and visitor movement, to provide practical solutions that allow for visitor agency in navigating the museum space.
In recent years, the programming of live dance in museums is a 'burning topic' (Bishop, 2014) in museum and curatorial studies. In the wake of this supposed 'curatorial turn' in dance, it is however still fervidly debated whether dance is being used to entice visitors into an intensified interactive museum experience that nonetheless does not entail a deeper engagement with the artwork (Foster, 2015; Bishop, 2014).
Rather than discussing the curatorial implications of showcasing dance in museums, my study builds on recent discourse on the choreographic and performative nature of curatorial practices (Lind, 2012, Von Bismark, 2012, Copeland, 2013) and on the idea of choreography as an expanded practice (Spångberg, Cvejić, Le Roy, 2012), to demonstrate the profound conceptual connection between choreography and museum curating.
By asserting this connection and its potential to increase intellectual access to art collections, my research will significantly contribute to a critical repositioning of the role of dance in museums.