Sven Mehzoud and Vince Dziekan | MADA: Monash Art Design & Architecture, Monash University

Activating ex_UrbanScreens: Applied curatorial design strategies for a new media arts festival

In contemporary exhibition-making practice, design strategies are shifting their focus from concentrating on the display of artefacts that provide ‘object lessons’ towards the creation of more immersive and engaging museum experiences. Today, it is becoming far more commonplace to encounter exhibitions that incorporate a large array of media and technologies, while drawing upon a variety of modes of communication. Exhibitions have indeed become multimedial environments.

While the blending of digital mediation and spatial practice in exhibitions offers new opportunities for artists, designers and curators alike, it can also create overloaded and confusing experiences for audiences that result in less effective communication. More clarity is therefore required with respect to understanding how to design for effective spatial communication in museums, especially in multimedia enriched exhibition experiences. To this end, curatorial design proposes a more interdisciplinary approach to exhibition-making.

In this paper, we will present how curatorial design responds to the challenges faced by contemporary curating and associated design disciplines involved in cultural communication. Curatorial design places emphasis upon how digital mediation and spatial practice can be more purposefully integrated in the creative production of exhibitions. Through presenting the twin perspectives of curator and exhibition designer respectively, the paper will explore the ‘contingent’, ‘dialogical’ and ‘temporal’ aspects of curatorial and spatial practices. It will discuss and reflectively analyze the interdisciplinary strategies that informed the research and development of a recently completed exhibition project: exUrbanScreens 2012. Approaching contemporary media art as a means of engaging with the social and cultural dynamics of “urbanality”, exUrbanScreens 2012 was realized as a multi-site, distributed exhibition event. Its nocturnal programme was constituted of new media/digital artworks by leading international, national and emerging artists that were presented across a combination of gallery, non-gallery and public spaces. The project was held on the suburban fringe of Melbourne, in Frankston Victoria and realized in partnership with the City of Frankston, the Frankston Art Centre and Monash University. The applied curatorial design involved in this exhibition will provide the focus for turning discussion onto more generalizable issues to do with contemporary curatorship and exhibition design that uses media art to extend audience participation and engagement.