In Response to Storytelling: The Real Work of Museums & Memory of Surfaces

Leslie Bedford’s “Storytelling: The Real Work of Museums” talks about the importance of storytelling and why it is effective in museums and other places. The conversation between artist Ernesto Pujol and museum educator David Henry in regards to Pujol’s installation piece Memory of Surfaces also raises many interesting points related to storytelling, collaboration, education and working with communities.

In her article, Bedford writes:

“More than anything else, then, stories are powerful because they do not fill in all the blanks. They open up a space into which the listener’s own thoughts, feelings, and memories can flow and expand. They inspire an internal dialogue and thus ensure a real connection.”

Telling stories or making art that leaves room for the audience to make up their own interpretations or narratives is something that I am striving for. It is also a form of collaboration, which relates back to the Pujol and Henry interview. In the interview, Pujol goes into details about how he worked with all these different communities, the difficulties and also the joy he had. In the conversation he also talks about “reinserting citizenship into art making”, he says:

“It is only very recently that we brought into a Western postindustrialist notion of art for art’s sake, which has become increasingly commercialized. And this can sadly be perverted into a self-indulgent narcissism that allows artists to ignore the demands of citizenship.”

Though I am still not sure how I think of his criticism towards “art for art’s sake”, I generally agree with his approach to art, especially how he took into consideration not to exploit the communities he worked for his own artist gain. The traditional museum and gallery approach to art, art for art’s sake, artist as the “auteur”, art on the pedestal with all the aura, can be seen as an operation to create heroes and gods to be admired by the people. The collaborative approach pursued by Pujol, on the other hand, is a practice to empower the people, allowing themselves to their own heroes.

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