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John Marx and Absinthia Vermut

We wanted to design an art museum where visitors could be creators and artists too


Architect and artist John Marx and artist Absinthia Vermut launched their Museum of No Spectators at this year’s Burning Man Festival in Nevada, USA, with the aim of rethinking the notion of art museums and moving away from “art as an elitist sport”.

The 1,400sq ft temporary museum was designed by Marx and Vermut and built from tube steel frames and aluminium Dibond panels by a team of 30 volunteers at the festival.

Inspired by Banksy’s critique of modern museums’ emphasis on ‘exiting through the gift shop,’ Marx and Vermut instead invited participants to enter the museum through the ‘Gifting Shop,’ where they were invited to create their own art as a gift. They then entered the main museum, which showcased a constantly changing selection of artworks created at the festival.

The idea was originally conceived for Burning Man 2020; when the festival was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the design team developed an interactive digital version of the Museum of No Spectators as part of Burning Man 2020’s digital events series.

Here Marx talks exclusively to Attractions Management about why he feels it’s time for a new kind of art museum and how festival-goers responded to the installation.

Why do we need alternatives to traditional art museums?
The aim of this project was to challenge the notion that museums are neutral spaces for exhibiting what artists do. While many museums are changing, many still function as elitist, not least because ‘museum grade art’ is put on a pedestal as if it’s beyond all other art. Investment grade art has a very important function in society, but there’s a lot of creativity beyond that hard bubble that deserves a voice.

We need alternatives to traditional art galleries and museums that embrace qualitative issues but also provide accessibility and break the need for economic justification. This led us to imagine an art museum where visitors could be creators and artists, too – hence the name, Museum of No Spectators. Here you can touch the art, respond to the art, make art and add art or comments directly to the walls.

Why did you choose to bring this museum to life at Burning Man?
A participatory ethos is the driving spirit of Burning Man. Here, people are no longer passive consumers of art, but active participants in the creative process. This provides the perfect launching spot for a museum like this.

What was the Gifting Shop?
There were several key aspects of a normative museum experience we wanted to challenge – the idea that you can’t touch the art, you can’t make art and you need to buy things in the gift shop to support the museum. Decommodification is one of Burning Man’s core principles. In an homage to Banksy’s 2010 film Exit through the Gift Shop we decided to change the nature of a gift shop and have people enter through the Gifting Shop. In the Gifting Shop you come to receive gifts – we gave away 5,000 postcards by 10 well known Burning Man photographers and 500 pieces of jewellery. Alternatively, visitors could leave gifts for other people, which started to happen more and more.

Every day we had several artists in residence who took participants through the ritual of making a gift of art. The result was profound and people flocked to the museum to participate.

There was a great diversity of artists and emotions exhibited in our eight galleries. Some pieces were playful, while others moved people to tears.

What could traditional art galleries learn from the Museum of No Spectators?
We have aspired to show how to challenge the normative practices of a fine arts museum to have a greater relevance to the communities it serves. While MoNS is unique in its desert setting with a community that specifically prides itself on self-expression and participation, our goal was to test ideas of inclusivity and access in order to see how creativity and art can become a catalyst for change.

Most museums offer a series of exhibitions of artists to inform and inspire their communities, but they don’t open this hard bubble to the average artist. While western societies value art from a distance, imagine how much deeper that appreciation might go if they also were part of the culture of art – much like the weekend soccer player, who enjoys the game, but doesn’t feel third rate because they lack the talent and salary of the professional player. Their enjoyment and respect only deepens because of their involvement.

What’s next?
Based on what we learned this year, there’s still much more work to do in order to fully understand the potential for an alternative museum. Specifically, how to increase outreach to the community and get more people making art on site.

We intend to bring MoNS back in 2023, with additional spatial definition, increased event programming and a greater outreach to artists. We will also have a stage at the end of the museum for spoken word and performance art, which we weren’t able to provide this year. l

The Museum of No Spectators was launched at Burning Man 2022 Credit: photo: john marx
In the Gifting Shop visitors could leave gifts for other people Credit: photo: john marx
People flocked to the Museum of No Spectators to participate Credit: photo: john marx
Artists in residence took participants through the ritual of making a gift Credit: photo: john marx
Some pieces of art were playful, while others moved people to tears Credit: photo: john marx
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Jobs    News   Products   Magazine
People
John Marx and Absinthia Vermut

We wanted to design an art museum where visitors could be creators and artists too


Architect and artist John Marx and artist Absinthia Vermut launched their Museum of No Spectators at this year’s Burning Man Festival in Nevada, USA, with the aim of rethinking the notion of art museums and moving away from “art as an elitist sport”.

The 1,400sq ft temporary museum was designed by Marx and Vermut and built from tube steel frames and aluminium Dibond panels by a team of 30 volunteers at the festival.

Inspired by Banksy’s critique of modern museums’ emphasis on ‘exiting through the gift shop,’ Marx and Vermut instead invited participants to enter the museum through the ‘Gifting Shop,’ where they were invited to create their own art as a gift. They then entered the main museum, which showcased a constantly changing selection of artworks created at the festival.

The idea was originally conceived for Burning Man 2020; when the festival was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the design team developed an interactive digital version of the Museum of No Spectators as part of Burning Man 2020’s digital events series.

Here Marx talks exclusively to Attractions Management about why he feels it’s time for a new kind of art museum and how festival-goers responded to the installation.

Why do we need alternatives to traditional art museums?
The aim of this project was to challenge the notion that museums are neutral spaces for exhibiting what artists do. While many museums are changing, many still function as elitist, not least because ‘museum grade art’ is put on a pedestal as if it’s beyond all other art. Investment grade art has a very important function in society, but there’s a lot of creativity beyond that hard bubble that deserves a voice.

We need alternatives to traditional art galleries and museums that embrace qualitative issues but also provide accessibility and break the need for economic justification. This led us to imagine an art museum where visitors could be creators and artists, too – hence the name, Museum of No Spectators. Here you can touch the art, respond to the art, make art and add art or comments directly to the walls.

Why did you choose to bring this museum to life at Burning Man?
A participatory ethos is the driving spirit of Burning Man. Here, people are no longer passive consumers of art, but active participants in the creative process. This provides the perfect launching spot for a museum like this.

What was the Gifting Shop?
There were several key aspects of a normative museum experience we wanted to challenge – the idea that you can’t touch the art, you can’t make art and you need to buy things in the gift shop to support the museum. Decommodification is one of Burning Man’s core principles. In an homage to Banksy’s 2010 film Exit through the Gift Shop we decided to change the nature of a gift shop and have people enter through the Gifting Shop. In the Gifting Shop you come to receive gifts – we gave away 5,000 postcards by 10 well known Burning Man photographers and 500 pieces of jewellery. Alternatively, visitors could leave gifts for other people, which started to happen more and more.

Every day we had several artists in residence who took participants through the ritual of making a gift of art. The result was profound and people flocked to the museum to participate.

There was a great diversity of artists and emotions exhibited in our eight galleries. Some pieces were playful, while others moved people to tears.

What could traditional art galleries learn from the Museum of No Spectators?
We have aspired to show how to challenge the normative practices of a fine arts museum to have a greater relevance to the communities it serves. While MoNS is unique in its desert setting with a community that specifically prides itself on self-expression and participation, our goal was to test ideas of inclusivity and access in order to see how creativity and art can become a catalyst for change.

Most museums offer a series of exhibitions of artists to inform and inspire their communities, but they don’t open this hard bubble to the average artist. While western societies value art from a distance, imagine how much deeper that appreciation might go if they also were part of the culture of art – much like the weekend soccer player, who enjoys the game, but doesn’t feel third rate because they lack the talent and salary of the professional player. Their enjoyment and respect only deepens because of their involvement.

What’s next?
Based on what we learned this year, there’s still much more work to do in order to fully understand the potential for an alternative museum. Specifically, how to increase outreach to the community and get more people making art on site.

We intend to bring MoNS back in 2023, with additional spatial definition, increased event programming and a greater outreach to artists. We will also have a stage at the end of the museum for spoken word and performance art, which we weren’t able to provide this year. l

The Museum of No Spectators was launched at Burning Man 2022 Credit: photo: john marx
In the Gifting Shop visitors could leave gifts for other people Credit: photo: john marx
People flocked to the Museum of No Spectators to participate Credit: photo: john marx
Artists in residence took participants through the ritual of making a gift Credit: photo: john marx
Some pieces of art were playful, while others moved people to tears Credit: photo: john marx
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COMPANY PROFILES
instantprint

We’re a Yorkshire-based online printer, founded in 2009 by Adam Carnell and James Kinsella. [more...]
QubicaAMF UK

QubicaAMF is the largest and most innovative bowling equipment provider with 600 employees worldwi [more...]
DJW

David & Lynn Willrich started the Company over thirty years ago, from the Audio Visual Department [more...]
Mather & Co

We lead the world in incredible museum, exhibition, and attraction design. We work across the herita [more...]
+ More profiles  
FEATURED SUPPLIER

Attractions industry to reunite this September at IAAPA Expo Europe in London
For the first time in more than a decade, industry leaders from across the global attractions industry will once again gather in London as part of the annual IAAPA Expo Europe, the sector’s premier international event. [more...]
VIDEO GALLERY

Proslide Tech Inc - ProSlide's all-in-one waterplay entertainment center
RideHOUSE is an iconic waterplay complex purposefully designed for young kids and families to enjoy. Find out more...
More videos:
Keynote | Moby Dick - Friends to the rescue! – Red Raion
Red Raion TV - Testimonial: Leolandia – Red Raion
Testimonial Richard Needham - SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment – Red Raion
+ More videos  

CATALOGUE GALLERY
+ More catalogues  
DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

05-06 Mar 2023

CryoCON 2023

Renaissance at Plano Legacy West Hotel, Dallas, United States
10-12 May 2023

Asia Pool & Spa Expo

China Import & Export Fair Complex, China
+ More diary  
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2023

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
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