"We Don't Need Pseudo-rivalry between the Real and the Digital"

15/11/2020
On November 12–14, an extensive educational session was held in the scope of the Open Lectures Culture 2.0. In November, the culture innovation discussion has migrated online, enabling involvement of 10 foreign experts in the discussion and extending the stream to an unlimited audience. This year's Open Lectures have been focused on promoting science- and culture-related knowledge: scientific communication, improving accessibility of works of art through new technology, mass culture, search of balance between the digital and the real.

Livestream records are available to public at the Forum website and in VK account.

Held on November 12, "Museums of the Future" discussion was conceived as a conversation on modern museum spaces but turned more high-level as experts questioned whether museums can predict the future, what is our impact on the coming events, and how digitization will change us.

Michiel Buchel, Director of the NEMO Science Museum (the Netherlands), emphasized an important mission of today's museums:

"The museums used to entertain and educate. Now they give people hints on how to improve the surrounding world and help find the solution of global problems through science."

Marcela Sabino, Head of the innovations department in the Museum of Tomorrow in Brazil:

"Our museum doesn't exhibit objects. It's a museum of opportunities, museum of experience, museum of storytelling. In the museum, we ask visitors and ourselves the questions: how do we want to live in the future? What will happen to people who will be forced to migrate due to the climate change? The world of technology, robotics, artificial intelligence, how will it influence us?"

The discussion also involved Director of the Science Museum Group Sir Ian Blatchford (UK), Director of Futurium Stefan Brandt (Germany) and Future Museum Research Project Manager Vanessa Borkmann (Germany).

"We don't need that pseudo-rivalry between the real and digital things. The digital space only broadens the capabilities inherent to museums. Both journeys matter," says Ian Blatchford, thus resolving the core concern of all museum employees that museum buildings should disappear.

The next subject matter for discussion on November 12 was a comics. In France, graphic novels are referred to as the ninth art, comic books win Pulitzer prize; in the meantime, in Russia they are still treated as naive drawings for teenagers. Artists, publishers and collectors of comic books have met online to unveil the phenomenon of sketched stories. Participants include the Director of Bumkniga Publishing House Dmitry Yakovlev, literary agent Nicolas Grivel (France), Director of the BDthèque of the Francothèque Cultural Center Donatien de Rochambeau, as well as artists, authors of comic books Mawil (Germany) and Olga Lavrentieva (Russia).

"A comics is a combination of painting and literature, but it is also dramaturgy. An author of a comic book is not just a writer and painter, but also a director and a camera man," says Olga Lavrentieva.

Donatien de Rochambeau agreed with her and urged the participants to read Russian authors:

"Comic books are somehow universal and very authentic – each culture leaves an imprint on them. Russian authors need to embrace their style and identity. I urge everyone to read Russian comics."

In the end of the discussion, speakers made a personal top list of comic books which contained Les Aventures de Tintin by Hergé, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, Corto Maltese, Ballad of the Salt Sea by Hugo Pratt, Survilo by Olga Lavrentyeva, Kinderland by Mawil, The Master and Margarita by Askold Akishin and Mikhail Zaslavsky.

On November 13, the Open Lectures proceeded with the topic of improving the outreach of museums, touched during the first day's events. In the discussion "Role of Science Communicators in Museum and Culture", museum directors and research associates shared their visitor communication experience and told about the new profession.

"Science communication is transfer of scientific knowledge from specialist to non-specialist. The museum, in its entirety, is a science communicator… The difference between the communicator and the museum guide is that the latter follows the predetermined path and presents information in an attractive way, whereas the former follows a direction, based on the perceived level of visitor preparedness, knowledge, and age," explains Vyacheslav Klimentov, Deputy Director of the Moscow Museum of Cosmonautics.

Nicholas Pyenson, research geologist and Curator of Fossil Marine Mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (USA), proposed to use the capabilities of new technologies, social media and digital platforms:

"A great example of cooperation between science and history: we have dug out skeletons, photographed them and created a 3d model. And this information goes further, it is available to everyone online."

Other participants of the discussion were Mikko Millikoski, CEO of the Eureka Science Museum in Finland, Wiebke Rössig, research associate of the Berlin Natural History Museum, and Anna Klyukina, Director of the State Darwin Museum. The speakers have come to a conclusion that the museum should transcend its traditional role of an exhibition hall and become a venue for education, exchange of ideas and interpersonal communication.

The next discussion touches the interests of those who live in cities. Design Code and Visual Wholeness of Cities: how does a comfortable urban space look like, who is entitled to establish the infrastructure norms, now to build a dialogues between citizens and the administration. Experts participating in the discussion can provide a competent opinion on these matters: Moscow Chief Architect Sergey Kuznetsov, Director of the MARCH Architecture School Nikita Tokarev, urban historian Leo Hollis (UK), Head of Architecture & Built Environment in Design Council Tom Perry (UK).

Leo Hollis started a discussion with a provocation:

"A design code is the complete opposite to what a city should be. Introducing an urban regulation will most probably fail."

Opinion of a Moscow architect:

"Design code can be not a stringent regulation but rules of the road: as long as you fulfil them, you are not penalized. I can see that some rules bring great benefit: signboard placement rules, regulations for summer cafes, instruction No. 305 on residential construction standards in Moscow. They lighten the permission burden for businesses and state structures. But we are not going to regulate the appearance of buildings. This would limit the architects and developers and diminish the city's opportunities."

In this context, Sergey Kuznetsov mentions Zaryadye Park project: "As far as I can see, the design code can influence even people's attitude to life, or shape values. I believe that Zaryadye project in Moscow influenced people's mentality, the understanding of what is allowed and what is not. Imagine that in the city center, in the vicinity of the traditionally formal Red Square, a bold park project appears from nowhere to go straight to the tabloids worldwide."

In the course of the discussion, the speakers have acknowledged that the concept of a design code has many meanings. Whereas enactment of strict limitations concerning appearance of buildings will lead to restriction of architects' creativity, thus constraining the city's development, establishment of reasonable norms concerning arrangement of urban spaces can help preserve the city's authentic architecture and shape a comfortable environment. It also facilitates economic development and improves quality of life.

On November 14, speakers of the Open Lectures discussed electronic music, its future and past. This topic was delivered by Hans-Joachim Roedelius, musician and composer from Germany, Antonio de Robertis, professor of the School of Audio Engineering Institute (SAE UK), Matthias Pasdzierny, research assistant in Berlin University of the Arts and Dmitry Panov, Moscow Music School Director.

Antonio de Robertis highlighted the basic musical trends: creating soundtracks with assistance of the artificial intelligence and machine learning software; democratization of the industry and emergence of "home-bred producers", distribution in the internet, and, eventually, sound streamlining due to using the same base samples. The musicians speculated on why today's music goes digital and if any preventive steps are due.

"I have a feeling that the music in general is turning electronic. Presence of live musicians is an excessive luxury reserved for concert performance; at the stage of production, digital instruments are quite sufficient; they have become cheap and easy to use," says Dmitry Panov. He is also hopeful of the future artists. "Despite the fact that composing is now possible without knowing the theory of music or playing musical instruments, there still can't be too many successful musicians. When anyone can do music, the most patient and talented ones win."

The conclusive live stream of the three-day online marathon was dedicated to the restaurants in museums. Discussion "The Taste of Art" involved Executive Director of Moscow Museum of Modern Art Vasili Tsereteli, restorator Mitya Borisov, Director of the Museum of Moscow Anna Trapkova, Associate Vice President for Strategic Initiatives in Marymount Manhattan College Kathleen LeBesco (USA), Board member of the International Committee of Marketing and Public Relations Bjorn Stenvers (the Netherlands), and Senior Curator at the National Museum of Sweden Helena Kåberg.

The speakers have discussed how a restaurant can become a part of a museum without interfering with the exhibitions and the artistic concept; how, on the contrary, it can even reinforce the impression and impact.

Vasili Tsereteli: "A restaurant has become a traditional part of a museum. Something to remember is what matters; the imprint can represent both a visual image and a flavor. Food can become a part of art, of experiencing, perceiving the art.

Helena Kåberg shared a thought that a restaurant in a museum should become a continuation of exhibitions, "a relaxing social space which stimulates interest to art and its products through food and drinks, among other things".