MUSEUM 2050 Dispatches

Personal Reflections during lockdown

Magdalena Magiera

It’s been over 2 months working from home, and it is only now that we can finally go back to being with others, as in going to the office on a part time basis or meeting friends and loved ones. The news about loosening the lockdown made me very happy and I was very excited to see friends again. At the same time, I was already nostalgic, even before going out and about again. I started to worry about the loss of a time during which I was able to be more at home, with no FOMO and no need of excuses to just hang out on the couch and read (or most probably watch some series…). I was surprised how fast I got used to a new daily status quo, and how it gave me slight anxieties of losing it… The reality: after one hour into the first dinner with friends, all those feelings were gone! And now I was surprised how fast I have forgotten the past months, and everything that came with the lockdown. We humans are funny creatures 😉

When the lockdown started in early April, NTU CCA Singapore decided not to produce and programme online content right away. It had to close a show that had just opened, having been on view for only 48 hours. With the need of finding new ways of engaging with the exhibition, we decided to stop for a moment and take a deep breath. It felt important to discuss what’s happening and how we wanted to respond and engage with our community. What questions need to be raised? And how can we do that, if all we have seems to be the digital realm. We felt that the constant need for attention and presence can’t be sustained and might be counter-productive. We wanted to be close to our community, but how could we do that in times of social distance?

And then a daily reality of draining zooms, teams, Instagram and Facebook live sessions kicked in. All public programmes consisting of talks, lectures and screenings went online, similar to any kind of educational structure. Not sure we really enjoy it that much though. I loved the story of a student who really didn’t feel like attending class, and changed his name to “trying to reconnect…”Technology does fail us and it is a great excuse if need be… However, it is also an exciting moment to explore new realms, which we haven’t yet done properly in the past.

I was fascinated by what friends and colleagues were coming up with and didn’t have enough hours in the day to see and follow everything. At one point, I assume because of the sheer amount of online content, it seemed repetitive and I started thinking about modalities of sharing or creating some sense of continuation and response instead of repetition. Can’t we pick up on something where somebody else left off? Share tools, resources and knowledge more openly?

We reached out to fellow practitioners to debate common but also contrasting experiences in such a moment of crisis. Internally as well as externally we tried to learn from each other and use the situation as a catalyst to drive conversations about necessary and desired changes in the way we work and the structures we work in.

Current realities demand from us that we keep programmes online, and visitors to the exhibition have to follow certain protocols and safe distancing measurements. We are trying to form and establish other languages and methods and come up with more intimate spaces of engagement to experience and present the diversity, complexity, and dynamism of contemporary art, while questioning common life and communality in times of social distancing and increased virtual interactions. We need to think about formats that can take over where body language and other forms of visuality cannot be, to overcome emotional distance when physical distance is required. I am thinking of ways of leaving enclosed space and activate a different sensorial perspective.

With everything happening around the world, I believe that it is not only for NTU CCA Singapore a question of “What is the role of an institution today?” and “What purpose does it have and who does it serve?” Long lingering and ignored injustices are emerging to the surface and need to be addressed. We might not be able to tackle all at the same time, but we should at least try to speak about as many as possible, especially the ones in relation to our closest community. How do we create a certain intimacy, unfold and re-think modes of meaning making that last beyond the pandemic?

I leave it at that, for now… and tbd.

Till soon!

About the Author:

Magdalena Magiera is a Curator, Outreach and Education at NTU CCA. She is based in Singapore.

About the Series:

Museum 2050 has always been about bringing people together through our community’s shared passion for museums and institutional development. As the world slowly and carefully starts reopening, we are checking in weekly with various members of our broader network to share personal reflections, anecdotes and musings about how they and their institutions have been operating in the face of this pandemic. In these incredibly difficult times for all, we hope that these brief vignettes from around the world bring us closer together, and remind us that even when the world stops and museum doors close, we still persevere.