29 January 2014

New project: "Museum labyrinth"

Joe Tilson, "Labyrinth - Julian's Bower" (1974)
Serendipity - or rather, the search for arty faces - brought this work by Joe Tilson (in an article in a 2002 RA Magazine) into view. Tilson has used labyrinths often in his work.

Tilson "completed dozens of labyrinths, often made in wood with the path recessed into the panel, as if underground... Like the pilgrim's unicursal labyrinth at Chartres cathedral, the intricate maze has only one entrance, and only one route to the centre. It is not about getting to the centre first, says Tilson, but about the journey. For him, art is formed from the races of journeys. The labyrinth is also traditionally the underground lair of the Minotaur, and Dante used the Minotaur to guard the seventh circle of his Hell."

(The article, by Charlotte Mullins, also talks about Tilson's fascination with myth (which "stands outside time, existing idependently of our linear time-frame, universally belonging to every time and no time") and with pairing image and word, but using a language, Greek, "that was almost timeless through its longevity".)
Types of labyrinth (via)
There is much to know and learn about labyrinths, so at the moment I'm holding on to the idea that it has one path to the centre - whereas a maze may contain dead ends, or to put it another way, choices in the pathway. In a labyrinth you can keep your hand on the wall and you'll find your way to the centre, and back out again - this is a unicursal design.

It seems obvious, if you concur with this definition, that a museum is more of a maze than a labyrinth. The physical layout of rooms and cases and quirks of displays has byways and can easily double back on itself, just as the classification of artifacts, of knowledge, branches out and may rejoin other branches. Visitors, in their journeys, can take many routes. There may even be several different doors by which to enter (and leave) the building.

Why does "museum maze" not appeal, even as a working title? Possibly maze has inappropriate connotations - playfulness (museums should be serious??) ... pointlessness ... wasted time ... or even, puzzle versus pilgrimage ...

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