The link between the BM department of exhibitions and the MA Narrative Environments at CSM has long been recognized and this will be the third formal collaboration between the two departments. Our joint ambition to create world-class visitor experiences, developing innovative design propositions in support of rigorously developed narrative content, makes this a natural partnership.
The Japanese Woodblock exhibition is about to start as a ‘live’ project for the British Museum and is due to open on 16 March 2017 in Room 3, adjacent to the museum’s main entrance. On this occasion, the BM/CSM project will run ahead of the museum’s development and gives the students a unique opportunity to engage with an actual project prior to it officially being designed by the museum.
The project brief was to highlight the process of woodblock printing through the use of participatory exhibits. The aim of the project is for the students to develop and present an innovative and compelling design proposition, powerful enough to lead the museum to consider an idea it might not normally entertain. The students will learn about the conventions of exhibition making and museum display at the British Museum.
The initial research highlighted that the Japanese wood block prints were thought of as mass-produced objects rather than pieces of art. They were never valued by the masses themselves before they were introduced to the Western world. This lack of appreciation for the craft was one of the main reasons for its decline. This irony of not understanding the value of what they themselves produced becomes the main point of tension in the story. Therefore, the narrative aims at elaborating the intricacy, precision and level of difficulty required for wood block printing as well as the hardships that the craftsmen had to overcome (social and political conditions of Edo Japan) in order to produce these prints.
The story enfolds through the perspective of the makers- the main. For a more personal connect the exhibition uses two tones of voices- an authoritative third person for the government and the publisher and a humble first person for the craftsmen themselves.
Targeted at art enthusiasts as well as families the exhibition focusses on the educative aspect by making it engaging and participatory- not through the use of technology, but the use of tactile exhibits and live demonstrations and workshops.