After being at the Hirshorn last Friday, I couldn't help thinking about the upcoming "After-Hours" this coming Friday night at the museum. Actually, I was doing more thinking back on the last After Hours I attended last spring. It was a new experience for me to be at a museum for such a big social/art-viewing event. The combination of lighting, music, crowd numbers, and of course, alcohol made for an almost overwhelming scene outside the museum. Once we ventured inside, however, I had a museum experience that was completely unique. There were so many people moving through the museum and the featured exhibit that the crowd was forced to move at a certain pace. As I thought back on this experience after being at the Hirshorn again, I realized how much it felt like some kind of collaborative art-viewing experience, if that exists. While one could argue that visiting any museum involves looking at art in the company of others (unless you have the museum to yourself), navigating the Hirshorn during the After Hours event was very different than the usual museum experience. I felt more connected to the others around me by both time and location. We were all participating in a specific event at the museum and our presence alone meant that some degree of advance planning had to be involved in the visit.
There was a stronger connection between us than I usually feel to other museum-goers. And so what does this mean? Did this "collaborative" viewing experience effect understanding or perception of the artwork? Did it effect the meaning of the art for some? I think it's an interesting topic to consider. I can't help but wonder if the artists ever imagined their work being viewed in such an environment?