Programme for a Museum
Building is an archetypical activity, like Loving. This might refer primarily to building ones own house, for living and protecting himself from the cold or from wild animals. But this already moves us away from the fact of building itself.
There are famous writers, musicians or scientists who say they could have been an architect. It is not because they think they could have built their own house, but because of the act of Building and Constructing itself.
Constructing: not putting things on top of one another, but sculpturing space.
So, for what concerns the Museum: it is not about building a house to live in. That is probably the reason why it is called a Museum. It is however not of any interest what will be shown in that museum. Most people ask: “a museum about what?”, but that is really of secondary importance.
Space, like silence, is important enough to be captured.
The act of looking is more important than the object looked at; a bit like the eastern wisdom that: the road is more important than the destination. The museum, with its long walls, sequences of doors, corridors and stair cases, helps to look. The museum as a machine to look. Not necessarily to look at some object, but looking as taking pleasure in the straight trajectories the light is following through space. Light, and therefore also darkness and the transition from darkness to light, are fundamental elements in the museum, in Casanova. The mere pleasure of looking, like the pleasure of musing about something and not arriving at something concrete, suspended between reality and dream. Buddha touching with one hand the Earth. Musing, Museum, the house of the Muses and … Music and the silence it captures. All very much between Earth and Heaven.
There is something else that The Museum could become: some sort of a labyrinth.
(When I was a child and played with Lego, in a small corner behind the armchair of my father and next to the coal stove, I would make three-dimensional labyrinths. They were massive cubes, about 20 by 20 cm, fully packed with Legobricks, apart from a tunnel that winded through the inside and through which a marble could make its way. I had foreseen only one bifurcation with a dead-end. The cube had two small holes, next to one another (!): the entrance and the exit. The challenge was to let a marble find its way to the exit, by tilting and turning the cube. Even though I had painstakingly constructed the labyrinth, it was impossible to remember all the twists and turns and guide the marble to the exit. It was definitely impossible for others, and they would say that the two holes were not connected at all! But I knew they were connected and that gave me some pleasure. Later, I was not particularly interested in labyrinths in castle gardens or fun parks, but I was interested in houses that had two staircases, the second often being a service stair that was somewhat hidden in the house. The house of judge Vandenbusche in my hometown.
The Muoryuji Temple, near Kanazawa in Japan is described as follows by the guide book: From the outside it looks like a simple temple with 2 floors but once you enter the temple, you'll find that it has 4 floors and 7 tiers and the temple has a very complex architecture with 23 chambers and 29 staircases. There are a total of 29 different contrivances to fool the enemy such as hidden chambers and stairs, completely unexpected and reversible trap like doors and floor, escape pits. A truly three-dimensional labyrinth, with some aspects of suspense or even unrest: you get in, but will you get out?
Old Italian mountain villages, with their tortuous and steep roads, stairs and bridges, are labyrinths as well. The pleasure of walking through them is to get lost, but not quite. The house, were we live, can be seen as a small village.
Since The Museum does not need to be a house, it can be just a village; a mountain village. The building that could host the Museum develops over 5 floors, it presently has 27 rooms, that will be reduced to some 10 or 15. Three or four staircases would not be unfitting, as well as a few secret rooms.
A Museum and a Labyrinth, where on remains suspended between the concrete and the ephemeral, between feeling secure and being lost. In-between, with some unrest because we can, at any time, slide to one extreme or the other, but we never will.
There is another issue. If you talk of a museum, one sees people arriving. One starts to measure the success of the museum in the number of visitors. Somebody’s immediate reaction was that this whole Museum thing would fail without a decent parking place for cars.
First: something can only fail if it is supposed to be a success. The Museum does not need to be a success. At most it must be a mark in an advancing desert. In order to be a mark, a sign post, The Museum doesn’t need to be accessible by car. Why should it? It has to exist in the first place, and people have to know that somewhere in the hinterland of Milano, in the hills near the Lago Maggiore, there is something strange, something that is unusual, something that might create even unrest in peoples mind. People who are interested will visit the Museum primarily through internet. A virtual copy of the Museum will accompany the real Museum. In fact, you, who are reading this now, you have entered the Museum. Maybe you wonder: is this true? Maybe you say: this I want to see! If so, you are welcome.
There are already a number of such realities in the world. The idea is not “original”. It is anyway important that such realities exist. Call them “singularities “ in a world that becomes ever more homogeneous, driven as it is by the universal law of consumption and production and the making of money that goes with it. It is the task of the arts to create such singularities, in the form of objects, situations, ideas, that preserve diversity and maintain the sense of wonder that goes with it, and that makes it possible to discover. Their mere existence, even when small and hardly visible in the grey noise of the world, or just because they are hardly visible, will make some people go and look for them.
These singularities must save the world from its heat death, from ending in maximum entropy. Art is for the mental world what sunshine is for the physical world: keeping us away from becoming amorphous. Another reason why sunshine, light, and its counterpart, darkness, must be an essential feature of the Museum
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