InterCommunication No.15 1996


The Museum of the Third Kind 3/6

Telematic culture concerns the global connectivity of persons, of places, but above all, of mind. The internet is the crude infrastructure of an emergent consciousness, a kind of global brain. The Net is prodigious in its empowerment of associative thought - the thought of the artist - that aspect of cognition which leads most often to creativity. It is the intelligence of neural networks. It is leading us to the collective intelligence of a planetary "hypercortex". Art is always first a matter of consciousness, without a spiritual dimension it atrophies. The artist working with digital technologies must always be asking the question "is there love in the telematic embrace?" [*3]
In claiming to track changes and movements in culture by selecting, preserving, and presenting artifacts objectively, the Museum is actually engaged, sometimes ideologically engaged, in constructing consciousness and behaviour. The museum does not clarify our perceptions so much as codify them. Museums are never passive. So the Museum of the Third Kind, in its online and distributed form, is potentially an extremely powerful tool. We must be sure it is in the right hands. This means that it must change its role as guardian of an official reality to being that of guide to an Emergent Reality, to Nature II, and to entirely new forms of collaborative experience. Thus, in the emergent culture the principal focus of the Art Museum shifts from the plastic arts to the xenoplastic arts, the arts of connectivity and interaction. It not only brings people together across great distances, it brings ideas together across great differences. The House of the Muses must become a Garden of Hypotheses where ideas can grow . There will be plenty of groves for reflection but the emphasis will be more on action, interaction and construction, than storage, classification and interpretation. The Museum becomes a site of transformation.
Classical museum culture will mutate into a kind of bio-electronic horticulture, "digiculture", with emphasis on planting ideas, growing forms and images, harvesting meaning. The Museum of the Third Kind should thus be a hot house of artificial life rather than a conservatory of 'nature morte'. The divide between the creation of art outside the museum, and the curating of art inside the museum will change so that at the interior it becomes a seedbed for art, and in the external world an interface to the planetary network. This can be characterised as a process of "curation" which brings the curatorial role and the act of creation into a new productive synthesis.
The museum must also adjust to the paradigmatic shift in the public's relationship to art, knowledge and information, in which their role is more dynamic, more demanding of interaction. For the post-biological artist context is prioritised over content. The artist is the author of systems which empower the public to create meaning through interaction. The museum will be a part of a universal macro-museum, a global resource. At the same time it will also shrink into being the micro-museum, a neural interface as minuscule as a biochip linked to the hypercortex, as in the research of Greg Kovacs at Stanford and Michael Deering at Sun Micro Systems who are working on a radio-linked chip in the back of the human neck.