The so-called death of civilisation

In January, there was internet outrage regarding a photo of school children in an art gallery. They were sat by The Night Watch by Rembrandt. However, instead of looking at the artwork, they were all looking at their phones. Many described it as the death of civilisation.


Later, a teacher named José Picardo responded, pointing out that the kids were actually using the musuem’s app to learn more about the painting. He also posted another photo from a few minutes before showing the students diligently studying the painting.

So much for that then.

But suppose they were just checking Facebook instead of looking at the artwork. So what? As soon as old people (I include myself in this group, as I probably don’t qualify as a young person anymore) see this they ask “what is wrong with the younger generation?” However, there is no reason to assume it is young people that are broken. Maybe what we should be asking is “why is this art gallery so shit that people would rather check their phones?”

Have you been to an art gallery? It’s really boring. Whenever a group of friends and I visit a museum, we can maybe do an hour before at least some of the group are bored. Maybe the difference is that the young people, as ever, remain the most honest critics.

You can argue that young people have no attention span, because it has been ruined by the culture of immediacy. Yet somehow they manage to sit through films at the cinema, or much longer sporting events, without exploding.

I don’t know what the answer is to making art galleries and museums more engaging to a younger audience (or any audience). However, blaming the children does not sound like the answer.



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This entry was posted on Monday, August 1st, 2016 at 10:55 am and is filed under Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.