Developing an educational approach in Nýlistasafnið (The Living Art Museum) in Reykjavik

At the end of August we began our two week internship in Nýlistasafnið (The Living Art Museum). Additionally, Anna Brink from the Art Education program at Konstfack University College of Art, Craft and Design, also joined us. We were interested to do an internship at Nýló was because we wanted to explore the Icelandic contemporary art scene by experiencing working life in the museum. It was also a good opportunity to apply our theoretical studies in practical life.

Nýlistasafnið, in short: Nýlo, is a contemporary art museum situated in Völvufell, Reykjavík. The most interesting feature of Nýlo, besides its role as non-profit artist-run contemporary art museum, is that the museum is also trying to collect and archive documents, data and objects from the contemporary art scene in Iceland. Nýlo describes its future goal as being: to become the center of the community. Before Nylo Völvufell used to be a, so called, forgotten space and now Nylo hopes to be able to create a space for social gatherings.

As the museum is situated in a location where there is a need for improvement in social gathering space. The members of the board are changing every second year and at the moment Þorgerður Ólafsdóttir is the director of the board.

During the time we spent in Nýlo, there was a performance “Best Places to Hide in Nýló” by Lithuanian artist Augustas Serpinas and curator Juste Jonutyte.  The main concept of the performance was to find places to hide in Nýlo. They also had an ongoing exhibition called Adorn which presented the work of only female artists, who work with the traditional sense of the word adorn, i.e to lend beauty and increase distinction by adding, to a person or thing, with ornaments.

Before we arrived in Iceland, we already communicated with the director of Nýlo, Þorgerður Ólafsdóttir, and she mentioned the possibility of creating a pedagogical approach and learning about museum archiving. We started our first day by opening a dialogue with the staff in order to introduce our backgrounds. This was followed by a short introduction about the museum’s history and its archive collection. In the conversation they mentioned the difficulties they face in receiving younger visitors. As a result of this discussion, we came up with the idea that  by developing a pedagogical approach which encourages younger visitors to the museum, would be beneficial for both us and the museum.

We started our research by searching for key art pieces in the museum to create our museum pedagogical approach. The criteria for choosing key art pieces was, firstly to showcase Nýlo’s wide range of art from the archive, secondly they should be interesting for children, and finally describe Icelandic Contemporary Art. The measure for choosing interesting pieces to present to the children, was consideration of the material of the art piece, colours, shapes and the stories behind the pieces. However, the best way to understand a key piece is by talking to the artist themselves. So, we contacted some artists, whose pieces we found interesting for children, and arranged a meeting with them.

We managed to schedule some meetings with a few artists and the museum educator manager in Listasafn Museum. In the meetings we primarily wanted to discuss what is Icelandic Contemporary art and how do we present it to younger viewers?

The following week we spent visiting Listasafn Museum of Contemporary art in Reykjavik and we met Klara Þórhallsdóttir who is the education programme manager in Listasafn. She spoke to us about how she planned the program for small children in the museum. The meeting was meaningful for us because it provided insight from a person who really works in the field. In the dialogue, we also learnt about the method they apply when accommodating younger visitors in the museum e.g basic guidance including informing the children about the artwork beforehand and how to behave in the museum. She also brought up the method of enquiry which is suitable for different age groups. For younger visitors, according to her, it is more important to use senses (vision, touch, hearing) to explore the artwork. While for the more mature groups, she is pressing more the ability to interpret the artwork.

65pBYAbO5Ol-V2V8ild8aKlDzoF2GXxXXQdy1OmBNMmgWDuFwCEatey4X1Y4yCGhFObxAaj8ty0FjVQr3WfL7ALrepzM5lq3XsARWjvFmmkQqFiI_bvdIYpf6zhGZsFAW6cu803rOur meeting board. We spent our first few days discussing our research direction and questions for interviews

The other days we spent meeting with Gunndís Ýr Finnbogadóttir who is an Icelandic artist who also used to work in Nýlo.  By interviewing her, we got to know how she become an artist and that her current preferred medium is text. Also we talked about Icelandic Contemporary art and her experiences working as the director of Nýlo.

Another meeting was with Unnar Örn, which happened in the museum itself. His piece “Glass Arcade” was part of our selection of key piece. His concept of decay and preserving memories in postcard form, was really interesting because it connects with the concept of the living art museum itself in the “preservation” of artwork. During our interview, he shared about his life, his artistic views and more about the history of his artwork. Some of his personal “story” was really meaningful and interesting to re-tell to the young museum visitors, such as: stories about a previous art teacher who told him, “To become an artist you don’t have to be good at drawing, art is an expressive tool”. This encouragement from his teacher became the starting point of his artistic career. We found his story and the connection to the objects in the museum, an interesting pedagogical approach.

We spent the last few days formulating our interviews into a pedagogical approach for young visitors to the museum. Our pedagogical approach contained possible questions to ask about the art pieces and some enquiry methods to introduce how to behave in the museum. For example, we made a connection to the museum’s concept of precious things; where they keep their precious things and how they treat them compared to the rest of the collection in the museum. Also with the key art pieces we used a similar approach; using viewers’ experiences to make connections to the pieces.

The core aim of our two weeks internship was to plan the design. Anna Brink, who did a longer internship, tested the design with two groups of school children.

JmS72mgKzLAVkV2h4Hj23f4gIbU_6T2EXZSAOLQA7e7oETEWVefKeRJvdAL5y-AYR2u0ebDR07hSYnOyRShxoOvsSm9pLYWx1cMHYHPc_1WL9441A1Gpwv78ihZky0co5tINHZu0From left to right: Anna Brink, Karina Angelika Kosasih and Margit Jugar

Karina Angelika Kosasih and Margit Jugar are second year NoVA master’s students from Aalto University (School of Art, Design and Architecture), Finland. They completed their exchange semester in spring 2015 in Oslo. Studying in the Art and Society Program at Høgskolen Oslo og Akershus. Karina has a Bachelor of Fine Art from Lasalle College of The Art, Singapore and Margit has a Bachelor of Arts in Humanity from the University of Tallinn, Estonia.  At the end of summer 2015 they completed a two week internship in Nýlistasafnið (The Living Art Museum) in Reykjavik. The internship was funded by the Edda network.

Text and images by Karina Angelika Kosasih and Margit Jugar

Developing an educational approach in Nýlistasafnið (The Living Art Museum) in Reykjavik

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