There is a broken feedback loop. In enterprises. In cultural institutions. Everywhere. There is a tension between academia and explorers of the world. Difference divides. Yet, buried in the multiple conversations happening on and offline, are common threads bridging all communities. The problem is the feedback is not permeating the physical and digital walls of individual communities of thought.
Last week, the Louvre Museum in Paris, France opened a new wing dedicated to the display of Islamic art. The design of the added facility may have taken a decade to build and has a modern twist, but critics argue the content of the galleries is archaic. The New Statesman claims the Museum is missing an opportunity to discuss or explore the present-day conflict or misunderstandings and has built-up an idealized past using Islamic art from the 7th to the 19th century. In a quest for cultural collaboration, the Museum missed the mark and fans the flame of belief that cultural institutions like the Louvre are elitist and inaccessible.
“It’s comforting to imagine that misunderstandings and intolerance on both sides could be placated by a round of applause for what came before. But if all we can celebrate about Islam is its past, then we are ignoring the equally beautiful aspects of its present.” – Charlotte, Simmonds, New Statesman, 26 September 2012
So, what could the Louvre do to provide a provocative and topical catalyst of conversation? The tensions between religious and political movements are not new to the world or cultural institutions. The Louvre could always take a page from the playbook of the Anne Frank House Free2Choose exhibition. This institution tackles the conversations about human rights head on and does not flinch from the insights revealed in an open feedback loop. Museum participants begin by watching a film debating the conflicting views of human rights and are then asked to vote about their views. The results of the poll are then shared in real time in front of the audience. It is an experience meant to cause disruption and ask for people to think and discuss critically about the views they hold so dear and think about human rights from the perspectives of others.
Objects from the past do hold meaning for us in the present. We have to look beyond the voices who wrote history or idealized the object origins. The new wing in the Louvre is cause for celebration. There is much to be learned from the objects contained within those walls. Let’s shed the rose colored glasses and ask the public to give new meaning and interpretation to these objects and reflect on what they mean in our current state. Share those conversations in and outside the physical space of the museum.
The Louvre is a tourist destination. Ask the tourists from all across the globe to be participants in a modern Islamic conversation. Ask them to go home with more than a post card memory. Ask those who enter the doors of the Museum to reflect on a conversation topic greater than that space or contents. The community voice will only seek to remain a silo or divided from all others if it is offered no other path. The new Islamic art wing has the community, the reach, and the clout to offer the path less traveled.
How would you suggest opening the feedback loop? Or not?