“Experiential culture”, towards inclusive and democratizing formats?

“Experiential culture”, towards inclusive and democratizing formats?

“I thought it was great. At first, with the experiential tour, I had a hard time understanding where you wanted to take us; it was just a matter of getting us into a creative state of mind. I was intellectually challenged, your approach is powerful. You’re mutating current methodologies, UX/CX. In particular I liked the notion of double empathy, which brings a new lens to the creative process, which we all look at from a business perspective.”

- Régis Assad, 1984 School of Design

“The Story Room is an indoor playground, an exploration of the labyrinth of all individual and collective conception, new representations or new things (ideas, behaviours, objects). It is a labyrinth where, getting lost and moving away, in fact brings us closer to the outcome. Some will speak of a ‘serious game’, partly real and partly virtual, where our benevolent hosts lead us… And then there is the final, a healthy and convivial aperitif”.

- Gilbert Giacomoni, Head of GIPE AgroParistech

or this 5th creative expedition, we have chosen to deal with culture, which may seem official and exclusive, with experiential design, which embodies a more spontaneous, open, lively approach. So with experiential culture, what remains to be invented?

Immersive theatre, augmented reality, digital and innovative museography, authentic tourism. Should we talk about experiential culture or the culture of experience? Do we need heritage scriptwriters or designers of confusing experiences? Together with the Scenary community, we have invented the experiential formats and content of tomorrow.

“Cultura” in Latin is the care we give to the land, and the attention we give to the spirit. According to the CNRTL, culture qualifies all the means used by man to increase his knowledge, develop the faculties of his mind, and notably improve judgment and taste.

First of all, it should be noted that for some people, culture represents a way to open their minds and increase their sensitivity, while for others it is a capital of knowledge to be acquired. Culture would therefore allow us to explore two quite distinct paths: to reach a higher state or to reach happiness?

Who watches and who shows culture?

Looking at and showing culture: Who decides what makes culture? Who looks at it, selects it, captures it? Also, who chooses the way it is rendered? Whose culture is transmitted and made accessible? And how is this done?

Following the example of the model of double empathy, the first question to be asked is: who are the designers of cultural formats today on the one hand, and who are the experimenters of the devices imagined on the other? What are the messages, visions and desires that are now being carried by these parties? Are their conceptions interrelated? Do the latter influence the former? Is this a communication channel Transmitters → Receivers or are the receivers also experimenters free to improvise in the devices designed through an intermediate area of experience? By intermediate experience area we mean the concrete and imaginary elements that are choreographed in this way in view of the encounter between the experience design and the receiver, thus allowing the experience to take place in a lively and autonomous way.

This question is very topical in the museum world and a recent redefinition proposed by the ICOM, International Council of Museums (1) poses very clearly the debate and our growing desire to live cultural experiences: Curators can either be either collectors whose aim is to acquire culture in order to make the curation of what makes society for the time? Or they can be selectors who make memories come alive for dignity and social justice?

Classical Culture VS Experiential Culture

The latest version of the ICOM definition of the museum, dating from 2007, had not undergone any major changes for half a century. The museum was defined as an object unilaterally delivering culture to the public, corresponding to a classical culture:

“A museum is a permanent non-profit institution serving society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, preserves, studies, exhibits and transmits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of study, education and enjoyment. “2007 definition

The proposal by Jette Sandahl, the President of the ICOM Standing Committee, for her part, offers an open door to what can be improvised with the experimenters, those who live the experience, in the museum :

“Museums are democratizing, inclusive and polyphonic spaces for critical dialogue about the past and the future. Recognizing and addressing the conflicts and challenges of the present, they conserve artifacts and specimens for society, preserve diverse memories for future generations, and ensure equal rights and access to heritage for all. Museums are non-profit organizations. They are participatory and transparent and work in active partnership with and for diverse communities to collect, preserve, research, interpret, display and enhance understanding of the world, with the aim of contributing to human dignity and social justice, global equality and the well-being of the planet”. Proposed 2019 definition

Who and how do we restore culture, make it appear, transmit it? We can compare two types of restitution: instruction, often transmitted in the form of speech, and emotion, which is easier to be embodied and improvised by the audience. Indeed, the public is given more room to subjectively appropriate the culture and to transmit it in a lively and emotional way.

The result is a gradual typology of 4 cultural formats: classical culture, living culture, cultural experience, experiential culture. Two reading keys are envisaged for the experiencer: the level of adventure and the level of commitment (3) to make them more inclusive, experiential and memorable.

  • Classical culture, corresponds to the formats accessible in museums in the traditional way, such as the Louvre Museum, for example. Culture is transmitted as a compilation of knowledge to be acquired in order to build oneself and live in society. This heritage is also transmitted through the education system.
  • Living culture, corresponds to formats that make an effort to embody, such as at the Puy du fou, the French leisure park for example. There, the experimenters choose an era, a show, a gastronomic theme in total freedom, and then witness the historical memories that are stirring before their eyes. As a testimony to recent formats of living culture, “LautreXperience” (4) proposed, in parallel with the exhibition of paintings by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, a cabaret of songs featuring the famous figures of Montmartre that the painter illustrated.
  • The cultural experience, or when the experimenter is invited to freely choose his or her path in an already established space. In 2013, Frac Forever at the Metz Pompidou Centre offered an original visitor experience: the public had the opportunity to discover the works on display by the glow of flashlights. This lighting enabled visitors to avoid “undergoing” the museum but to embark on a path of subjective exploration.

“Today, it’s the audience that’s become great,” says Chris Dercon (5)

  • Experiential culture brings together experiences that offer a maximum level of adventure and engagement such as escape games, immersive theatre, improvisational theatre. Indeed, these experiences stage the audience, and give a space for the unpredictable, the spontaneous, the unknown. We met Marialya Bestougeff, Director of Innovation at the Cent-quatre in Paris. She describes the place as an “aesthetic shelter”, a device that allows the actors to cross paths, to meet each other, through spontaneous practices. Recently present for a performance day at the Mac Val Museum in Vitry, the research group Dancing Museums pushes the path of corporal appropriation even further. It works to viscerally and intellectually engage visitors with works of art.

“A good experience is better than a long speech”, so without further ado, here are the answers to the 3 challenges proposed that day to Scenary, the experience design community.

  • Co-look at culture, select culture with the public, curators and intermediaries

- The Museum of Anger, the story of the little and big angers that made our society

On the initiative of committed artists who wished to collect and share the social facts that have crystallized our cultural heritage, the Wrath, one of the 7 deadly sins, is the subject of a museum. This Museum of Wrath opens its doors to the history of the small and large angers that have made our society, from the French Revolution to the present day with the yellow vests. In this museum, we arrive with our anger whether it is ephemeral or symptomatic. We share it with others, either it evaporates, or we put it down for the next anger. It is a place of sharing and listening where one learns to express one’s feelings of incomprehension or injustice. After all, “Culture is society expressing itself”.

  • Let’s co-show culture, let’s restore culture through engaging devices.

-Toc Toc Opéra, living opera differently.

To introduce young audiences to opera, the Opéra Garnier unveils a new way of discovering the great classics. At the entrance, a guide offers you 3 tours to explore the premises: a first tour to choose a costume, a second to select a fragment of music, and a last one for the set. At the end of the tours, the character corresponding to your selection is revealed: Papageno! You are now behind the lens of Toc Toc Opéra (a variation of TikTok [6]) and play Papageno live.

  • Let’s co-improvise culture, open the devices to democratic creation

- The Other festival, the inclusive Cannes festival

The Other Festival is a very special format of the Cannes Film Festival. Always dedicated to film culture, it is an act that embodies the ethical values of the artists and the public that have been evoked for many years. The jury is committed to the heterogeneity of the audience and the films by including a percentage of migrants at all levels: member of the jury, selection committee for the vote, artists, public for the reception, climbing the stairs, … The Other festival in 2020 is an exceptional Cannes format and committed to make history.

Experiential culture sketch with Dalila Daoudi for the Other Festival

What is a “creative expedition”?

It is a sectoral or social theme introduced by a guest of honour:

6:30pm-7:00pm: experiential guided tour (for newcomers)

19h00–19h05: presentation of the community

19h05–19h20: presentation of the theme, tools, and inspiring story of the guest of honour

19h20–20h00: 2 creative sessions

20h00–20h40 : 1 choreographic preparation + sketch

20h40–21h00: conclusion and surprise for the winning team

21h00- ++ : friendship drink

Is it necessary to redefine the Museum’s missions? France Culture 13/09/2019 https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/le-temps-du-debat/est-il-necessaire-de-redefinir-les-missions-du-musee

Serge Chaumier is in charge of the Master Expographie Muséographie (MEM)http://lettres.univ-artois.fr/equipe-enseignante/serge-chaumier

Géraldine Hatchuel explains the models evoked in “Le design d’expérience, scénariser pour innover”, 2018 https://www.fypeditions.com/le-design-dexperience-scenariste-pour-innover/

LautreXperience, Entre-sort forain, took place on 24/11/2019 for Le Hall de la chanson in Paris. Conceived by Serge Hureau and Olivier Hussenet on the occasion of the 200th birthday of the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Chris Dercon, former Director of the Tate Modern, and currently President of the RMN-Grand Palais https://www.lemonde.fr/culture/article/2019/06/07/chris-dercon-adapter-le-grand-palais-aux-nouveaux-publics_5472655_3246.html

Tik Tok — Make you day, is a music video sharing and networking application for teenagers https://www.tiktok.com/fr/

We make (and teach) experience design for transformation, innovation and strategy, the perfect mix of innovation management, design and living arts

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