Mediation: Bonds and Narratives

“The work (of art) must demand immediate participation from the spectator, and he, the spectator, must be thrown into it.” (Clark: 1980: 16)

Based on the inspirational phrase of the artist Lygia Clark (1920-1988), I developed my role as an art educator, awakening the public’s memory and nurturing it. Visitors often ignore a work of art when they have no affectionate relationship with it. It is much more common for people to stop in front of works they already know than in front of a piece they have never seen before. How do you experience artistic works? What is an art object used for? What does this work have to say to me? These and other questions are essential and generate questions in the mediation process.

The recurrent practice of an art educator is the mediation that seeks strategies to transform the museum’s image from a warehouse of collectables or inherited goods into a space that values ​​the re-signification of artistic objects and feeds the affective and reflective universe of the public. In addition to promoting dialogue, mediation comes in the form of an experience to encourage cultural access or cultural heritage.

During a group visit I executed at the Museu da Cidade de São Paulo – Capela do Morumbi, I clearly saw the importance of having a mediator in an exhibition space when I was showing the work “Penélope” from 1979 by artist Tatiana Blass. It was a group of university students of different ages and from the history course. All the members were shy and silent, bringing only their willingness to learn the unknown and to experience the work of art. Time seemed to float, and the memories raised there began to bring narratives that resonated with that space. We spent hours there talking about the art object, the venue, the city and so on. The world moved at its own pace among so many buildings that sat around the museum we were in. During the visit, the view of that work began to change, and the magic of the public interaction began to weave a story, bringing everyone together.

But what is mediation for, anyway? Covering several axes, such as making it possible and relevant, communicating, recognising, speaking, understanding silence and at the same time promoting dialogue. Mediation is ultimately a form of experience with art. Not just any experience, but above all, an experience aimed at valuing culture and its relationship with the public.

The mediator is not a reproducer of information but an agent that encourages dialogue. It is fundamental in this process to provoke an appreciation interest in the individuals involved through questioning the themes addressed by the work as if each memory fragment were pieces of a puzzle to be built in the collective. However, this does not mean that the role of the mediator is to question the public all the time. He must build together, sharing experiences, experiences and memories that will bring the public closer to artistic work. The starting point of mediation occurs when questions are proposed to start a conversation. It is opening the doors for an exchange, a conversation, a dialogue. This educator interconnects, mediates and builds an idea together with the public.
The mediator also moves and can be the educator, individual, visitor, or art object itself. This is because mediation transforms the parties’ point of view so that a mediator can be mediated.

Mediation is not restricted to the work of art in an exhibition context. It can also exist from the texts on the walls or the curatorship. Mediation is the link between art and the public which the mediator helps to build. That is why it is not restricted to a professional in the area, as it can also happen between two friends who visit an exhibition and exchange their memories, experiences and reflections.

It is vital within the mediation process to consider that the subjects involved have different lives and experiences and different needs, which makes language care essential. For this to happen, it is necessary to go beyond the work itself and seek forms and situations of mediation, increase its repertoire, study the space to be explored/visited, know its public, and mainly, to know itself. Each of these ways stimulates mediation and enhances the public’s experience in the exhibition space.

This whole trajectory that interconnects the mediator and the public takes place from a dialogue that traces a narrative between the work of art and the public. For this to happen, everyone involved in the mediation process must be open to constructing and deconstructing their ideas.

Anderson Barbosa for London Art Walk
July 2023