art user


Missing a trick? Don’t try to ‘appreciate’ art, use it!

In Lorna MacIntyre’s exhibition,  Pieces Of You Are Here , at Dundee Contemporary Arts, 2018-2019

In Lorna MacIntyre’s exhibition, Pieces Of You Are Here, at Dundee Contemporary Arts, 2018-2019

I have been talking to a lot of people recently about galleries, and it is fair to say there is widespread ambivalence about the art experience, which can be summarised as follows:

Art galleries are a wonderful refuge from everyday life, and the overbearing demands of commerce and crowds. Well-conceived shows have the power to tease you, transport you, teach you, thrill you.  

But there are burdens of expectation too:  What do I think of this – is it ‘good’ or not?  Have I given it enough time and looked at it in the ‘right’ way?  I already feel overwhelmed, but I have only seen half the exhibition.  I am not supposed to be here – I don’t know enough about art, and it just isn’t for the likes of me.

I believe that a simple mindshift could alleviate every one of these burdens.  Being an art user means instead of ‘what am I supposed to be doing?’ you ask yourself ‘what do I want to use this experience for?’  It means picking an Art User card, and letting the enigmatic prompt produce a focus - your own subconscious becomes your guide, and you get a chance to play.  The experience becomes intensive and immersive, not judgemental, not academic, not conscientious.

You’ll be astonished at what you start to notice.  You’ll feel illuminated, even though you are doing a lot of the illuminating.  You’ll feel fulfilled even when you only look at a few things.  And the miracle is, you’ll get much closer to the spirit of the work than when you try to second-guess the artist or curator.  This is because this is what they wanted you to do in the first place.

We all understand the importance of play for kids, but so often we lose the capacity for it in adulthood.  What does an adult playground look like?  Aesthetic swings, conceptual climbing frames and emotional slides - here’s a space where I can be aimless and find purpose at the same time. 

The whole word is codified – it’s about time we changed the code for galleries.  


Kirstie Skinner