Talking History — Scene Art in “Dialogue”Exhibition Hall

As an important space for spreading ideas, thought, knowledge, information, value and emotion, the exhibition hall has gradually become one of modern people’s life styles. It is a democratic shared space of knowledge and art, giving everyone the same opportunity to obtain and experience.

(The picture is from the Internet)

How to Make the Exhibition Hall “Live”? Why “Dialogue”? Museum exhibition design is different from art creation, art design, environmental design, etc. On the strength of communication and pedagogy, it is a knowledge platform created by new technologies and visual interpretation and on the basis of presenting scientific research results, to make knowledge, cultural relics and art “live”. We often discuss in the industry, what is a great exhibition? How to make a great exhibition? The definition “a process of communicating emotion and idea that can both stimulate the viewers’ interest and explain the meaning of resources.” quoted from American National Interpretation Association is, in my opinion, a more appropriate answer. In the words of ordinary people, it is necessary to make the viewers understand and feel interesting so as to sublimate it to a kind of thinking. Therefore, the realization of such “dialogue” is undoubtedly the most important demand of museum, curator and designer in the original intention of building the museum and arranging the exhibition.

But What Is Blend of Things into Scene? Why to Blend Things into Scene?

To realize the bridge of “dialogue”, apart from the regular display such as showcase and graphic video, what other way can be liked by the public who do not often go to the museum? It is undoubtedly art scene, which opens a window for amateur viewers to freely interpret the collections and learn about different cultures. Because of this, after a large number of practical verification, the scene has been rapidly spread, imitated and developed in various museums around the world. Now it has become the most common and effective means of expression in display. After decades of sensory testing, the art technique of “blend of things into scene” has been valued by viewers and exhibitors, and has become a major trend in the industry of cultural and museum-related exhibition and even in the new art media.

The application of scene art in the museum can be traced back to William Brock’s Museum in London in the early 19th century, which simulated the state of the “African mammal community” with the display of “in-situ living in groups”. (as shown in the down picture)

These early scenes have shown very mature concept and idea. They create a “realistic atmosphere” background environment for the exhibits, emphasize the creation of an atmosphere, change the traditional concept of viewing “things” in isolation or on the plane, and establish a kind of mutual relationship between the exhibits, so that the viewers produce the experience of “different time and space” or “different culture” .

All kinds of scenes after that, such as the stereoscopic perspective scenes (half scene mural) that have rapidly developed into the mainstream of museums, have evolved from this type. Since then, with the continuous development of scene technology and form, it has been widely used in museums, memorial halls, art museums and aquariums at home and abroad, as well as outdoor spaces such as botanical gardens and sculpture gardens. Some classic scenes are not only an auxiliary display means, but also a permanent collection due to the perfect unity of science, art and technology, which constitute an important part of the history of museum development and play an important role in promoting the development and progress of museums all over the world.

(The picture is from the Internet)

What Are We Talking About When We Talk About the Scene?

To study the scene, as a guard of the scene arrangement industry for more than 20 years, we should first put it into a larger complex — various exhibition halls and displays for consideration. The rationality and necessity of the scene for the museum can be clarified only when the scene has been regarded as an integral part of the museum and all kinds of displays, and the consistency between the scene and its internal is recognized and the perspective of museum, display and viewer is considered.

Secondly, it is necessary to clarify the means, methods and effects of scene art, among which model, sand table, scene box, half scene mural, sculpture, wax figure, etc. are all the means of scene art, while the rapid development of modern science and technology adds illusion imaging, acousto-optic synthesis technology, simulation restoration, virtual imaging, viewer participation devices, etc. to scene art. These artistic means can supplement the lack of cultural relics, make up for the lack of narrative and interpretation ability of cultural relics, and enhance the popularity, appreciation, interest and experience of exhibition.

Thirdly, we should know, every scene is designed to create a kind of spatial sight. These sights either exist in the past, or in remote areas, or are just a combination of images related to memories and emotions. They are designed to make “explanation” to the viewers, enable the viewers to establish a cognition of objective knowledge, conduct “guidance” to the viewers, and enable the viewers to establish a benign value evaluation system. This experience process is not only a simple one-way information transmission and knowledge infusion, but also a process of “matching” and “arousing” in the viewers’ consciousness by using the memory and experience of viewers, so as to achieve the purpose of museum education.

What Do I See When I Talk About the Scene?

Throughout the industry of domestic cultural and museum-related exhibition hall, according to the uncertain statistics, taking Shanghai as an example for the use of scene art techniques, there are more than 190 museums in Shanghai at present, which are classified into six categories: comprehensive, social and historical, figure, cultural and art, natural science and domain/industry. 80% of all museums use scene technology. According to statistics,

Figure (memorial hall) accounts for 33% of the exhibition halls which use scenes and accounts for 90% of all memorial exhibition halls

The natural science category accounts for 3% of the exhibition halls which use scenes and accounts for 100% of all natural science exhibition halls

Comprehensive category accounts for 5% of the exhibition halls which use scenes and accounts for 50% of all comprehensive exhibition halls

The social and historical category accounts for 6% of the exhibition halls which use scenes and accounts for 38% of all social and historical exhibition halls

Domain/industry category accounts for 49% of the exhibition halls which use scenes and accounts for 80% of all social and historical exhibition halls

Cultural and art category accounted for 4% of the exhibition halls which use scenes and accounts for 60% of all cultural and art exhibition halls

It can be seen, that scene art is used so widely.

However, there are still some problems in the scene art, such as mediocre interpretation of the exhibition content, rough design and production of the exhibits, etc. in the present situation of the cultural and museum-related exhibition circle. So once again, we call on the cultural and museum-related enterprises to pay more attention to the symbiosis principle of knowledge, science, authenticity, interest and aesthetics with the concept of “function first” while making and creating scenes, rather than just focus on fancy forms of expression, and to adhere to the exquisite and attractive design and production, and to withstand the scrutiny of time.

Experience Accumulated in Actual Combat, Thinking of A Senior Scene Designer?

More than a decade ago, that is, in the middle of 1999, due to the municipal party committee directive, the task of re-designing and constructing Shanghai Film Studio was undertaken. I was lucky enough to participate in the creation of all the scenes in the Exhibition Hall of Shanghai Urban Historical Development. After more than ten years of operation, the hall was first demolished and then built, was constructed while being designed with all strength of the art department to ensure the timely opening of the museum after working hard day and night. In May 2001, the Exhibition Hall of Shanghai Urban Historical Development opened at the tower of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and won praise from the domestic authorities. Up to now, it has had crowds of tourists. The exhibition hall vividly demonstrates the historical development process of Shanghai through six exhibition halls, such as the city style, the port opening scenery and the ten-mile square. The exhibition hall adopts the technology of film set and production, implements the design essentials of blending things into the scene, and implements the consistent full coverage of six exhibition halls. Hundreds of precious historical relics are blended into more than 80 scenic spots. More than 100 high nearly real wax statues, nearly a thousand small wax statues and clay figurines, in different forms of different periods and different class, are put into corresponding scenes. The creation of comprehensive art makes the transformation process of the city vividly, and makes visitors feel separated from the rest of the world. This kind of sensory environment provides the viewers with entertainment and a general experience of nature. The whole exhibition space has completed the fundamental transformation from serialization and planarization to three-dimensional and multi-dimensional space. The pathbreaking magnificent turn pioneered the industry at that time.

In terms of a small scene of Exhibition Hall of Shanghai Urban Historical Development, you can understand the above meaning by viewing the commodity display of cigarette shop.

There are candy cans for sale by quantity, vanishing cream bottles for sale by gram, straw paper, soap, matches, rattan flyswatters and back scratcher for domestic use, as well as water chestnut, diabolo and rattle drum for children to play with, etc, which are dizzying. Modern people’s state of life, ancestors’ childhood games, folk customs and civilization can all be interpreted. The reproduction of the scenes of the opera garden in Osmanthus tea garden can arouse the sound of gongs and drums and cheers.

Strolling in the ten-mile square and browsing the models of the world’s buildings, you can understand the three-step evolution of Nanjing road and enjoy the fun of being in small countries.

Think back to the time of exhibition arrangement of Shanghai Science and Technology Museum and Exhibition Hall of Shanghai Urban Historical Development. Through the craftsman’s superb skills, across history and region, with three-dimensional and colorful modeling design, rich and delicate texture performance, the “expressionless” background space was changed, to achieve the leap of exhibits to the exhibition site, so that it could complete the space simulation of remote information transmission when the space was filled with the breath of life and artistic tension. It is just like the momentary pause of theater drama, which can allow the viewers to imagine at a glance. It can not only satisfy the viewers’ demand for entertainment, but also let the viewers into the immersive thinking. Since 1999, I had the opportunity to participate in more than 200 production projects of museum and exhibition scene. In this long-term work of exhibition arrangement, I am committed to the reform of new materials and new technologies, and keep changing with the times. After more than ten years of experience, our Boyue has evolved a forward professional team in the exhibition arrangement industry, so that the noisy work in the dust filled, the magnificent scene of the battle of large forces is like in front of us.

Of course, the “thing” blending into the scene does not only refer to the cultural relics on display, but also refers to stories and themes. In this sense, the market coverage of art scene design and production is more extensive, and conforms to the needs of cultural tourism and commercial publicity. The interactive theater project of Wuhan Wanda Movie Park jointly built by us and American FORREC Design Company was completed in 2014. In this project, we considered more about how to comply with the needs of tourism publicity in the business scene, to maximize the interest and artistry, and to attract audiences of different ages through sound, light, special effect processing and other ways.

It depends on those staff who are skillful in scene production in our Boyue family. After more than half a year’s hard work, we have created a beautiful and magical artistic scene like a fairyland with overlapping mountains and peaks, towers and pavilions, being dark green, strong coloring, neat and delicate, with the classic and noble artistic conception of song dynasty’s green landscape paintings.

More Possibilities of Future Scene Arrangement in My Vision?

For the future, I am more confident that art scenes are gradually applied to art galleries, art museums and public spaces. In these modern exhibition spaces, scenes are given a broader and vivid meaning.

These spaces called “scenes” have richer forms of expression, and more new media technology, away from the traditional forms of scenes separated from the viewers. They pay more attention to the interaction with the viewers, and emphasize people’s practical feelings about the exhibition space, focus on people’s emotional needs, grasp the mood changes of visitors in the process of moving. The essence of the exhibition space is “people-oriented”, which emphasizes the dialogue between space, people and time, and builds an invisible bridge between space and participants’ emotions, and leads to an open and communicative situation, and makes the exhibition space become an experience space.

As for me, whenever participating in the construction of one “accessible” emotional place after another, I look around and sigh with emotion. I hope to integrate the emotion of designers and users and cultivate an attitude of respecting space and perceiving space from the perspectives of both design and experience, so that the viewers can acquire knowledge from space. I hope to appeal to and lead colleagues who are willing to develop and promote in the cultural exhibition industry with modest force, so as to recover the lost spirit of space.

Remarks:part of the text is quoted from the theoretical views of professor Lu Jiansong’s public lecture in Fudan cultural and museum-related lectures, and is learned from various academic forums and academic papers


Study of Scene Display Techniques

Analysis on Common Display Methods of Domestic Museums

On Scene Restoration in American Museum Exhibitions