Buy your ticket. Put the headphones on. Let whispered stories lull you. Walk through a “golden rain”. Lie on a giant pillow and imagine the ceiling was a night sky. Take some pictures to document that you attended the event. Welcome to the experience economy !
The latter exclamation was the title of an essay published by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore wrote in 1998.
The two authors give a tangible example of what the “experience economy” is and of how it should be applied: if a company harvest coffee beans and sells them on the market, it would receive 1 or 2 cents per kg. The company who treats those beans will later sell the product in a store for 5 up to 25 cents per kg. If those beans are served in a diner or a bar as a cup of coffee, than the price would rise up to 3 or 4€ a cup. But the latter cup of coffee can also be sold for 15€, if the cup is sipped on a terrace of a bar in St. Marks’s square, in Venice. The significant price difference is justified by the fact, that you are not only buying the product, but you are also buying the experience, and “an experience is memorable”.
Visiting the exhibition “DREAM”, hosted on the historical renaissance building Chiostro del Bramante, is probably a “memorable experience”, but it leaves room neither to further research, nor critical thinking, nor educative role of the visit.
The “experience exhibition” (as the curator Danilo Eccher describes it) is built upon a precise path, through which the visitor wanders lost, asking him/herself how should the artworks be related to each other and desperately trying to understand the connections between certain artworks and the act of dreaming suggested by the exhibition. The answers seem impossible to be found, but the exhibition seems not to be interested in arising some questions either. On the contrary, the exhibition discourages any type of confrontation since the visitor is provided headphones which make him listen to the voices of 14 actors that should lead him/her by the hand through this “immersive experience”, and actually leave him/her even more confused instead. The exhibition presents a variety of artists, who currently are the divas of contemporary art (there are works by Anish Kapoor, Christian Boltanski, Mario Merz, Bill Viola or Anselm Kiefer), whose artworks struggle to find a place in the topic of the exhibition and hide this struggle behind their bitter glint, or their winding forms or their shiny colors, which make them look like sculptures one could see decorating a shopping window. So the works end up being emptied of their meaning and their purpose and they are reduced to simple objects of amusement.
The eccentricity of the artworks at the exhibition “Dream” seems to have as unique aim the amusement of the visitors, who enjoy the “spectacle”, which Guy Debord harshly criticized in its visionary philosophical essay, with which he proposed "to wake up the spectator who has been drugged by spectacular images...through radical action in the form of the construction of situations...situations that bring a revolutionary reordering of life, politics, and art".
By looking at the numbers of visitors at the Dream exhibition, it is clear that the spectacle had a great success, but like Debord wished, we dream about more responsible exhibitions, where the work of art is not presented as a good to be consumed, but rather as something to be lived. Otherwise we can meet at Starbucks.