Often digital museums are compared with theme parks or entertainment spaces. The mega projections, multimedia technology and the amplified sound systems make digital exhibitions appear to be more like a blockbuster performance than a museum exhibition. But it isn’t just how digital technology is presented and experienced, there are many other parameters which influence the visitor’s experience and mold their memories and opinion afterwards. In this post, I will share my personal experiences with my visit to the MORI Building Digital Art Museum in Tokyo
Museum or Theme Park?
When we think “museum”, we imagine ourselves in the historic center of a city or surrounded by modern buildings constructed for the purpose of experiencing art. MORI is a different story. It is located in the shopping and entertainment district of Odaiba on an artificial island an hour away from Tokyo. The train leaves you at the entrance to a large shopping mall. There, on the second floor, next to the Toyota Showroom, in front of the Ferris wheel, between shops and fast food restaurants, MORI is found.
Entrance to the Museum or Cinema?
Long lines at the entrance is the next surprise that awaits the visitor. If you arrive in Tokyo in the autumn or spring, that is, during the high season, you will not be able to avoid long waits. Despite being able to purchase advanced tickets online, you may still not be able to enter the museum at the promised time. We were in luck and did not have to wait because we visited the museum in the winter.
At the entrance, which seems more like that of a cinema than the museum, no one told us that the coat check was on the other side. We entered the first room with our bags. To leave the bags, we have to leave and return again through the main entrance. The exit is on the same side as the entrance. We returning, I could not find my colleagues due to the darkness, mirrors and reflections. Since the museum staff does not speak English, only our intuition and WiFi helped us find each other.
Halls with long lines
In the hallways of the museum long lines will also await you. In many rooms the entry is programmed according to the duration of the projections. This creates many lines accumulated in the narrow and dark hallways, blocking the circulation and the visit to the installations. Having to wait 45 minutes on several occasions is tiring and does not allow enough time to visit the entire museum.
The staff, largely young Japanese people, give instructions in Japanese and have cardboard signs in English. In one of the rooms, with trampolines, we had to squat down in the darkness to look at the text written on small pieces of cardboard.
Museum without elevators
The museum building has two floors. We asked the staff and they told us that there are no elevators for public use. The floors are connected by a large staircase without landings. It is difficult even for young people to climb the staircase.
The only staircase in the museumThe access to the upper part of the museum is impossible for users in wheelchairs. There are discounts for people with reduced mobility, if they are able to present an official certificate of their mobility restriction, but there are no tickets to see only half of the museum.
False interactive installations
Not everything that we were told about the artistic installations in MORI is true. At the entrance to the LED strings room, we were told not to touch the strings. This was practically impossible due to the large number of people inside of the installation. In the same space, the visitor should be able to download an application, which I did, but it did not work. Yet another technical frustration.
Instructions for the use of the app in the Crystal Universe installationSeveral installations were misleading in the same way. I wrote about these in the previous article. Additionally, it was not always clear which of the projections were interactive and which were not. One of the visual memories I have is how the visitors gestured and moved trying to influence projections without any results.
In the museum, there are no cafes or restaurants, and there are only some small rooms at the corners, which are lacking in design and amenities. There are some food and drink vending machines, restrooms and a few benches to sit on which are always overflowing with tired visitors. The visit to the museum, which is 15,000 m2 in area, can take as long as 6 to 8 hours. People come from all over the world and there is nowhere to rest and eat.
It is impossible to live that degree of intensity of emotions without resting. Eating fast food is not the best idea. I saw many young instagrammers, who were not concerned with the quality of the food, creating stories in the line. I cannot imagine how it is for the visitors of a certain age, who need to rest from so much emotion and darkness, and have to endure these conditions for more than 5 hours.
Five hundred designers, artists and musicians of the TeamLab team have created this exciting and innovative work of art. But it is not enough to create a beautiful installation. Without the concern for the comfort of the visitor, the full value cannot be appreciated.
The consumer context contrasted with the art museum concept, the high tech solutions presented together with instructions written on cardboard signs, the charm and admiration for the digital installation and the disappointment in the services and the wait times make up part of my memories and experiences after my visit to the first digital museum, MORI.