MAP: Using technology to enhance your art experiences

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The opening of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) in Bengaluru in February 2023 is a moment of profound opportunity.

A new kind of museum for India, telling the story of South Asian culture through its cultural and creative heritage, MAP is opening at a time of global change.

That change is driven by rapid advances in digital technology – advances which MAP is keen to embrace. At a preview event for MAP in December 2022, I was privileged to see the many ways MAP has embraced the possibilities of being a digital museum, and to talk with its founder Abhishek Poddar and leading voices within the Indian technology community about the potential for a radically democratic access to culture that MAP presents.

Look deeper and the seeping of digital technology into the work on display goes deeper.

A visit to MAP will mean an encounter not only with historic objects of enormous aesthetic value but an encounter with the power of technology to present and interpret those objects for audiences.

This takes many forms. In one gallery, visitors can choose from a series of different photography exhibitions which then display on screens around the room. This makes a single space an access point into the brilliant depths of MAPs collections. In another, visitors can experience works as holograms, giving a kind of 360 proximity impossible in normal form.

Look deeper and the seeping of digital technology into the work on display goes deeper. An opening exhibit by sculptor LN Tallur, plays on the implications of artificial intelligence and data, merging the physicality of the object with the ethereality of the digital world.

But the encounter with technology inside MAP is really just the start. I was honoured to lead a panel, Art and the Digital Revolution, at the December preview featuring Ajit Mohan, President of APAC, Snap; Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India; Sanjay Gupta, Country Head and VP, Google India. Their sense of the digital opportunity and the possibilities of going beyond the walls of this brilliant new museum in which technology presents the greatest potential.

Social media and the web have built a new sense of scale in what storytelling can do. Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn and more, reach audiences of billions. The task MAP must take on, the panel thought, must be to do the same.

To embrace the potential of scale will be no easy task. It will mean continually exploring how to create both reach and impact. MAP is already trying that, launching bold and original ventures such as its Encyclopaedia of Indian art, a unique online resource for art history in south Indian collections. Its explorations of AI with Microsoft show its appetite for innovation. And its programmes of online exhibitions and YouTube videos show its dedication to connecting with audiences around the world.

This, however, is just the start of the journey. Completing this task of achieving digital scale is the mission of the years and decades ahead. So as we celebrate MAP’s opening we should see this as a beginning, not a conclusion. The opening of a new door to culture in the digital age and a profound chance for India and the world’s museums to resonate with the dynamic digital world.

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