A calisthenics circuit around the Metropolitan Museum
, interval training at the Berlin Biennale, yoga among the statues in the Beaux-Art Court of the Brooklyn Museum
or in the halls of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum
: Fitness has, over the past year, crept ever more directly into museums, spaces which for centuries have been temples to stillness. No longer content merely to gaze upon paintings and sculptures of perfected bodies, viewers seem increasingly interested in going to art institutions to imitate them.
The dance company Monica Bill Barnes & Company and writer-illustrator
collaborated to create the Met’s Museum Workout. Among other things, it was a sign that the New York institution is seeking more audience participation, as it grapples with financial difficulties
Held over the first three months of 2017, the workout was billed as an interactive tour, in which a dancer and choreographer in sequined dresses led participants through the galleries while jogging, jumping, high-stepping, arm-swinging, and marching with hands on heads like kindergarteners being led to lunch—all to a soundtrack.
Before the tour kicked off each day, participants were told that, ideally, each would “feel as if you’re taking this glorious walk through nature, so there isn’t this obligation to understand anything or to know anything.”
It’s an excellent aim: Too often, museum visitors feel compelled to ferret out the “meaning” of a work or rush to form judgments about it, instead of simply enjoying the work in the present moment, the way one might behold a forest or the horizon. But treating art like nature also implies a sort of passivity toward it; it means the participants are interacting with the tour-cum-workout’s leaders, rather than the works themselves. It treats the artworks as a setting, rather than as pieces to behold and think about.