donderdag 6 januari 2011

Alexander the Great

2011 for me started with a good conversation. Yesterday I was asked which exhibition I visited most recently, what I thought about it and which exhibition I would like to organise myself. Wauw. Inspiring questions! Especially as the most recent exhbition I visited was that of Alexander the Great in the Hermitage in Amsterdam. Having travelled close to Alexanders footsteps in Asia a few times my husband and I were immediately attracted by the subject of the exhibition and we simply had to go see it.

The marketing for the exhibition is excellent. The Hermitage is a fantastic building where cafe, museum store and exhibitions all ooze one thought, one vision. A total concept. Well done branding, in short which we found a joy to experience. Above all: what a great thought to organise an exhibition on Alexander the Great. Somebody who still inspires nowadays leaders and travelled in countries that speak to our imagination and have our hearts. It was really about time that this legendary man got his own exhibition.

What I did not get in the exhibition was an "Alexander experience". What was his world? How did the teachings of Aristotle influence his thoughts and actions? Imagine being taught by this greatest of thinkers and yes, I am guilty of jealousy here. How was he taught? And what did he learn? To what extent did his education shape his future? And can we connect this somehow to todays education?

Despite the many aesthetically thoroughly enjoyable objects (some of which gave a sense of homecoming as we had just seen them real life in Mongolia and China!) I admit that I struggled to get a feel for the magnitude of his undertaking. I had to think about the Terracotta Army at some point. Before we saw it real life we had seen pictures and read about it. But to see it real life really drives home the point of magnitude and scale. The same goes for Alexanders undertaking: with 50.000 soldiers trekking to unknown places, battling on unknown battlefields. Leaving your home leading a pack of soldiers and fortune seekers, crossing borders not knowing what you will encounter. Friends? Foes? What makes the battle worth the battle? How far will you go in risking the lifes of your friends and comrades to conquer ground unknown? How do you find meaning and purpose to your actions when all around you is a big unknown?

Remarking this is easy, but how to realise it? And do you want to do so? Do you aim to offer an "experience"? To bring history alive? That entails moral choices, collection choices, practical and policy considerations, financial limitations and probably other things that I am not even aware of. And I would not dare to claim that I can come up with an absolute answer in a mere blog or let alone something that will not have been considered by the staff. However, thinking out loud freely from a visitors perspective a different use of multimedia could have been of help I think. E.g. a strategic game, a schematic animation of major battles....Definitly not a re-enactment of some sort, but rather a representation that drives home the man and the magnitude of his actions, including the not so rosy side of those. While talking about it I noticed that I feel more strongly about this then I thought I did. Probably because his undertaking back then has such similarities to our current Western effort in e.g. Afghanistan. A window of opportunity to connect an inspiring and baffling past with an equally baffling present day that is the hummus for the future.

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