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city as a museum

the ways of framing (non) museums in boston

Collage, Graphic Design, Video Editing

Francesca Benedetto

This project intends to offer a double portrait of observers and the participants in The Greater Boston Area through examining the museums and (non) museum spaces. The narrative is inspired by The Isabella Stewart Gardner Heist—where two empty frames remain hanging in the museum today as a placeholder for the missing works and as symbols of hope awaiting their return and are demonstrated. The exploration is conducted through a series of postcards, a documentary short film, and a storyboard narrative.

Part 1: Postcards

1A - Isabella Gardener Museum.png

The Viewer's Gaze

Collaged postcards interrogating the viewer's gaze in both curated and
non-curated public spaces

“Once they turned their attention to the painting, they became as tranquil as the painting...they too have become part of a picture.”

I am intrigued by how paintings in museums are usually only observed from a first-person perspective, with little-to-no awareness of those who surround us—the painting and only the painting is the focus. Considering this, I wondered how the curated museum experience echoes the broader context of how one frames and choreographs their experiences in the city.

Postcards are often associated with notable and noteworthy places: Famous monuments, great artworks, and breathtaking landscapes but rarely ordinary items and daily scenes. In response to this, the project creates a juxtaposing narrative comprising both confined museum spaces and public art exhibits in the Greater Boston Area and considers how to engage and challenge the history of the medium and its traditional genres.

Frame 890.png

Inspired by Luigi Ghirri’s approach to framing the (un)framable and Bruno Munari’s provocative ways of repurposing postcards as a tool of mischief, the postcards are crafted to be interventions that critique the notion of what is shown and what is not shown.

The postcards seek to reduce the vocabulary of seeing to its simplest premise—to look, to question, and to reflect. They serve as interactive interfaces for visitors in these museums: Viewers are encouraged to contemplate their own active participation in the completion of the work's meaning, not as passive consumers but as re-interpreters of their surrounding spaces.

When one picks up a postcard, they are invited to take on the spectator role and personalize their response to the prompts–essentially cued to frame their own narratives of the city. The interactive nature of the postcards thereby serves to create a multi-layered experience and puts to question the concept of viewing.

Part 2: Museum Choreography Film

Drawn to how visitors in the space are richly imbued with poetic eloquence, the film elaborates on the notion of “minute routines” at the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston – and ponders upon what is acceptable and not acceptable in this heavily curated space?

hile capturing art and the visitors viewing it and the viewer observing other audiences, it presents an ingenious expose’ of the myriad of human stances when viewing mostly priceless art. The many layers of observation reveal the museum’s control of its audience and the criteria that each museum has for exhibiting pieces in a curated manner.

Part 3: The Storyboard

This collection of storyboards reimagines the museum experience of the Greater Boston Area set in 2090 through the act of reclaiming left-over spaces – as new forms of art demand new ways of framing.

Following the exploratory journey of Detective Jasper in search of the 13 lost paintings from the Isabella Gardener Museum Heist in 1990, we are invited to actively interrogate how residual spaces can be creatively reused and repurposed to connect and stitch the discontinuous urban fabric.

"How can museums move beyond mere representations of artworks and shift to demonstrate explicitly how knowledge is developed, shared, or revisited?"

The initiative draws focus on the desire to unravel more areas of the city that has the potential to host cultural conversations and reestablishing the museum as a resource for the community it serves, both inside and outside the physical building space.


It is speculated that in the future the social value of museums will increase, not because they will have more prestige but rather because they will meaningfully and truly include, integrate, and unite communities, who will find themselves reflected, identified, and considered as a vital part of the experience itself.

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