Reconstructivism in Art Presentation and Programming

Reconstructivism and Art

As an expansion of Reconstructing History in Anime, Reconstructivism can be used as a framework towards audience engagement or education development. I strongly feel that topics (such as history or art) can be made more relevant to various audiences in various forms. As demonstrated by the previous example in Kantai Collection, how can we possibly infer the usage of Reconstructivism in art presentation?

Mona Lisa and Her Sisters

A strong example of re-looking at a celebrated painting would be Leonard da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. I am sure many would know of this iconic masterpiece that currently resides in the Louvre, France (incidentally, the gallery renovation was financed by the Nippon Television in 2005).

On the superficial level, it is just the painting itself – beautiful and enigmatic. However, Paris-based Lumiere Technology was able to uncover various layers of the Mona Lisa through their multispectral digitisation processes. While the information from these various layers allowed for optimal conservation (which is another boring thing that can be made amazing), the Louvre was able to present the scientific information gathered from the painting itself as an educational tool in the form of their specialised web portal – Focus Louvre (direct link to the comparison aspect).

Since then, the Mona Lisa (and her layer-sisters, har har) became part of a travelling exhibition called the Da Vinci – The Genius. This exhibition made its rounds to Singapore in 2009 and became wildly popular with students and general public alike (I was there, the crowds were crazy). Most of the people I met and talked to were amazed by this layered (I have to stop punning) approach in presenting an iconic masterpiece, and allowed them to feel more attached or relevant to the painting itself – it wasn’t just the famous Mona Lisa, it was Mona Lisa and everything she is under all that.

Linking the Framework

Let’s analyse the exhibition here in the framework of Reconstructivism (as mentioned in the previous column)… the Mona Lisa painting itself (classic structure), the multispectral layers (visual symbols), the narratives behind each layer (context), and audience engagement (emotive-reflective significance).

It is pretty obvious how the Mona Lisa can be construed as classic structure – due to its iconic status as a masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci. The multispectral layers are visual symbols based on the fact that each layer is a simplified visual symbol (for example, preparatory layers of the painting) but still form the basis of reference to the end result. Based on my memory of the exhibition, there are narratives attached to each layer (such as corrections made to the structure of the face, inclusion of objects in various parts of the painting, and even material usage) – these narratives form the context of the layers themselves. Through the presentation of these layers and narratives, audience response gave strong evidence of the significant attachment or realisation that the iconic masterpiece was not just the reverence towards the masterpiece nor just Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile.

Influence on Presentation and Programming

This particular presentation of Mona Lisa can be concluded as a masterwork in education and presentation. The very idea of bringing a “commonly known” masterpiece to the audience, and shedding new light for the benefit of the audience; is simply staggering in its implications towards closer engagement with audiences.

Now it is not just about “We have beautiful artworks here! Come and see!” or “We managed to butcher the artworks so you can have a photo opportunity!”, it is now “I bet you didn’t know about this! Let’s find out more together!”. The thought of enticing audiences with a sense of mystery, allows presenters and programmers the ability to provide windows of opportunity towards self discovery. When the audience is given this opportunity, it allows for their self growth within their own control and be positively receptive as compared to being forced down the throat with cut-and-dried information on how to interpret something.

End Note

Self discovery and growth, coupled with interest (of any multitude), can be factors that influence successful presentation and programming. By utilising Reconstructivism as a framework, presenters and programmers may find it easier to develop their presentations with a direct focus on audience engagement and education. It would be a slow process to engage and educate, but a trickle turns into a torrent – and that is where sustained interests in the arts (or any form) can be achieved for the long term.

Credit: Image from Focus Louvre (