Occasional I get asked for advice via email, facebook and or sms on a great number of many different quandaries relating to the arts about etiquette, applications and proposals, art making, matters of the heart, and over any given amount of time, some questions from numerous unconnected and unrelated people repeat themselves.
Today I received this sms from Albert, who asks a common question:
Aces! I need your advice: every time I go to see an exhibition at the NGV, the guards ghost around me like I'm an art theif or a vandal. What the cripes?
Yours most Sincerely,
Ah yes, you see Albert, the guards at the NGV follow several philosophical, psychological and spiritual schools of thought in unison, one of which is to regard every entity (most of which happen to be human in their experience) that enters an art gallery to be either 'good' or 'bad' (this is of course especially possible if we do away with Spinoza, and instead focus on the duality of the Yin and Yang, and our nations admiration for the equal yet opposing possibly results of a coin toss).
Given that there is no way of determining which patrons are good or bad, or any way at all to even prove of anyone else of even having their own mind or sentient intelligence of their own, the security guards tend to rely on a combination of Murphy's Law and the physical law of entropy, albeit the later is applied to the moral compass of all patrons and not so much the matter of which they are comprised, meaning that by this logic, most people are 'bad' and only a small portion are 'good', and as mentioned, no way of telling one from the other.
The actions of the 'good' simply wander around the spaces, peering thoughtfully at images and objects and rarely unattended cleaners carts laden with sanitizing products and rags, whilst furrowing their brows and holding their chins. The actions of the 'bad' deceptively mimic those of the good, but if unobserved for even a moment, could launch themselves at an artwork wielding a mallet, as was the case in 1997, or could simply nab a work, as in the 1997 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair starring Pierce Brosnan. My advice is to stop looking like a debonair playboy who has nothing better to do than commit opportunistic crimes, such as art theft.
However, opportunistic crime, such as theft, is most common with the working class, so perhaps you appear less like a debonair playboy and more like a working class lad that has the possibility of looking like an working class opportunistic thief, given the opportunity, that is, if no one were looking.
It may also not help that the guards spend much of their time during their 14 hour shifts standing in one room, with only their own minds to keep them company and thus come up with all many of hybrid philosophies and theories, some of which are detailed above, and thus are overjoyed when a member of the general public strays into their jurisdiction because it means that they, as security guards, finally have some security to be guarding from a possible threat, unfortunately that possible threat is yourself, the humble appreciator of fine art.
My conclusion is that you can't help a security guards actions, nor what they think, or what their personal convictions may be so simply ignore them or, do as I do, and pretend not to speak english by smiling and nodding blankly when spoken to, and occasionally if needed, creating a couple of possibly russian sounding words in feigned puzzlement and confusion such as 'erh-toh brorshk? brorshk?' or 'nah, burgh hojshk mish?'. Of course this strategy doesn't help me in the slightest because the guards no that I work at the gallery and both speak and understand english, but it may serve you in your shroud of anonymity somewhat better than myself.
Happy art viewing and, as Kimi always says: 'Godspeed!'.