High Tech Versus No Tech

This weekend was a perfect time to ponder the idea of high tech versus no tech within museum walls, as I had the chance to visit two wonderful museums which represented both extremes.

The First was a trip to The Waterfront Museum in Red Hook (Brooklyn) (please watch this video, it’s adorable.) The Museum has a very unique characteristic: it is actually a floating barge, and the only one in New York to be exact. I accompanied a friend to sit in on a third grade’s class visit to the museum. 70 eight year olds filled the barge to learn about its history, as well as the history of transportation in the US and specifically in New York. There space was bare except for some paintings on the walls an old fashioned domino effect machine, and a juggling curator named David Sharps.

The children were completely engaged by his class lecture, excitedly participating with their museum educator. At one point, he used the term “obsolete” to describe the old purpose of the barge, and explain how he created a new purpose for it, (by turning it into a museum.) I started to think about the word in terms of our discussion about the ‘no tech’ museum. Are they obsolete as well or can we still find a use for them within our society? By the enthusiasm and smiles on the children’s face. I was reassured that there was still in fact a great need for a museum which focuses on the rudimentary values of social interaction and energetic education.

On the other side of the spectrum, there was the “YouTube Play” exhibit at the Guggenheim. An Asian blog described the event: “The Guggenheim Museum last week unveiled the winners of a video contest submitted via YouTube from artists around the world. The top 25 videos selected in the ‘You Tube Play’ competition were shown for the first time on a large screen at New York City’s Guggenheim. The contest, created with video-sharing web site YouTube, was aimed at showcasing innovative online video artists. The videos were projected onto the exterior of the museum’s rotunda in Manhattan.Varying from animated line drawings to cartoons, the top 25 videos were created by 39 artists from 14 countries” (NTDTV). Here’s a video of the spectacular exhibition. While I was not able to make it to the event itself, just watching the event online was a breathtaking site to see. Youtube is one of the quintessential examples of technology and when used appropriately, can create beautifully crafted artwork.

In both cases, I think that the choice to use or not use technology was done appropriately, based on the content and aesthetic that the museum wished to convey.  The Waterfront Museum proved to me that technology was not necessary in order to create an entertaining and educational exhibit, while the Guggenheim reassured me that the use of technology could be done tastefully and successfully.  The question does not seem to be “high tech versus no tech” but rather “how will this tech” bring value to the museum.

J Peterson

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One response to “High Tech Versus No Tech

  1. Jess, I had a look at the videos you posted and I was particularly impressed by the exhibition YouTube-Play at the Guggenheim Museum. I was quite surprised by the mutual interest and consequent collaboration between a solid cultural institution as the Guggenheim Museum and the recently created but worldwide known video-sharing website. Referring to our discussions in class on the participatory museum, I noticed a couple of elements that may have helped in the success of this collaboration (more than 23,000 videos submitted).
    First of all the choice of the media. Using an already well known media as YouTube is surely more successful than creating an apposite application on the museum website. People are already familiar with the application and we’ll be more likely to participate, and the number of visitors of YouTube website is surely larger than the number of Guggenheim website, so the advertisement of the event is more effective. Their goal was in fact of reaching the “wider possible audience, inviting each and every individual to submit a video”.
    Second, the selection process of the videos. A team of Guggenheim curators narrowed down the over 23,000 videos to a shortlist of 125 and finally a proper jury choses a top 25. The participation of the wide public is, in this way, limited to submitting the content, the selection of it is curated by professionals, thus turning a mere and confuse collection of videos that is YouTube into a proper exhibition.
    In conclusion what surprised me more about this successful exhibition was not the interest of an institution as the Guggenheim for the evolution of visual culture, but the interest of a 2.0 colossal as YouTube to come out of the web and collaborate with a traditional institution.

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