Category Archives: community

Identity, Self, Networks

A recent essay by author Zadie Smith brought to mind the topic of ‘self’ as we’ve discussed the BBC documentary, The Century of the Self, and the museum’s shifting focus on the complexity and identity of its audience. Smith’s essay, titled “Generation Why?” is largely a critique of The Social Network, a film released earlier this fall about the founding of the online social network, Facebook. Smith’s critique leaps beyond the content of the film to comment on our current society and the increasing importance we place on defining ourselves, as a seemingly increasing portion of this definition comes in the form of the people and things we collect and give preference to in virtual space.

As a class, we have discussed the role of Facebook in our society and our roles as virtual participants, like those discussed by Nina Simon in The Participatory Museum. Simon describes “The network effect,” the underlying concept of social networks, and our various levels of participation, “whether as creators, critics, collectors, joiners or spectators.”

By participating in social networks, in some ways, we are individually creating prescribed-format museums of self. We curate, update, and maintain them. We may create micro-communities with other individuals who share interests and ideas to which we relate, but we increasingly isolate the ‘self’ because we interface with software to a greater extent than the people to whom we are connected in social space.

Connection may be the goal of social networks, but decreased privacy, perhaps an evolved social norm, also affects how the self is virtually portrayed. And one’s expressed likes and dislikes allow for for marketing to be streamlined to his or her self-proclaimed preferences. In this way, we are viewed as individual consumers. Likewise, The Century of the Self reveals the shift from ‘need’ to a ‘desire’ based society.

In her essay, Smith also briefly discusses Jaron Lanier’s book, You Are Not A Gadget. She writes that, “Lanier is interested in the ways in which people, ‘reduce themselves’ in order to make a computer’s description of them appear more accurate.” We are aware that we self-edit for online portrayal and that our number of virtual friends is not an accurate reflection of our actual friends, but it is important to question our awareness of how the software affects us. Software is not neutral, and it is possible to consider that for most of us the lines begin to blur between our reduced, edited selves and our reality.

It is possible to consider that our selves which display our collections of friends and things we like are devoid of the richness of our actual lives and interpersonal connections.

In his publication, Do Museums Still Need Objects, author Stephen Conn wrote about how museums have generally adjusted to changing cultural atmospheres and he concluded that although they may no longer require physical objects to tell their stories, objects endure and offer a rich and unparalleled visual experience all their own.

Likewise, I think that virtual social space cannot offer the same quality of personal connection and reflection found in shared cultural space.

Jayme Elterman

Listening to LaSalle NOLA!

In a week I’m going to New Orleans to hold my first exhibition, curate and be in complete charge of installation, reception, etc.  Because of this class, I’ve learned a lot about putting together a show.  I’m also going to use participation as part of the show so that we get a sense of what the community things about our proposal, what we are doing, and we can also use this data as part of our presentation to Chase in the final round!  So thanks for all the great lessons, I’ve learned a lot!  Wish us luck, if we win, our non profit organization gets $50,ooo.oo to see our project through.

Below is my proposal, please feel free to leave comments on how this could be better!

Listening to La Salle!

Listening to La Salle is an exhibition based on a project that the Chase Competition holds every year ranging from New York City to New Orleans.  This year, the New School along with the University of New Orleans and our non-profit organization, NONDC, are coming together to work on a proposal to make the street of La Salle, located in the heart of Central City, New Orleans, what it was and bring out its potential for the future.  With a great range of students, from business, architects, design, and fine arts, and a lot of research, we come together to create a strong, powerful, and meaningful project to help out the community of Central City.

Aside from the bigger picture, one of the ways we decided to get the community involved and to bring an understanding of what exactly we are doing was to have an exhibition.  Through our research we discovered a great art organization that work with local youth.  Below is their mission statement.

“YA/YA’s mission is to empower creative young people to become successful adults. We do this by providing educational experiences in the arts and entrepreneurship to New Orleans-area youth, and by fostering and supporting their ambitions.”

We felt that working with youth would be the most inspirational part of our project for the simple reason that they ARE the future of New Orleans.  They are the ones who ground us and bring us back to the bigger picture of why this project is so important.

Through this exhibition, it is not only about getting the youth involved, but it was also important to give the community a better understanding of who we are and what we are doing.  It is a chance to meet us.

This exhibition proposes; from the eyes of the youth, YaYa students will create paintings that represent their community, what it was, is, and can become.  Along with pieces from 2 MFA students from Parsons, The New School, in New York that will capture the history of La Salle street.  Aside from the fine arts part, the architect team will also provide images of what La Salle St. can look like in the future, through the rebuilding of the famous Dew Dropp Inn, Krump site, Smith site, as well as the new incoming occupants, the NONDC site.  We want to show how all these elements can bring the community together and build a better future.

From the New York side of the exhibition, we will be in charge of installation, de-installation, and transportation of all the pieces as well as providing of the food and beverages at the opening reception.  YA/YA will be in charge of providing the artwork and all it’s information as well as how any transactions regarding the purchasing of any work will take place.

The show will be held in the clubhouse of Harmony Oaks from November 23 – 29th.  Giving time for those who were unable to attend the opening reception to peak in whenever they have a chance to.

Racini Andres

Participatory Museum or Playground? Or Both?

After our trip to the Met’s Luce Center to try out their technology prototypes, I was struck by one of the comments made– namely, that a young child using the computers in the period rooms was able to exit the program in order to use Paint to draw her name on the desktop.  It’s sort of a delightful anecdote and a commentary on the best laid plans of adults often going awry,  but it got me thinking about my experiences with museums as a child.  My first memory of visiting a museum is pretty hazy, but it was definitely to visit the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia (now housed in the fabulous Memorial Hall from the 1875 Centennial International Exhibition), and I was excited because I was allowed to dress up in “pilgrim” clothes and play pretend Thanksgiving with my siblings and other random kids.

It didn’t dawn on me until years later what the museum’s mission actually was, because it seemed light on traditional objects and heavy on being a child’s dream playground.  They have constantly changing exhibits which are interactive for both children and adults, and currently they  have something to do with literature (Alice in Wonderland), physics (a flight exhibit), and nature (a river exhibit).  The emphasis, as cued by the institution’s name, is of course placed on touch and learning by doing– something that seems to be a popular trend in science centers too, like we’ve discussed in class.  The point I want to make here is, that visiting the Please Touch (which my 5-year-old self called “Policetudge”–all one word), was memorable not because of what I might have learned about the Pilgrims, but because I could touch literally everything there.  To an extent I still hold that obsession of wanting to touch museum objects– there’s something about feeling the surface nuances and the weight and solidity of an object  that makes me feel as though I understand it more fully.

That said, I’m wondering how to classify the Please Touch Museum… now it feels more like a learning center or discovery center than my traditional concept of a museum (another bias leftover from childhood: my points of comparison were the more traditional style PMA and the Barnes Foundation where touching is, obviously, prohibited).  As we see with the Luce Center’s more intuitive study computers, there is definitely a rise in more entertaining and accessible technology or interactive features in museum exhibition design.  The Please Touch concept is just a simpler version of this type of interaction. I guess the answer to Steven Conn’s question “Do museums still need objects?” could start to get its answer here.  Apparently, they need more toys.

Michelle Jackson

Small Town Identity

My hometown of Chico in California is a little agricultural town which is known for two things: the Sierra Nevada Brewery, and for being on Playboy’s top party colleges back in the 90’s. However, the locals and Chico State school board would like to leverage the lesser known facts –Chico produces most of the Western world’s rice, almonds and walnuts– to make our town a tourist destination.

The existing museums in Chico are relatively unknown outside of Chico but are regular destinations for local school field trips. The Bidwell Mansion the oldest home in Chico, which was owned by the founders of the city, seems to be nothing more than just a strange pink house near the college that can be seen from the busiest street in town. Our 5th graders probably know more about it than our adults.

Bidwell Mansion

The Sierra Nevada Brewery has received so much attention in recent years that their brew-house restaurant was updated less than a decade ago to include a glass wall in the waiting area which allows patrons to view the beer as it is being made.

This became such a popular feature and tour times have been in high demand, prompting the renovation of the brewery. It now includes a beautifully done two story wing made entirely of glass and wood in the Art Nouveu style where brew techniques can be viewed through glass walls and explanatory plaques are placed intermittently to allow the guest to embark on a self-guided tour. Most people use them to further their knowledge as they wait for the guided tour to begin, which is referred to with drunken wonderment as the equivalent of going on a “big kid’s tour” of the Willy Wanka Chocolate Factory, complete with platforms that extend out over the vats, allowing you to be completely immersed in the room.

Sierra Nevada Interior Tour

 

Although a museum addition wasn’t originally intended by the brewery, they stepped up to the demand of their patrons, and the Sierra Nevada Brewery is now known as the main destination for tourists and families coming to town to check out the college. What were the small agriculture and city oriented museums to do?

In a bold step, the city of Chico built a brand-new, state of the art natural history museum, called the Gateway Science Museum, in an abandoned lot next to the Bidwell Mansion to serve as an extension of Chico State. The juxtaposition of the old Victorian house sharing a parking lot with the brightly colored Modernistic Gateway Science Museum is a bit striking, making both stand out from the street, rejuvenating the centralized area only a few blocks from the oldest church in town, the Bidwell Presbyterian Church, and the entrance to the closed off Chico State campus. Still focused on school aged children, the Gateway Science Museum opened last Spring in time for summer camp to begin, and two of the kids I worked with last year as a youth leader claimed it was “Very cool.” (Which is actually a pretty big compliment if you’ve ever spent any time with bored 6th graders.)

Gateway Science Museum

Although this new museum is very well known now in the community, a bigger effort by the city is still somewhat under-wraps. Previously, I hadn’t known that other than the Bidwell Mansion, Gateway Science Museum and Chico Museum (whose existence is usually only noted by those stumbling down the street at early hours after the bars have closed because of it’s lack of advertisement or even signage in front of the building) there are 3 other museums in the city: an outdoor animal refuge, old rice factory and another piece of historic architecture. In an effort to demonstrate the history of Chico as more than just the partying college and home of good beer, the Gateway Science Museum was created to complete the museum circuit and renovations on the 5 existing facilities are underway. Instead of acting as 6 independent museums competing for attention, the City of Chico is hoping that visitors will appreciate a much broader, multi-locational museum experience with combined efforts, events and a single fee.

However, this was all made known to me through someone who is apart of the planning committee, and therefore, it’ll be interesting to see if they are actually able to advertise in the way needed to make sure this idea is successful. The Sierra Nevada Brewery museum is a hard act to follow, but hopefully this new focus on Chico’s history will lead to an grouping of sites which will be interesting to more than just school children needing time out of the classroom.

Kadie Yale

Corning Museum of Glass

I actually meant to post this a while ago after attending a glass conference at CMoG in mid October and talking about that in class today reminded me.  I went in knowing the renovations were done by RAA in 2001, and was pretty curious to see what kind of innovations would await.  One of the sections of the exhibition space is actually called the ” glass innovation center” if I recall correctly.  Anyway, the architecture and exhibition designs for the educational areas and the glass studio were striking, as expected, especially given the level of audience participation in the glass making shows (which are really cool!)

I had to spend pretty much all of my time in lectures and in the glass galleries though, and was really intrigued by the layout of the exposed study collection.  The vitrine case-exhibition style is essentially the same as the regular gallery, just more packed (and sometimes equally packed!) with objects.  Sure, there are only accession numbers for this segment of the museum (with unfortunately no visible console or book for looking them up), but other than that there was sometimes very little difference between the study collection and the displayed collection.  The shelves for the display collection itself often went up over my head in the 20th century modern section (and I’m not really short, so this was a weird problem to be having). I had to resort to taking wobbly pictures, arms fully outstretched over my head and just hope it would get the right angle since I couldn’t see it.  This is kind of a disaster when your formal analysis topic is on the top shelf, but I imagine it’s not the best for the casual visitor either.

All that aside, Corning has an impressive, large collection, and even with the presence of the study collection, most of their objects are still stored in an offsite facility near the airport.  I’m not sure if the study collection rotates different objects, but given the breadth of the collection (and it grows every year!), it makes me wonder: how feasible is it for large and growing institutions like the Corning Museum to incorporate these aspects of back of house fully into the front of house?

michelle jackson

Museum of Everything

Museum of Everything 
at “No Soul For Sale" photo Tate PhotographyWith its rather ambitious name, The Museum of Everything provides an interesting take on the idea that anyone can contribute to a museum collection. It claims to be “the only international space dedicated to untrained, unintentional and unseen creators” of today.

The first Museum of Everything exhibition included over 800 drawings, paintings, sculptures and installations, chosen by well known artists and curators and was presented during the Frieze Art Fair in London this time last year. Their second exhibition, which I had the pleasure of visiting, was at the Tate Modern during their 10th Anniversary and  ‘No Soul For Sale: A Festival of Independents’. In asking previously unexhibited and unknown artists of Greater Britain to bring their work to be selected, curated and displayed they created what could be seen as the ultimate  participatory museum experience: the creations of the ‘ordinary visitor’ became the collection in a context renowned for exhibiting the worlds most famous artists. For Exhibition #3, their new show which has just opened in London the idea of non-traditional art is extended. The show is curated in collaboration with Sir Peter Blake, a British pop artist and a collector whose collections of self-taught art, found objects and anonymous artefacts inspire his own work.

The Museum of Everything is an interesting exploration of not only of the participatory experience but also the temporary, mobile and collaborative potential of the museum.

RH

Brooklyn Gets Participatory

Last night in the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn, the first ever Nuit Blanche “White Night” was held in New York City. This festival of lights, which has been held in areas around the world such as Atlanta, GA and Paris, France, allows artists and designers to display their light creations on sides of buildings, in warehouses, and throughout sidewalks, playgrounds, and street corners.  The festival combined artistic expression with technological outputs and showed the potential creativity that could be reached with the blending of the two.

The most interesting (and relevant to our class) option they had at the event was a participatory project.  Visitors to the celebration could download an application, similar to most museum styles we see today, and create their own designs that would then be projected onto the buildings.  It was a great way to allow the visitor to feel creative, important, and instrumental in the success of Nuit Blanche.  The picture below shows the steps required for participation.  It was a great event, and an even better way to get people involved in both art and the community!

Ryan Massey