Collecting the Cloud, Feeding the Crowd
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Collecting the Cloud, Feeding the Crowd

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Presentation given at ALI-ABA Legal Issues in Museum Administration conference, San Francisco, March 19, 2012.

Presentation given at ALI-ABA Legal Issues in Museum Administration conference, San Francisco, March 19, 2012.

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  • We do that at the museum. It’s known as curating.
  • Learning to Love You More is a “smart room” conceived by two artists for the Web. In 2002, before the rise of the blogosphere and Web 2.0 platforms, Harrell Fletcher and Miranda July launched a collaborative online project that invited people all over the world to perform and respond to creative assignments: a kind of socialized ‘art school.’ Participants followed the artists’ simple instructions and submitted documentation or “reports” on their assignments to the project’s website.
  • Here was the last assignment. If you look on the right, you’ll see the names of people who completed it. On the left are the assignments that came before. Link here…
  • The site became a book, which you can buy at Amazon… or at the SFMOMA MuseumStore. (There were three copies left when last I checked!)
  • But when the Museum acquired “Learning to Love You More” in 2010, the year after the project officially ended, we got more than just a website. Many of the >8,000 submissions were analog, ranging from letters and tapes to rolled banners, framed paintings, stuffed toys and a re-created Rubik’s cube. Here’s a glimpse of what we received.
  • And here are some of the drawings and photos a year later, properly matted and stored.
  • So some issues are technical—or technologic—and others come at the intersection of aesthetics and philosophy. Fletcher and July are pioneers in the field of social practice art, also known as relational aesthetics.
  • Assignment #12:Get a temporary tattoo of one of Morgan Rozacky's neighbors. This was An example of piggybacking. (Morgan Rozacky had described her neighbors for Assignment #2Make a neighborhood field recording.)
  • In 2010, as part of the exhibition The More Things Change, SFMOMA invited Bay Area artist Stephanie Syjuco to develop an in-gallery presentation of Learning to Love You More. Rather than making a curatorial selection of a few assignments,Syjuco opted to translate Fletcher and July’s online artwork into a different time-based medium—a digital slideshow in which all contributions for all the assignments were presented: two assignments a day, projected side by side.
  • Comfy seating, too!
  • issues of a more technologic nature, which are now Intimately interwoven with curatorial and aesthetic issues.Matters in Media Art is a platform for working on/addressing these emergent issueswith our peers in the New Art Trust:MoMA and Tate. As a result, SFMOMA’s methods are developed with—and actively critiqued by—two, other museum partners, also active in collecting media art.
  • Meanwhile, in-house, Team Media holds monthly meetings to address the special sorts of issues raised by time-based and digital art. And this has been going on in one form or another since 1996!
  • Who knew that a museum conservator would need “familiarity with micro-controllers, sensors, etc. and the ability to read a schematic?” But once you think about it, it makes perfect sense. As a society and its expressive capacities evolve, so do its art forms. And you know the artists are going to go there first, before any standards have been nailed down.
  • Is there a continuum here? In the world of copyright, where does building on each other’s work become uncool? Or in a world where everybody is borrowing sentence fragments from everyone else, be they visual or linguistic, what’s a copyright lawyer to do? Is the copyright model itself becoming somewhat obsolete?
  • On the Web itself, a lively debate ensues!
  • Think once again of Learning to Love You More. What Fletcher and July did was serve as convenors, inviting other people to contribute and display their creativity. Yet we only bought the piece from them—not their myriad contributors.
  • I recommend this website, where Popova puts forth an already controversial proposal for new forms of attribution on the Web.
  • It elicited an ad hominem [or feminam?] flame from blogger Matt Langer.
  • Here is a tumblr blog written by a college student who had a revelation about herself through the discomfort she felt in the presence of her peers as depicted in portraits at the current RinekeDijkstra show—which you’ll be able to see this evening at SFMOMA.
  • Many people don’t reflect so much as they pin—or tweet—or post to their Facebook page. Pictures of our artworks seep into the Web through many ports.
  • {FIN}In a world where social aesthetics and participation are becoming the watchwords of the day, these are just some questions to consider.

Collecting the Cloud, Feeding the Crowd Collecting the Cloud, Feeding the Crowd Presentation Transcript

  • Collecting the Cloud, Feeding the CrowdPeter SamisAssociate Curator,Interpretive MediaSan Francisco Museumof Modern Art Jochen Gerz, The Gift (detail)ALI-ABA 2012 San Francisco March 19, 2012
  • ―Knowledge… has broken out of its physicalconfines (the pages of a book or the mind of a person)and now exists in a hyperconnected onlinestate.‖ –David Weinberger via REBECCA J. ROSEN
  • As if to confirm…
  • ―For the coming generation, knowinglooks less like capturing truths in booksthan engaging in never-settled networksof discussion and argument.‖
  • ―the smartest person in the room isno longer a person but the roomitself. if the room — ―this also means that the network — is stupid, we ourselves will be made more stupid.‖―our task is to learn how to build smart rooms.‖ –Rebecca Rosen in dialogue with David Weinberger
  • That‘s what‘s known as Curating. Both in the museum…
  • And on the Web. Here‘s an early example.
  • Harrell Fletcher & Miranda July‘sLearning to Love you More[In 2002, before the rise of the blogosphere and Web2.0 platforms, Harrell Fletcher and Miranda Julylaunched a collaborative online project that invitedpeople all over the world to perform and respond tocreative assignments: a kind of socialized ‗art school.‘Participants followed the artists‘ simple instructionsand submitted documentation or ―reports‖ on theirassignments to the project‘s website.]
  • This was the last assignment.
  • The site became a book, which you can buy at Amazon…(or at the SFMOMA MuseumStore!)
  • When SFMOMA acquired this collective artwork, we gotmore than just a website. Here‘s a glimpse…
  • [And here are some of the drawings andphotos a year later, archivally matted andstored.]
  • Social practice art = relational aesthetics
  • [Lets listen to the artists themselves give alittle background on the project and theunforeseen sequels that ended up beingcross-woven among participants from allover the world. This anticipates the socialweb, which we will discuss in more detaillater.]
  • An example of piggybacking:Assignment #12:Get a temporary tattoo of one of Morgan Rozackys neighbors.
  • And in the gallery:
  • [In 2010, as part of the exhibition The More ThingsChange, SFMOMA invited Bay Area artist StephanieSyjuco to develop an in-gallery presentation ofLearning to Love You More. Rather than making acuratorial selection of a few assignments, Syjucoopted to translate Fletcher and July‘s online artworkinto a different time-based medium—a digitalslideshow in which all contributions for all theassignments were presented: two assignments a day,projected side by side.]
  • And in the gallery:
  • Collecting works like this leads us to… [Technology issues are now Intimately interwoven with curatorial and aesthetic issues.]
  • And internally, across departments:Team Media:• Curators• Conservators• Registrars• Media technicians• IP managersAddressing time-based and digital art issues… since 1996!
  • Some of those issues are technical:think of the ever more rapidly evolvingmedia format and hardware standards. [From the job description for the New Media Conservation Administrator]
  • ―The content has a longer lifespan thanthe technology does.‖ Photo: SMcGarnigleBesides, what‘s the shelf-life of a standard these days?
  • Piggybacking —>Linking w/ an attribution —> Pirating In the world of copyright, where does building on each other‘s work become uncool? Or in a world where everybody is borrowing sentence fragments from everyone else, be they visual or linguistic, what‘s a copyright lawyer to do?
  • On the Web itself, a lively debateensues.
  • The Internet is inherently aCULTURE OF LINKING:“the emerging sense of the author asmoderator — someone able to marshal„the wisdom of the network.‟” –Bob Stein via Maria Popova, aka @brainpicker
  • ―It‘s all about LINK LOVE." –Maria Popova
  • Here‘s a flaming retort: is CURATING justa grandiose term for SHARING?
  • Continuing with Maria for a minute: ―IP, as a term, is inherently flawed and anachronistic in its focus on ownership (―property‖) in an age of sharing and open access…"
  • Personal reflection writ large as social sharing… with artwork as an impetus.[Inspired by the currentRineke Dijkstra show]
  • Or at a simpler level: [Whether it‘s through a Pin or a tweet, pictures of our artworks seep into the Web through many ports.]
  • Where does that lead a museum thatwants to be…
  • It‘s clear that our visitors—both on-siteand online—want access to our material • For creative use • For personal reflection • For projection into the public sphere as part of their own life and identity
  • Are the artworks* ours to give?Are they ours to withhold? *or rather their representations
  • For whom do we hold these works inpublic trust?• For the artists?• For their descendants/Estates?• For the visitors who pay at the gate?• For the visitors who find us for free through a link on the Web?• For the Future?Just who is the Future—and where are they today?
  • Thank you.