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Practice Meets Theory: Some Questions


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A slightly enlarged version of a talk given on the panel "Bringing together theory and practice in digital museum communication" with Allegra Burnette, Costis Dallas, Lev Manovich, Susan Hazan, and Sarah Kenderdine. Museums & the Web, San Diego, CA, April 13, 2012. The discussion was just getting underway when the hour ended!

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Practice Meets Theory: Some Questions

  1. 1. Practice Meets Theory: Some QuestionsPeter SamisAssociate Curator,Interpretive MediaSan Francisco Museumof Modern Art Jochen Gerz, The Gift (detail)Museums & the Web 2012 San Diego, CA April 13,2012
  2. 2. What does it mean to be a Curator of Interpretive Media?What does it mean to be a Curator of Interpretive Media?
  3. 3. Museums.Homogeneous containers / heterogeneous realities
  4. 4. Each artwork is like a foreign language, an undiscovered text.
  5. 5. We exercise a Dual Empathy:• Identify with artists by re-creating their past contexts, concerns, and criteria for success• Identify with visitors and build bridges to their lives and understandings today
  6. 6. We build tools to plumb these texts, andtheir worlds…
  7. 7. We experiment with time and place ofdelivery…
  8. 8. SFMOMA 2001
  9. 9. [MIT 2000Google 2012]
  10. 10. We evaluate whether the tools helpopen up the artist’s world.
  11. 11. We use new media as a tool to rectifygender imbalance.
  12. 12. We draw from—and build—the Archiveto do so.
  13. 13. We ask what these artworks mean to ourvisitors. “Objecthood doesn’t have a place in the world if there’s not an individual person making use of that object.” –Olafur Eliasson
  14. 14. And we ask the question:What theory provides insights into—or aframework for—community responses tothe art we present?
  15. 15. “You Are Here” contributory drawing activity in theCalifornia Portraits gallery at the Oakland Museum of CA
  16. 16. “the smartest person in the room isno longer a person but the roomitself. “this also means that if the room — 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
  17. 17. 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
  18. 18. Are the artworks* ours to give?Are they ours to withhold? *or rather their representations
  19. 19. 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?