Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Museum Experience and Online Spectatorship

              The Portland Art Museum is employing media to present objects that have diverse backgrounds. I have experienced the museum’s current presentation of objects through their website. My online spectatorship experience will be used to expand upon the concept of an audience’s experience with forms of media.
            The Portland Art Museum’s new installation, Object Stories, is intended to explore the relationship between people and things. By the use of still photos and audio these relationships are presented on a website. One of the museum galleries is the site for the community to come and document their story about their object.[1] The museum website has online options for viewing the process of the installation, along with the images representing the layout of the gallery space.[2] 
            An audience’s experience using the internet is a socially engaged behavior, which differs from the traditional relationship of a museum’s audience and museum’s static objects. While the online presence of Object Stories offers an interactive platform for both types of socially engaged art and new media art this interaction is at a distance.[3] The internet aspect implies a distance in the viewers connectivity to the project. The online experience places a more passive engagement upon the viewer. The hybrid status between the use of new media and the Object Stories project is demonstrated by the Portland Art Museum having a site-specific area. [4] It is a gallery for participants to collaborate with the process. This information pertaining to the process is presented on a museum’s webpage that is listed under the “learn” section as well as the “about” and “how to tell your story” section of the Object Stories website.
            In the “Introduction/ Viewers as Producers” of the Participation book, Claire Bishop references Jacques Rancière’s unpublished essay The Emancipated Spectator concerning the “active” and “passive” assumptions of spectatorship. Rancière’s argument is for a need of a third term in which both “active” and “passive” is considered with spectatorship. The third term concept can be initiated by no division of an audience, with a presupposition of equality, and the unattachment to a privileged artistic medium. These are an invitation to individual translation beyond the author’s appropriation of the work.[5]
            My blog post will use the third term of “attention” in my descriptions of online experiences. The word “attention” is demonstrating the act of applying my mind or I am concentrating on a situation or object. My attention will be focused on the Portland Art Museum’s web content of visual representations, audio, and text. The cyberspace presentation and site-specific gallery video documentation employs media outside of the traditional art history canons.[6] The equivalency of citing a first person perspective is to give a personal account as a spectator with an online experience.  
            I will refer to the use of language by relating it to media content. The three terms, interaction, participation, and collaboration, will be referenced with my online museum experience. These words are cited as catchall phrases for contemporary art in the “Participative Systems” section of the Rethinking Curating book. In my text, I will focus on using documentation pertaining to the physical interactions with digital devices and new media participative systems.[7] I have considered the use of language in this blog post to contribute to the scholarship of interdisciplinary studies and expand upon contemporary art terms. 
            The word interaction is depicted for the physical state of a person reacting with a computer by pressing keys that triggers sensors in a computer program. The audience experiences with these computer programs are linked with complex and evolving reactions. These experiences are formed with personal interaction of choice, navigation, control, and engagement from the options on the website.[8] I am physically and actively pushing keys on my laptop computer to chose visuals, texts, and audio that are presented on the website. My attention to how I interact with these specific features is determined by the layout and my personal interest to the themes of the museum webpage.            
            An example of how I use my attention to navigate and engage with the “stories” section of the Object Stories website is being conscious of the text and images that are displayed on the rectangle tile layout. The tile layout presents the black color side of the rectangle with a white text theme. When I place the curser on the rectangle and click the selection bar on my touchpad area of my computer the rectangle flips to the opposite side. This side displays a still image of a person and their object. 
            My visual engagement with the text and images directs my personal interest. This is a deciding point if I will continue to the next window of the webpage to find out more about the person and their object. At this moment is where the term participation can be implied with physically choosing by the computers keys the next detailed information section of the website. My attention is directed toward participating with the context of the person and their object. The subtle activity of my senses is focused on the presentation of the audio and visual. All these factors are supplementing my online museum experience and referencing Rancière’s argument of the capability of inventing my own translation.
            This is my translation of a chosen story from the many displayed on the webpage. I am presenting this as a stream-of-consciousness narrative writing exercise that I did right after the presentation of Take A Ride Change Your Life by Edna – Alice White.[9] This is intended to capture the main focal points from my attention on the web page presentation.
 
I wanted to know what kind of ride and where and how would it change a life. The first visual I saw I enjoyed her curly brown hair and golden hooped earrings. She told about having to give up her personal car and ride the bus as her main transportation. My memory is of a time when I had car problems and needed to rework my schedule and learning the bus schedule. I had to consider time differently just like she did and give up my personal space on the road. She mentioned the interaction with others. I thought of visuals of the diversity of people and the new sounds on the ride. Also the wonderment of where everyone was off too, but I missed my car radio. A small cardboard bus is what she is holding Of course – she couldn’t bring the real bus. She holds it with care and in one photo she is hugging it next to her red sweater she is wearing. She is living the experience of every ride on the bus. It is not just as a routine to get somewhere.

                   In the “Participative Systems” section the term collaboration is identified with the “production of something.” This identification is related with the collaboration between people, which could be a combination between artists, curators, or non-artists.[10] The Object Stories project is the collaboration between Portland Art Museum’s staff and the participants from the surrounding community. The visual and audio presentation of people and their objects on the Object Stories webpage is the “production of something” from the collaboration. The public and myself view the continual collaboration’s production via the internet.   
             I have utilized my online museum experiences to establish a new media perspective of spectatorship beyond the singular placement of passive engagement as a viewer. The approach of using my third term “attention” contributes to the dialog of “active” and “passive” assumptions of spectatorship. This online type of audience participation does have its limits with the interaction of physical details of the people and their objects, along with the use of my other senses. Writing my experience in the first person with the combination of descriptive terms for socially engaged art and new media art develops a personal user perspective from the Mid-Atlantic area of the USA of the Portland Art Museum’s Object Stories. 


[1] http://objectstories.org/about/index.html [Accessed: April 18, 2013].
[2] http://www.pam.org/page.aspx?pid=438 [Accessed: April 18, 2013].
[3] Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook, Rethinking Curating (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010) 120
[4] Ibid, 120
[5] Claire Bishop, Participation (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006) 15 - 16
[6] Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook, Rethinking Curating (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010) 60 - 63
[7] Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook, Rethinking Curating (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010) 112
[8] Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook, Rethinking Curating (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010) 112 -113
[9] http://objectstories.org/stories/#!/ [Accessed: May 10, 2013].
[10] Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook, Rethinking Curating (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010) 114

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