Sunday, March 8, 2009

Taking Aim at Brooklyn Museum's "Click!"


I'm sad to say I missed many of the presenations at "Encounters in the Socialverse" last week at York University. But I did catch the end of a panel including LaTanya S. Autry, a master's candidate at the University of Delaware, who has been studying the Brooklyn Museum's "Click! A Crowd Curated Exhibition" with interesting results.

According to Autry's research, "Click!" initially promised to be an exciting collaboration with the public where visitors and online users would get to curate an open-call exhibition. But in the end, as Autry found, museum curators used a few different strategies to reassert their authority, like organizing a panel on the exhibit where museum curators were the only official speakers, and breaking the original curatorial "contract" by exhibiting only a small selection of the crowd-curated works, rather than all 300-plus. The show was also situated well away from the Museum's own contemporary art collection rooms.

I found Autry's research compelling, because it's clear she admires the museum's initiative, but has also pinpointed ways in which museum attitudes towards the public can still be closed and condescending. As Autry put it, "I'm part of the public too; I don't think the public is stupid."

Also, though the show was reviewed in the NY Times, the reviewer didn't seem to pick up on this angle. Some comments on the project blog, however, would seem to reveal a bit of dissenting opinion.

Image of the show being documented from the Brooklyn Museum blog

5 comments:

Shelley said...

Interesting. I love it when outsiders look things like this because it brings a fresh perspective. There are a few things, however, that should be corrected for the record:

"The show was also situated well away from the Museum's own contemporary art collection rooms." - note: the contemporary galleries actually didn't open until the Fall 2008 :) She might be talking about our larger temporary exhibition spaces where we show both Contemporary and non-Contemporary work (depending on the exhibition). In either case, Click was not meant to be a large exhibition, so the space that we were given was appropriate for the size of the show. There are many other factors here that the researcher should take into consideration about how shows get scheduled based on availability of space, etc (nuances that are difficult to know from the outside looking in).

"breaking the original curatorial "contract" by exhibiting only a small selection of the crowd-curated works, rather than all 300-plus" - We were pretty clear in our Terms of Service with the artists that not all the works would be installed. It was impossible to calculate what could and could not fit into the gallery from the get go: I mean, what if we had gotten 3000 submissions? :)

As for the panel, well that's pretty funny. I'm not a curator, so when I was organizing the panel, I thought it was such a great thing to get the people we did! What I loved about the crowd that showed up that day was all the artists in the audience and the QA that developed. Lots of good discussion and to see and hear 10-12 artists discussing the show was pretty awesome. In looking back at how varied their response was, I'm not sure putting just 1 artist voice on that panel would have accurately represented the process for the many. But that's hindsight 20/20 :)

Leah Sandals said...

Hey Shelley,

Thanks for your response...

I know your museum is really progressive with web stuff, so I had hoped you might comment.

I think what it comes down to is that ambiguity, right?

Like, obviously you guys tried to do something innovative.

But there were ways in which it didn't deliver on its initial public promise.

It obviously appears from your comment like you're aware of the ways it fell short... so are you planning on shifting any strategies in the future?

Looking forward to your reponse,

Leah

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LaTanya said...

I am pleased to learn that my analysis of the Brooklyn Museum’s Click!: A Crowd-Curated exhibition has gained attention and has fostered discussion.

I was one of the 575 people who reviewed all of the entries during the online evaluation process. Therefore, as one of the crowd members who supposedly curated the exhibition, it’s interesting to be called an “outsider.” However, the term is at the same time quite appropriate since the argument of my paper states that those who participated in the evaluation process were treated as “outsiders” by the museum institution. Additionally, the various tight controls on the project diminished the possibility for a truly collaborative effort.

It is important to note that the methods employed for this project were outside the boundaries of traditional practice. Because the project was produced by an anomalous group: a computer systems specialist and members of an online museum community, one could say that everyone involved was an “outsider.”

Although I found Click! to be problematic, I did find it to be engaging. It highlighted the nature of curation and the diverse anxieties associated with the curatorial role. It is promising to see a major art institution making such an effort to engage the public in this way. I hope that Click! signifies a shift towards collaborative curation in other art museums. I’m looking forward to taking part in democratic endeavors geared toward eradicating conventional insider/outsider borders.

Overall, I believe that the fact there’s even space for this exchange of ideas is a sign of positive change.

Leah Sandals said...

Hi LaTanya,

Thanks for your input. It's true the insider/outsider thing is nebulous (and problematic) but it is a duality that came across in your comments. I'm sure your thesis reflects more complexity... but I'm glad you're addressing these issues.

What is your final take on this matter? How do you think the project could have been improved?