Wednesday 28 May 2008

Holding hands with Olafur

More Olafur Eliasson visitor engagement, as the SFMOMA show 'Take your time' tours to MoMA and PS1.

I recently wrote about the SFMOMA experience of trying to get visitors to the show to share and discuss their experiences. At MoMA/PS1, visitors are being invited to apply for a "special cell-phone camera" to hang around their necks. As they walk around the show the cameras take pictures at random intervals, "documenting the visitors' journeys through the exhibition in a candid and experiential way".

Some of the photos are then being incorporated to "appear in the background" of the online exhibition (which is nice, but BEFORE YOU CLICK know that it's a slow loader). I wasn't sure initially what 'in the background' meant, but I think now that it means 'underneath this long piece of expository text'. After a bit of back-and-forward buttoning, I got this page, which shows just the visitor images. (It's not listed in the nav, as far as I can see).

The online exhibition is very beautiful, btw, and has a nifty little feature where when you hover over images it displays the title and the site where the work is on show - subtle, but useful for a multi-site exhibition.

At first, I wasn't sure about this hang around your neck, random timing thing. Why not let visitors decide what to photograph and how? And then I thought, if the whole Eliasson thing is about experiencing the work, having a visitor thinking about documenting the work instead of just being in it constitutes failure (or at least, the failure of the museum to fulfil the artist's intentions).

So I came around, and although I reckon some visitors must be subverting the instructions and pointing the cameras at things they hope to photograph, I like the idea that I'm seeing fragments of people's visits in quite an unmediated way (except - god, it's always except, isn't it? that they're being selected by someone inside the museum. Maybe they could put the whole unfiltered set up on Flickr).

Olafur Eliasson,
1 m3 light, 1999, photograph by Matthew Septimus. From

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