March 30, 2011 § 6 Comments
Last week I visited Mona – the Museum of Old and New Art, which recently opened in Berridale, Tasmania, Australia. Mona is extraordinary for a number of reasons, not least the story of its creation by professional gambler David Walsh, but here I just wanted to relate my impressions of The O, the mobile device given to all visitors who walk through Mona’s doors.
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Just inside the unassuming entrance to Mona I was introduced to The O, an iPod touch with a Mona branded protective case. In a quick group lesson we learned how there are no labels to be found anywhere on the walls of the museum, and that these devices provided access to information about the art. We were also given a pair of Mona-branded headphones, which have a retractable cord to avoid tangle problems, and the museum visitor-guide brochure. The front-of-house team made The O seem easy to use, and I happily hung it around my neck as I descended a spiral staircase into the museum.
I had no idea where I was going or what was going to see, and spent the first 30 minutes marveling more at the excavated gallery spaces, than the art. When I did start to notice the work around me, I didn’t feel the need to use The O immediately. I just wanted to orientate myself in the space and look. Surprisingly, I caught myself glancing around for non-existent labels, like phantom limbs. It’s confronting to realise how ingrained my museum behaviours are, and it felt deliciously liberating to have them subverted.
Eventually I got around to the business of plugging into The O. I clicked on the pink cross, the device used geolocation to position me in the museum, and returned a list of works nearby. I made my selection, and received a simple summary screen with a thumbnail of the work.
The options on the screen included:
o Voting on whether I +LOVE or xHATE the work: This was good fun, when I chose to love or hate something a screen returned delivering stats in amusing ways to show how many agreed with my choice. It is also an opportunity for Mona to collect some data about me as a visitor, which in the end made me a little self-conscious about my choices.
o Artwank: Text in a formal curatorial style. Worthy stuff, but I was having too much fun working it out for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good artwank, however in this context it was too hard to read on the small screen, and my eyes began to glaze over.
o Gonzo: This is more like it. Personal musings on the art from Mona’s owner David Walsh. He is funny, smart, and his conversational tone was much better suited for delivery on a mobile device.
o Ideas: Perfect little text bytes to take you in unexpected directions.
o Audio: In the gallery space I found the audio hard to engage with. The recording was noisy, and the poor quality made it a deal breaker. A good solution would be to have the audio on the Mona website, where I could access it from home. Many museums and galleries offer this feature, but Mona is yet to.
Once I had looked at a couple of works on The O, a message appeared to tell me I could save my tour and access it later online. All I had to do was enter my email address, confirm it, and I was done. This process was a little misleading. It gave the impression that I would be able to access all the content on The O on the Mona website after I had left the museum. As it turned out, this wasn’t the case. As I have already explained, there is no post-visit access to audio, and to unlock extra content online you need to have accessed the specific work on The O.
Another point of frustration was that the content is locked up by the geolocation IA. If I moved away from a work and reset my location, the content from the previous location disappeared, and could only be accessed again if I moved back within range of the work. I am not sure why there needs to be so much locking up of content. It seems to be out of kilter with the spirit of sharing that makes Mona free to enter, and attractive to people who would normally run a mile from an art museum visit.
As I walked around I found myself using The O intermittently. In one interesting instance I was sitting and listening to the Last riot 2 video installation, while reading on The O about James Angus’ Truck Corridor, which I had just walked past. The effect was like a mashup – a new experience made possible by The O. I enjoyed the loud, energetic clash, and it pretty much sums my whole visit. I eventually emerged into the late-afternoon sun feeling altered and elated, perhaps even a little in love with all things Mona.
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The O app was fun, addictive, easy to navigate and provided a seamless wi-fi enabled user-experience. Some of the content could be improved – and set free – but it’s early days yet. Perhaps even more interesting is that I liked not using The O. It’s existence allowed the labels to be ripped off the walls of the art museum, leaving the work without obvious instructions or signifiers. This shone a bright light upon the preconceived ideas I bring to any exhibition space, and how without them my unguided response to an object might be magically different.
My visit to Mona was a delight, and challenged me to engage with the space and art in unexpected ways. Mona did not want to dictate my experience. In fact, I was encouraged to get lost, explore and learn in my own way. The O device was my compass, but I was not forced to use it in any prescribed fashion. It was up to me to take it or leave it, and I appreciated the choice. Sadly, my visit to the website post visit wasn’t so satisfying, but I’m sure that side of things will evolve with user feedback.
If anyone else out there has had a chance to visit Mona and use The O, I’d be interested to know how your experiences compare.
May 21, 2007 § 13 Comments
For the first time, Tate Britain is inviting members of the public to contribute to the content of an exhibition. How We Are: Photographing Britain takes a unique look at the journey of British photography, from the pioneers of the early medium to today’s photographers who use new technology to make and display their imagery.
For more info go to Tate online
or straight to the Flickr site
April 30, 2007 § 2 Comments
This month I’ve been helping Sydney artist AñA Wojak set up a blog to document her photo-synthesis project. She is the first official Royal Sydney Botanical Gardens artist in residence and will work in the gardens from March 2007 until March 2008. Much of the work AñA create’s during this residency will be ephemera and will perish (or get nicked) quickly. Blogging is the perfect way to for us as viewers to follow the project and keep track of what’s on display within the gardens. Blogging also provides a cheap and easy way to keep a record of the 12 months for AñA’s own portfolio and the Botanical Gardens own archive.
March 18, 2007 § 6 Comments
Ron Mueck’s Man in a Boat. Picture: Katarzyna Krzywania
I’ve often wondered why you can’t take photographs in some museums or in some exhibitions and not others. The e-artcasting blog entry “When Cameras Inside Museums Are Forbidden: Web2.0 and Copyrights” shed some light on the mystery. The answer is pretty obvious really it’s all about lender agreements and copyright.
January 27, 2007 § Leave a comment
Another thought provoking Museum of London effort, MapMyLondon.com is a great idea, basically you can attach text, a photo, video and sound files to a google map of London to create a mosaic of London memories. The site sorts the content by themes such as “Love&Loss”, “Joy&Struggle”, “Fate&Coincidence” and you can add your own themes – how about “Broke&Australian”. The google map keeps crashing for me so I haven’t had a good look at the memories or added any of my own but hope to soon.
January 20, 2007 § Leave a comment
Have you noticed that the Brooklyn Museum has a Community section on their website? The first page says “The Brooklyn Museum believes in community. As we blog to keep you up-to-date, we’d love to hear from you too. Tell us about your visit by commenting on our posts.” The Community section identifies ways in which visitors can contribute to a conversation with BM, eg. photographs, videos, blogs. This Museum’s social (as opposed to scientific) approach to finding out how visitors interpret their space is so refreshing. Other museums, let’s say Tate online and the Powerhouse Museum, have community building initiatives, ie. use of social software, they may even be developing their presence on flickr and myspace.com. Their sites do not have a clearly marked community section for visitor contributions and clear directions to their content out on the network, is it time for them to do so?
December 13, 2006 § Leave a comment
Recently I read a story in the New Yorker It should happen to you: The anxieties of YouTube fame. The article introduced me to Peter, a widower born in 1927 who has been uploading video snippets telling his life story.
“………He was wearing a beige V-neck sweater and glasses, and sat in front of nineteen-seventies-era wallpaper and a small painting of a motorcycle. “Oh, yes, and, incidentally, I really am as old as I look,” he said. “What I hope I’ll be able to do is just bitch and grumble about life in general from the perspective of an old person who’s been there and done that.”
His video was highlighted by the YouTube team and now has a following of mainly young YouTube watchers. Touchingly he has become, if a little reluctantly, a virtual grandad to some of his fans who actually send him letters telling him so. At the time of writing geriatric1927′s latest video on YouTube is THE ROLE OF “GRANDAD” in which he tells an evocative story about his relationship with his own Victorian era grandparents.
Peter’s video’s would not be watched by the majority of under 20′s who belong to the YouTube community in other contexts, such as television. Programmers would not sell it as content for that age group, but judging from the comments and the amount of subscribers Peter has that demographic are actually pretty interested in knowing what he has to say. Museums as cultural and heritage custodians will no doubt collect these videos as historical documents? How will they display them to museum visitors? Should they be sending out content of their own into contexts such as YouTube, in some cases they already are but it is still at a novelty/experimental level. The possibilities seem huge for cultural institutions to connect in new ways with their public and also collect the knowledge that their public is creating en masse.
December 5, 2006 § Leave a comment
Montage IIOriginally uploaded by Dani Tagen.Today I’m taking part in a Project Simultaneity initiated by artist Dani Tagen who is a member of my Flickr group Tate Online Learning Level 2 . Those taking part will take photographs of anything they find of interest during today, Tuesday the 5th of December 2006. Dani says she is
…….planing to tell a visual story about something that has never happened and will never happen, with the images I will collect from the volunteers. The images should be about the volunteers ordinary life, just shooting anything that feels interesting – doesn’t matter what and the quality. My goal is to emphasise our connection to the world. It’s going to be a visual story about everyone at the same time.
Great that Flickr makes it so easy to participate in something like this, how simple it is to contribute to an artists work that may be seen in a museum’s real space. I’m off to collect images now, wonder how they’ll end up in the final work?