Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

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Kenneth Anger Inspiration

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Matthew Dear’s Her Pleasure Music Video

A month ago, my best friend took me to the Treasure Island Music Festival.  To prepare, I bought glitter (to throw at strangers) and checked out the lineup.  I was dying to see The Presets, whose new album Pacificahas been on a constant loop in my life.  The Gossip was also performing.  I’m a huge fan of Beth Ditto (video involves vogueing), but had never seen their video for Move in the Right Direction. It made me scream: “Barbara Kruger!” within the first ten seconds.  Okay, Kruger doesn’t have omnipresent claim to ALL use of bold text in black, white, and red, but the video is undeniably similar to Kruger’s installations at L&M Arts, her elevator at LACMA, and basically her entire oeuvre.  At least The Gossip creative team was clever and animated the Kruger-like text: cheeky things like “guitar solo” flash during a bridge, and the words “fadeout” appear at the end of the song. Cute.

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Museum Marketing: Kings, Queens, and Courtiers: Art in Early Renaissance France

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Art Institute of Chicago

If you’re like me, you already check out your reflection in the huge windows of ground floor lobbies in downtown.  Don’t lie; it’s impossible not to when faced with such large expanses of glass.  The Art Institute’s marketing campaign for its current temporary exhibition, show Kings, Queens, and Courtiers: Art in Early Renaissance France only makes things worse (or better).  Better.  Museums in Chicago love a creative marketing campaign (see previous post on The Horse at the Field).

Look at yourself, just look at yourself!

Why this campaign is better than the Horse campaign: The campaign uses artwork in the exhibition.  Both Jean Bourdichon’s Louis XII Kneeling in Prayer (1498/99) and Leonardo Da Vinci’s Madonna of the Yarnwinder are used.  (The latter is the clear superstar of the show.)  The marketing campaign pairs these paintings with large, silver, reflective material, on which are printed crowns and scepters.  The idea is to look into these mirrors and picture yourself as a King or Queen, or as a Madonna…

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Museum Marketing: The Horse

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Field Museum

The Field Museum loves owned media particularly social media (the stuff you don’t pay for).  It has a brand new website, facebook, twitter (Sue the t-rex even has her own), flickr, and yes it still has a myspace.  With all this owned media, you would think they would be paying for much promotion.  Despite all its social media the Field still likes to pay major ducats for marketing campaigns and advertisements.  These campaigns range from creative and innovative, to downright awful (and probably grossly expensive).  There was that time the loop was invaded by theme park pirate sculptures, then there was the time with unicorns into the St. Patrick’s parade, there was also that time they converted buses into wooly mammoths, and also that time they projected a mermaid on the buildings along Michigan Avenue (sorry couldn’t find a link for this one).  The Field is like case study book for a marketing class.

Let’s explore.

The current temporary exhibition at the Field Museum is The Horse. The show is organized by the American Museum of Natural History (they love to rent out shows) in collaboration with The Field, as well as with the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and the San Diego Natural History Museum (an eclectic bunch).  The marketing campaign for show can be seen in bus shelters (way popular placement for the Field), as well as whizzing past on top of taxi cabs.

Trojan Pig.

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Public Notice 3

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Art Institute of Chicago

Not-so-coincidentally Public Notice 3, by Jitish Kallat opened on September 11, 2010.  You probably remember what happened on September 11, 2001, but September 11, 1893 is also intrinsically important to this piece.  The words from a speech given by the Indian monk and social reformer Swami Vivekananda on September 11, 1893 have been illuminated in thousands of colored LED lights and set into the risers of the Woman’s Board Grand Staircase in the Art Institute.  The “landmark speech delivered at the first World’s Parliament of Religions, in what is now the Art Institute’s Fullerton Hall, by Vivekananda, who called for an end to all “bigotry and fanaticism.”” Another major element of this piece is therefore site-specificity.

Danger, danger, high voltage.

Vivekananda’s words are illuminated in five significant colors taken from the United States’ Homeland Security Advisory System.  It’s been a while since I thought about this color system, so I needed to refresh myself on the meaning/terminology.  Red = severe risk of terrorist attack, orange = high risk, yellow= elevated risk, blue = general risk, and green = low risk.  I kinda forgot about this institutionalized system of fear, and being reminded of it, I realize I can totally live without it.

I wonder what security level the Art Institute is operating at right now.

The message in this work is profound, meaningful, and especially timely—too bad the execution of the work is lacking.  What could have looked high-tech and modern, ended up looking like a cheap lite brite from the 90s.  I will concede that spending a lot of cash on something expensive placed at foot level also wouldn’t fly with me, so I forgive those responsible, and shall consider them frugal and realistic.  One well executed element is that no matter which of the four entrances up the stairs you enter (or exit) you read the same text; you read the whole speech regardless of the path you take.

Standart, they came up with that not me.

A colleague of mine stated Public Notice 3, looked like a cheap version of Jenny Holzer, and this seemed like a tired (done and done better) idea.  I know all about Jenny Holzer, mostly from the installation of her work in the Standard Hotel in downtown LA.  The medium might be similar, but the impact is totally different (mainly because of context: Museum vs. swanky hipster hotel).  To say that Holzer is completely original in using LED lights would also be incorrect; Baldessari was using scrolling LED light messages as early as 1968 in his Lighted Moving Message.

Vintage LED lights, in Pure Beauty.

And if you were wondering, there is indeed a Public Notice 2, and even an original Public Notice.  Number 1 was created in2003, and is made up of five mirrored panels and uses text from a speech given by Jawaharlal Nehru on the occasion of Indian independence from British rule on 15 August 1947.  Number 2, was created in 2008, and is also a physical manifestation of another historic speech, this one delivered by Mahatma Gandhi, on the eve of the epic Salt March to Dandi.  Kallat is an Indian artist, which is probably why he uses speeches from important Indian orators, but the themes in these speeches are (as corny as it sounds) universal, and very topical for an American audience.

Bad ad and small advertising budget.

Chicago art-going audiences might be over art installations on stairs.  Right now, just a few blocks away at the MCA, is another installation on their front stairs.  For the life of me (and almost a half hour of googling it) I couldn’t figure out who this installation was by. And then I read the words again; it says “form, balance, joy” in bubbely, bouncing letters—so it might just be a bad attempt at advertising their recent Calder show.   Apparently the MCA really likes doing the whole installation on the stairs thing and has done a few in the past.  I hope that people in Chicago aren’t bored of stair installations, because this one at the Art Institute is way different (and way cooler) the ones I’ve seen so far at the MCA.

– H.I.

P.S. here are some more photos of Public Notice 3, via the Art Institute’s Flickr, yes they have a Flickr, and yes I approve of them using social media in this way.  And look a blog post too!

The Curve Blog

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Museum of Contemporary Art

This is unrelated to an exhibition or installation, but still something related to this blog: museum blogs.  As previously mentioned on this blog, MOCA has a little-publicized blog call The Curve (unimaginative name, I know).  From the look of it, it seems it was designed as a platform to host podcasts and videos.  However, following in the footsteps of LACMA’s Unframed, and more recently the Getty’s The Iris, MOCA has actually been using its blog more like a blog.  Sometimes the post are informative, sometimes they are pure hipster frivolity and wastes of money.

Reblogging in the highest form of flattery...

The most recent post proposes a best caption contest (no prize for the winner is stipulated).  MOCA also manages to hook into the viral video “Double Rainbow” (I refuse to give you that link because you’ve already seen it). What a clever tactic for driving comments and reader participation.  Actually it’s an over-used tactic, almost the equivalent of ending a blog post with: “so what do you think?”–which is the lowest of low tactics. I would never ask you, my legions of devoted readers, what you think. I’m telling you what I think.

Back to topic: I decided to submit my own photocaption, yes I feel for the tactic, and as a way of being a responsible social media participant.  (See the comments section of the caption contest post.)  I was surprised that the comment didn’t automatically appear, and that it first needed to be moderated.  AKA It needed to be approved by MOCA first. My comment was clearly approved because I mentioned that MOCA managed to end their fiscal year with a $5.5 million surplus (congrats MOCA, now put that back into your endowment right now).  They love you when you help publicize the good stuff.

Reclaiming control over the orgy of social media is a very hot topic.  Should organizations let their social media platforms run wild, or should they attempt to moderate? (That’s a hypothetic question, no need to comment.) Let’s recall how LA Metro got into some shit after they deleted a comment from their facebook page.

At first I was going to be harsh on MOCA for moderating their comments, but then I did some investigative blogging, and left comments on both The Iris, and on Unframed. I realized that the Getty and LACMA moderate their comments too.  I guess I can’t be so harsh on MOCA (even if their blog sucks).  Maybe this will become an experiment. I wonder how filthy I can get before a museum tells me to stop.  LACMA hasn’t contacted me about that giftshop slash porn set comment, so I guess that’s progress.

-H.I.

P.S. Special consideration should be made in the case of Donald Frazell: as a rule everyone can and should delete his comments.

Written by exhibitioninquisition

October 4, 2010 at 8:22 PM