One of my socially engaged art thought experiments from a few weeks ago was an inquiry into collaborative curating. What if museums and galleries, in addition presenting work on their white walls, invited visitors as participants to sequence and classify objects?
For my final project I built a prototype to explore this and quickly discovered several other applications for investigation.
A few notes on my process: knowing that I wanted to again use web sockets to create a shared space for creating, as I did in Social Drawing Sol LeWitt, I continued to use the P5 mode at OpenProcessing.org. While my social drawing tool employs line making, this project uses shapes and images: I wanted multiple people to drag objects around the screen at once. First, I had to learn how to work with an array of objects--I started with basic shapes and then added images, and next I learned how to encapsulate those images into a class of draggable items. Finally, ITP Resident Lisa Jamhoury pushed through with me to figure out how to broadcast changing image positions through web sockets. As we quickly saw, sometimes the simplest of ideas are not the easiest nor the quickest to execute. (Thank you, Lisa!)
Because I started with basic shapes as I worked out the underlying functionality, I quickly realized that I could create a canvas for social collaging. Here's a snapshot of one of those early sketches, which you can also visit here. (In searching a different topic, I found a related project in a proposal for a Digital Stained Glass installation by Caitlin Pickall.)
Which of course led me to the idea of remixing existing paintings altogether, such as with this abstract from Mondrian. Yes we could look and point and talk about how the artist created "paths across the canvas suggesting the city's grid, the movement of traffic, and blinking electric lights, as well as the rhythms of jazz (from MoMA)," but a remixing tool might ask us to look even closer and navigate these ideas by building our own version together.
And what would happen if this tool was extended to pictures with more visual complexity? This Bosch painting is densely packed with information. I imagine that surely we might get to know it even better with a tool that asks us to look carefully as we manipulate and move its elements.
Here's a sketch that combines the detail and compactness of the Bosch painting with my original social collage inspiration (probably because I saw this Garden of Earthly Delights by Carla Gannis this summer). The Emoji Wall 2500 contains approximately 2600 emoji artworks from EmojiOne. How do we communicate meaning through these pictorial words? Are those meanings shared? What happens when these meanings are constructed in a non-linear fashion and simultaneously? (Thanks to the ITP Residents for recommending another emoji project by recent ITP-grad, Rebecca Leopold.)
With the underlying functionality in pace, I now have a template with which to populate any set of images. My original inspiration grew from an inquiry into ways museums and galleries might open source their exhibits and provide visitors with opportunities to sequence artworks themselves. I'm very interested in meaning is derived from visual sources, especially photographs, which I consider to be a combination several factors : What is content of the image (the objects, lines, shapes, composition, colors, distortions)? What does that content signify (what ideas are expressed?) How do our eyes physically read this information (What do you look at first, second...last?) Finally, what is the context in which the image is situated (Is it on a wall? A social media site? Are you holding it in book? Is it surrounded by other images)? Context and sequencing especially lends itself to establishing some type of perceived narrative and understanding.
For this last example, I visited a current exhibit in the city: the Stephen Shore retrospective at MoMA, which includes a presentation of Uncommon Places, his series of color pictures of the American vernacular landscape. There I saw an edit of the series that differs from the original book and also the photographer's personal website. Why the different edits and sequences? Looking closer I found that the photographs at the museum appeared in neither geographical nor chronological order, so there must be other relationships/meanings between the images at play in determining their locations. The sketch below contains 30 of the 40 images currently on display at MoMA and now available to reorder according to our own conversations and decisions:
Though this tool is not that different from my collaborative drawing canvas, participants can now investigate together many more questions with entire images or image segments at their fingertips. Questions related to how and what we see and also how meaning and stories are created within compositions and between them. If anything, perhaps the activity of sequencing together would make for a useful teaching tool in the art history or photography classroom. Ideally participants could upload their own images for any given context--educational, artistic, etc.
While this is good first attempt to create a tool for collaborative image interaction, there are some bugs to work out. Currently if shapes or objects overlap, the mouse cursor picks up the objects in the background layer first, as opposed to the topmost layer. And of course, especially when working with images, I also need to learn how to load them faster and/or provide a loading animation while the participants wait. Finally, every time you refresh the page, the objects always display in the same starting points; I would prefer for any updated image locations to save for the next visitor to consider what just occurred (and why) and then continue the iteration process.
Stephen Shore Image Citations
This image was accessed via Stephen Shore’s website here on 12 Dec 2017:
Ginger Shore, Miami, Florida, November 12, 1977
These images were accessed via the Museum of Modern Art here on 12 Dec 2017:
Alley off Sunset Strip, Hollywood, California, June 22, 1975
Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, California, June 21, 1975
El Paso Street, El Paso, Texas, July 5, 1975
Holden Street, North Adams, Massachusetts, July 13, 1974
Lincoln Street and Riverside Street, Spokane, Washington, August 25, 1974
Lookout Hotel, Ogunquit, Maine, July 16, 1974
Michael and Sandy Marsh, Amarillo, Texas, September 27, 1974
U.S. 10, Post Falls, Idaho, August 25, 1974
10 - U.S. 93, Kingman, Arizona, July 2, 1975
U.S. 93, Wikieup, Arizona, December 14, 1976
U.S. 97, South of Klamath Falls, Oregon, July 21, 1973
West 9th Avenue, Amarillo, Texas, October 2, 1974
These images were accessed via 303 Gallery here on 13 Dec 2017:
11th Street, St. Louis, Missouri, May 12, 1974
Badlands National Monument, South Dakota, July 14, 1973
Bellevue, Alberta, August 21, 1974
Church and Second Streets, Easton, Pennsylvania, June 20, 1974
Cumberland Street, Charleston, South Carolina, August 3, 1975
Elizabeth Street, Harrisonburg, Virginia, April 28, 1974
Grayson, Kentucky, May 1, 1974
Hoff Avenue, Tucson, Arizona, December 6, 1976
Meeting Street, Charleston, South Carolina, August 3, 1975
Palm Beach, Florida, November 8, 1977
Presidio, Texas, February 21, 1975
Robert and Lucille Wehrly, Coos Bay, Oregon, August 13, 1974
Room 115, Holiday Inn, Belle Glade, Florida, November 14, 1977
Second Street, East and South Main Street, Kalispell, Montana, August 22, 1974
Trail’s End Restaurant, Kanab, Utah, August 10, 1973
U.S. 27, Palmdale, Florida, November 15, 1977
U.S. 33, Fort Seybert, West Virginia, April 29, 1974
Updated Canvases from Class