How Museums Are Dealing With New Media Art: Part 2

In 2000 the Washington DC based Smithsonian American Museum of Art announced the creation of the New Media/New Century Award.  The New Media/New Century Award became one of first projects to support  new art created for the Web. The museum accepted proposals for original Web-based projects that explored the subject of American landscape, and how the new medium of Web art affected the American landscape as a subject. 

Though the project is over 10 years old, it demonstrates the early and exceptional sensibility of the Smithsonian’s curators. They understood the growing relevance new media art and especially Web-art, and its impact not only on people’s everyday perceptions, but also on the art scene as a whole.

Promoting Digital Media Art through Digital Media tools

In our technology-stuffed world, the difficulties faced by video artists seem paradoxical. Due to high up-front costs, and the difficulty of handling and selling digital technologies, established institutions such as art galleries and museums often shun their work. Artists may look at the entertainment industry as an alternative, but find themselves unfulfilled, as musicians typically come first in these sorts of collaborations.

PIPS:lab Diespace, Interactive Multimedia Experience

PIPS:lab recently made its US debut during a festival featuring Dutch artists here in Pittsburgh.  The Amsterdam group has been performing together for about a dozen years.  The work that they performed was categorized as absurdist media theater and was a short evening length work without intermission.  The use of technology for this performing group is integral.  The performance itself was noteworthy for its innovation on a number of different levels.  It is worth noting, however, the problems that PIPS:lab had in functionally executing the performance due to glitchy technology. The performance, Diespace, was essentially an introduction to a fictional new social network site that audience members were encouraged to visit after they die (or die in order to visit).  The actors polled the audience about their opinions regarding whether or not there is life after (or before, humorously) death.  These polls were conducted with a cool audience participation tool of light capture setup where the audience essentially wrote on a screen upstage.

The other insertion of tech into the performance involved video/audio remixes of various clips taken of audience member during and before the show.  These clips were then edited in real time into the performance.  This, in turn, served to engage the audience but through a pretty controlled format.  The display of the video and audio taken from the audience drew laughter and made the audience excited and was a high point of the performance lending to greater investment from the collective.  Additional audience participate was to be had through a lottery during the show where the faces of the audience were put into a virtual tumbler on the screen upstage.  Three audience members won prizes with the grand prize being a premium account for Diespace (which included significant stage time for the audience member who won it).

The performance unfolded at a relatively brisk pace with musical interludes to cover moments where the technology and content was being prepped.  The problem with this was that the performers ended up being a bit un-invested in the music and as a result it was hard to be carried away by the performance.  It was easy to check out during these scenes through the distractions on stage.  It was the sense of this reviewer that there was only one true musician on stage, a fact that was born out by the program notes about the artists backgrounds.

At least three times during the performance there were loud warnings of a computer crash each time forcing the performers on stage to repeat a few moments to a few minutes of the action.  This in turn lent to a stutter stop feel to the performance.  Execution of Diespace did not look like it was easy and to be certain what PIPS:lab is trying to do is not easy in general.  They deserve applause for attempting to stitch together so many constituent elements in the moment.  It was fascinating at times to see the failures of the technology and there was rarely a moment where the audience did not have something that they could try to be engaged in.  The relative successes and failures of this performance reinforce the point that some technologies have a ways to go before they are both accessible to independent performing artists.

The innovation of groups like PIPS:lab hopefully will be the wave of the future and it is gratifying to see media artists take the stage with musicians and actors.  The combination of talents of stage was a rich soup and Diespace was a valuable experience for the insights that it gave with regards to generation of true multi-disciplinary live work.





Let's Talk About Tumblr

Tumblr has not been discussed here in over a year, which I believe to be an egregious error. Since it’s undergone some significant changes since our last post, let’s revisit this microblogging platform (which is one of my personal faves). Our original post covered the basics of Tumblr, so if you haven’t checked it out, maybe that’s a good way to get up to speed.

This article is part one of a three part series about Tumblr for arts organizations. The second part can be found here, and the third part will be posted April 27, 2012.

Tumblr was launched in 2007 and is very popular amoung Millennials. Half of users are under the age of 25, and about 20% are in the 25-34 range. The average user spends over two hours on the site per visit and as of 9:00 EST this very morning Tumblr had 19.7 billion posts from 49 million blogs.

Tumblr has some features that are new or a bit different since our last post, including:

The new posting Dashboard - Image via

Revamped Messaging System A slew of spam messages last year caused the website to reconsider how users message one another. The main communication issue still remains (inability to have a real discussion), users can only post short replies to posts with questions or if the users have the “reply” option enabled. Messages are limited to a certain number of characters and cannot contain links.

Fan Mail The new messaging system does contain a “Fan Mail” feature, which is exactly what it sounds like. Users can customize the appearance of short messages to their favorite blogs who have this function enabled.

Tumblr Fan Mail - Image via

Share on Tumblr Like Pinterest, Tumblr has a bookmark button that allows users to grab content from anywhere on the web and share it on their Tumblr.

Mass Edit Tumblr has a mass post edit feature! Now you can easily select posts, delete them, and alter their tags.

There are still some challenges when it comes to Tumblr:

Bye bye Directory The Directory was an aggregation of Tumblr’s top blogs, organized by category. With its disappearance, Tumblr has become even more of a clique – it's hard to find Tumblr blogs unless you already know where to find them. Tumblr still recommends blogs that would be relevant to your interests on your Dashboard, but since you have to have a Tumblr and follow enough blogs for them to know what you like and make a recommendation… It’s a little bit Catch-22.

Success Metrics There’s still the challenge of measuring the impact of your posts. Tumblr has made it easy for you to install Google Analytics to your blog, but offers no internal solutions. (It is still awesome to have a post blow up and go viral though).

Overall, Tumblr is still an interesting blogging platform, with a lot of opportunities for arts organizations to connect with a young demographic. The first week of April will feature the second part of this series: a Mini-Nar on creating your own Tumblr. We’ll also talk about some best practices, including how to fully utilize a GPOY, interacting with your community, and the importance of GIFs. Get hype! Go enjoy your weekend! Don’t burn yourself with that new iPad!

Creators Project in San Francisco

Last weekend the Creator's Project garnered significant attention from national media.  From the mission statement on the website "The Creators Project is a global celebration of art and technology." and "The Creators Project is a new kind of arts and culture channel for a new kind of world."   As an intersection between art and tech it seems appropriate that the blog weigh in and take a look at what they did, how they did it, and the implications.  The Creator's Project has major sponsorship from Intel Corp and VICE with significant online free content focusing on mostly short form interview of Creator associated artists.  This Project offers similar promise to other ventures to offering culture and arts online to ideas such as On The Boards TV and Jacob's Pillow Virtual Pillow but is already operating on a much larger scale than either of these.

The Creators Project offers arts and culture online at a scale that is extraordinary for such a young institution.  The levels of participation on information sharing that is happening through their website looks unparalleled and should be looked towards as a model for successful integration of technology and the arts.   The Creators Project was started in May of 2010 by VICE and seems to have two major interfaces with the public.  There is a exhibit/show that has toured around the world each year and an expanding web presence that now counts video downloads in the millions.  The content is broken out into six different categories:  Music, Film, Art, Design, Gaming, and Fashion and has engaged with artists from all of these areas to provide content online and for the annual festival.  They will be rolling out content collected from the event last weekend (March 17-19, 2012) in the coming weeks.

Current content on the website is a mind blowing array of new directions taken by artists in each of the fields.  One of the standout artists at the event last weekend was a new work from visual multidisciplinary artist Chris Milk.  The installation called the Treachery of Sanctuary incorporated user interaction with digital transformation to look at elements of flight.  Visuals of this can be found here.

Anther fascinating example that was found on the Creator's Project website was the Electronic Shadow from France.  Electronic Shadow uses imaging technology and software to generate interactive 3D maps of people places and objects.  These images then can be used and manipulated in artistic fashions.  The implication for this technology would, for instance, be a game changing one for other art forms such as dance.

Exchange of ideas such as Creator's Project bring together the bleeding edge of Technology and the Arts and as such should be a point of engagement for institutions that are looking to modernize and include new audiences (and younger audiences).  The artists involved have obviously successfully engaged these audiences already and by following the lead of these success stories arts leaders at more conventional organizations can find hope in a new direction in reshaping structure and content to address the demands of a more complex world.





Sweet Pantone Tarts

Spring seems to have sprung here in Pittsburgh, and having a week off on spring break makes everything seem lovely. It is under that guise I present this post to you purely for aesthetic reasons. Emilie Guelpa is a French artist/blogger/chef who has created these masterful (et très mignon) tarts inspired by Pantone colors. While I can totally imagine eating them in the café of an art museum, they were created for the magazine Fricote and posted on her blog Griottes. While the blog is currently French only, Guelpa promises an English translation version very soon. In the mean time, you can check out her Pinterest and dream about delightfully colorful tarts.

Well, that’s all I’ve got. I hope you have a great weekend planned and nice weather to enjoy it!




The Cloud

Moving your organization's data to a cloud server might be a good idea at this time.  There are several advantages to working off of a cloud server and a few drawbacks. Some advantages to going to cloud computing:

Accessibility is generally improved through cloud storage.  You can access data from anywhere that you have internet access.

Security on cloud storage services is up to the standard of where ever you have your cloud.  Google and Amazon have some of the best experts on digital security in the world for instance and using a cloud operated by them gives you a greater degree of safety for your data.

The Capacity of cloud storage is very flexible and is expandable with comparative ease.  The fact that cloud storage servers will never need to be upgraded or replaced does save you capital expenses as well as man hours.

The downside:

You don't own it and you have to play by someone else's rules.  If you are using a smaller company, please, make sure to check out their backup plans, security measures, and records regarding downtime and maintenance schedules.

It may be hard to use cloud servers with certain types of databases or other programs and as such may present an integration issue (ticketing systems, development programs, etc).  Make sure you have a plan to get the information from point A to point B if necessary.

In event that you don't have access to the internet you are completely cut off unless you back up to a physical source onsite.  It can be distressing for obvious reasons if your internet service goes sideways and you end up with multiple idle employees until it is restored.


Pinterest 101 for Arts Organizations [mini-nar]

Pinterest is the latest and greatest in social media, we've talked about it before, and it just reached 10 million unique hits in a month, the fastest independent website to ever attain this lofty title. Every blogger with access to a data set out there is looking at the demographics of Pinterest, but what can a visually based social media do for your organization? This Mini-Nar is going to take a look at some of the basic functions of Pinterest, as well as how some arts organizations are maintaining and utilizing their Pinterest accounts.

Check out these Pinterests from the video: the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Ballet, the Arts and Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, and Lionsgate Be Fit. Some of the demographic data I referred to came from Tech Crunch.

What do you think? Is Pinterest something you'll consider using - or do you already utilize it? Comment on this post and let us know!