Post is a new online initiative produced by the minds behind Triple Canopy ( a great digital art/culture magazine/research/website/non-profit thing) and the Contemporary and Modern Art Perspectives in a Global Age (C-MAP) research group housed at MoMA. There is a lot of vaguery even in the description of the parties involved, but suffice to say post is a website. Post is an interesting website where individuals in the field of museums and archives present ideas.
I wanted to highlight two articles that touched upon the questions raised by the variable media readings this week–perhaps these could be seen as additional case studies.
In 2009 the MoMA acquired the Silverman collection–a very large, very comprehensive collection of posters, newspapers, editions, films, and photographs, and who-knows-what-else dedicated to Fluxus art. An international art movement of the 1960s and 1970s, Fluxus—whose name was based on the Latin word flux, meaning constant flow or change—brought together artists working in music, poetry, film, theater, and the visual arts. The movement challenged the commodification of art and favored nontraditional modes of expression, such as collective performances, inexpensive publications, and unlimited editions of small objects. (Yoko Ono was a Fluxus collaborator)
Upon arrival at the MoMA, the Silverman collection was processed and distributed to the various medium-specific departments of the Museum. The result is that much of the collection – including printed works on paper and photographic documentation of performances found its home in the museum archive, not the art collection. In Watch Out! All Is Not What It Seems to Be curator Jon Hendricks writes about the challenges of this treatment. Specifically he notes that works classified as “non-art” receive very different preservation and treatment. They also tend to be displayed in vitrines in the library–not in the gallery. This small change in presentation has a huge impact on the public impression of the meaning and importance of a particular work. The presentation and preservation of variable artworks has the potential to ghettoize these new mediums unjustly. Hendricks says, ” Throwing things into preconceived categories obscures potential experience of art — understandings of art. “Archival” and “curatorial” might be better thought of as convenient holding bins — locations that can be fluid and shifting as we gain better understanding of artists’ intent, and as we disrobe accumulated prejudgment.”
Next, a post by Uesaki Sen, an archivist designing repositories for Japanese post-war art (which can be characterized as frequently employing non-traditional mediums and performance/time-based art) captures the desire of an archivist to present his collection outside of these representational categories. In a somewhat looping essay, Sen describes producing a large poster containing images and information about every work in the collection–an attempt to show how selections fail to represent a full weight of an archive. “our interest focuses on the difference in the degree of fictitiousness between representation that emerges from a selected list and documentation that emerges from a comprehensive list.” He goes on to discuss the inclusion of a bean-sprout seed on an invitation, which reminds readers the need to never assume that materials are comprehensive