When Points of Departure: Connecting with Contemporary Art opens at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) on March 23, 2001, visitors to the exhibition will have a choice, not merely among 60 collection masterworks by such artists as Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol, but among a panoply of educational tools ranging from the tried but true (docent tours and wall labels) to the highly experimental (video clips displayed on hand-held devices, computer-embedded furniture and interactive “Make Your Own Gallery” kiosks). In this way, Points of Departure will act as a Museum “laboratory” that investigates how best to deliver a rich assortment of information about artists and their works to SFMOMA visitors.
The exhibition is made possible by Merrill Lynch.
Before visitors view the six thematically arranged galleries of the exhibition—which runs through September 16, 2001—visitors may sign out one of a number of iPAQ Pocket PCs donated by Compaq Computer Corporation of Silicon Valley. These lightweight, handheld computers have been configured to show “thumbnails” of several works from each gallery on their high-resolution color screens. By clicking on one of the small images, visitors can access original video footage or archival clips of artists in the exhibition—including Louise Bourgeois, Judy Chicago, Glenn Ligon, Brice Marden, Robert Rauschenberg and others—at times talking about the very work on view.
Each of the galleries focuses on a specific aspect of or issue raised by contemporary art such as the use of found objects, grids, abstract brushwork, line, the presence of language in contemporary art and the tricky question of individual style. To facilitate each visitor’s open-ended process of seeing and understanding these themes, every gallery will contain a Smart Table. Driven by a built-in computer, these prototype devices display images, video and text on a flat, interactive screen set in a sleek table specially designed by Steelcase Corporation. The Smart Tables will provide immediate access to in-depth, multimedia commentary by the exhibition’s curators—Janet Bishop, SFMOMA curator of painting and sculpture, and John S. Weber, the Leanne and George Roberts Curator of Education and Public Programs—introducing the theme and ideas of each section of the show. The Smart Tables will also provide additional commentary by other curators and artists, along with introductions to key works on view and activities related to the art.
The third experimental technology introduced in Points of Departure is a curatorial game that allows SFMOMA visitors to construct their own exhibition by rehanging works in the exhibition in a virtual gallery in whichever way they would like. The “Make Your Own Gallery” kiosks, located in a study gallery near the exit of the exhibition, provide visitors with a fun way to explore their own themes and ideas.
In an additional study gallery, visitors are encouraged to explore Making Sense of Modern Art, the Museum’s innovative multimedia introduction to art of the 20th century. It includes a new section on artists and work in Points of Departure, as well as extensive information about other work in the Museum’s growing collection.
As Weber posits, “The goal of SFMOMA’s interactive educational programs is to help our visitors respond to the art itself in relevant, meaningful and ultimately satisfying ways. We believe that multimedia technologies, judiciously and intelligently deployed, offer one of the most powerful means of helping museum visitors achieve insights and illuminations about these works. By making the ideas, historical context, social and biographical conditions and voices of art history more readily available, museums can provide visitors with an enhanced capacity to enjoy modern and contemporary art and new ways to assess their own responses to it.”
Points of Departure: Connecting with Contemporary Art is made possible by Merrill Lynch.
The interactive educational protoypes are based on an original concept by Flavia Sparacino of the MIT Media Lab, with additional support provided by Professors Alexander Pentland and Glorianna Davenport.
iPAQ equipment provided by Compaq Computer Corporation in Silicon Valley. Support for implementation has come from MIT, Steelcase Corporation and Idea Integration, San Francisco.
Media sponsors: The Mercury News, SiliconValley.com and BayArea.com
Compaq Computer Corporation, a Fortune Global 100 company, is a leading global provider of technology and solutions. For information on Compaq in Silicon Valley, visit www.compaq.com/siliconvalley.
Smart Tables: Perimetre-Flux, Nearlife, Steelcase Corporation
iPAQ Gallery Explorer: Idea Integration
“Make Your Own Gallery”: Brian Romer (Flash developer)
Making Sense of Modern Art Idea Integration, Perimetre-Flux