The Handheld Museum

A public pushes through revolving doors in search of a work of art to stand next to. Inside, a consumer swipes, taps and zooms through the handheld museum. A scream echoes through the ticketing area. Its provenance can be sourced on YouTube to Yoko Ono in a fedora screaming in the same atrium back in the Summer of 2010. Other experience enhancements are an App upgrade away. Ono’s gift is the freedom to animate old content – the making of an original copy.

Handheld cameras are to operate flash-free. Ambient light appears as a yellow/pink cast. The pictures suffer from other problems like dishonest pixels and barrel distortions. With all the picture problems, MoMA still provides a Flickr group. The public is deputized to snapshoot avant-garde reenactors; some are screaming others are silent. It’s a talent show among the world’s finest props. Are these the artists in residence? Keep moving. The artists are present and they all have cameras, circulating and spitting out images into a world like montage machines.

Against this backdrop, The Talent Show examines a range of relationships between artists, audiences, and participants that model the competing desires for notoriety and privacy marking our present moment. Ranging from seemingly benevolent partnerships to those that appear to exploit their subjects, many of the works in the exhibition animate the tensions between exhibitionism and voyeurism, and raise challenging ethical questions around issues of authorship, power, and control. - Talent Show at MoMA PS1

Now, to look is to labor
In her recent essay “Is a Museum a Factory?” Hito Steyerl reminds us that the senses have been drafted into production. An interactive museum is a social factory where private experience and cultural production merge. A comprehensive, full-experience App provides robust access to the museum’s permanent collection, special exhibits, specialized tours and multimedia enhancements.

The Original Copy video documents our recent visits to MoMA. The first visit was to document The Original Copy: The Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today. Electronic devices were prohibited in the special exhibition galleries. Why ban handheld recording devices in an exhibition formulated around the notion of the copy? We continued, undaunted, to record video with the Apple iPhone 4. The Original Copy contains that footage and content designed by MoMA for smartphones. The MoMA iPhone App: Carry MoMA with you wherever you go. It is a handheld black cube (now available in white).

Not all copies were created equal
Much conceptual and performance art is ephemeral and relies on a the afterlife of a photographic document. The distinction between performance and document has been tested and at times conflated in recent exhibitions at MoMA, including The Artist is Present, the Marina Abramovic survey and the current exhibition of Andy Warhol Screen Tests. So, if the contemporary museum is now enlisting the public to perform and document original and/or adapted works, then where does the artwork reside: Everywhere, nowhere, or both?