The most interesting thing about the Museum of Modern Art in New York City is not its incorporation of new technology, but its treatment of old technology. Projector screens that use to be the standard way to show news reels are used in installations for kitsch value. Old copies of Esquire hang on the wall in front of schoolchildren to young to know what Esquire is.
In a wing of the museum dedicated to product design, a 1960s era typewriter sat behind a glass case. I felt bad for the typewriter, especially when a group of grade school children and their teacher passed by:
Teacher: “Look guys this is a typewriter!”
Kid #1: “My mom says it’s like an old computer.”
Kid #2: “Does it have backspace?”
The kids and I were more intrigued by the computer-based exhibits at MOMA. Many of the installations aren’t the flat paintings or sculptures one thinks of when they think art, but multimedia installations on large televisions. I was most impressed by one work that was like a live multimedia experience. In the installation “Wende >8080<)" by Hanne Darboven almost 150 pieces of sheet music line the walls of a very tall room. Because it would take forever to absorb that many pieces of paper, the music on the sheets is pumped into the room.
Unlike the Brooklyn Museum where patrons can dial a number of their cell phone to listen to additional information about the works on display, MOMA visitors must stand in line and hand over identification to receive an audio player that is exclusive to MOMA. The handheld device looks like a large remote control or, when placed to the ear, like an old school cell phone.
The process of procuring the device is reminiscent of the registration process required by some online news sites to read anything other than front page news. Sure its not difficult for a visitor to enter this information, but in this fast-paced, get it done world, who has the time?
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