SANCTUM readies for a May Opening


“In an era of status updates, tweets, and check-ins, the geography of public, shared spaces needs to be reconsidered, along with our expectations of privacy in them.”
James Coupe and Juan Pampin

Have you noticed all of the changes on the façade of the Henry? We are currently installing an interactive art piece, Sanctum, created by artists James Coupe and Juan Pampin. Coupe and Pampin were chosen in 2010 from 91 applications who answered an open international call, soliciting proposals for a site-specific project to transform the façade of the museum’s main entrance and to engage the UW population and the many visitors who pass by the Henry every day.

Sanctum, which officially opens May 4th, seeks to investigate the narrative potential of social media while raising important and provocative questions about the conflicting imperatives emerging in our culture as we promote and embrace ever-more-intrusive electronic media, while still cherishing traditional notions of privacy.

From those who choose to participate in the project, Sanctum will actively gather information via sophisticated surveillance and profiling technology and match it with data drawn from social media sites to shape original plausible and implausible fictional narratives.

To learn more about the project and to contribute with narrative content, please enter here. You can also opt in by scanning the QR codes are posted on signage outside the museum.

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“Exploring the limits of privacy at Henry’s ‘The Talent Show'” on KPLU

Stranger (6) 1999 by Shizuka Yokomizo

The Henry’s current exhbition, The Talent Show, was featured on Seattle’s radio station KPLU Sunday morning. In case you missed this great broadcast, you can hear it at the KPLU website accompanied by discussed videos and photos.

Radio reporter and host Jennifer Wing ponders the themes as well as specific works of The Talent Show including questions on the new idea of privacy and professional examinations of the societal draw to the spotlight. The exhibit raises a lot of questions ranging from how much should we put on display to what happens to our images once they are out there. The reporter’s final warning is if we don’t take control and manage our social media selves, someone else eventually will.

The review includes audio snippets of several Q&As among which include curator Sara Krajewski weighing in on the exhibition’s themes and specific works, and artist Amie Siegel, who discusses her process of creation for her displayed video works, My Way 1 and My Way 2.

The Talent Show examines a range of complicated relationships that have emerged between artists, audiences, and participants in light of the competing desires for notoriety and privacy that mark our present cultural moment. For almost half a century, artists have modeled and exploited these desires and dramatized the complex dynamics that surround them, often engaging people to participate in their work—both with and without their knowledge.

Some upcoming events for The Talent Show are The Emancipated Spectator: Broadcast yourself, part 1 (Video and TV) on July 21 at 7Pm and its partner event The Emancipated Spectator: Broadcast yourself, part 2 (Art, Enterntainment and Reality) on August 25, also at 7Pm. Join Henry Curator Sara Krajewski for this series of casual discussions on readings and films focused around the themes explored in The Talent Show. Check out the full details and RSVP at the Henry’s website.

The documentary We Live in Public reveals the effect the web is having on our society, as seen through the eyes of “the greatest Internet pioneer you’ve never heard of”, artist, futurist and visionary Josh Harris. This special film screening will feature an introduction from King of the Web CEO and online marketing pioneer, Maggie Boyer-Finch who will be discussing the launch and development of King of the Web, a site which is redefining what celebrity means in a digital world. You can join us for this event on August 5 at 7PM. Click here for admission prices and more info.

We Live in Public trailer

And last but not least, the Henry Art Gallery invites you to join artist James Coupe for a screening and discussion of the artist’s recent work with ‘surveillance cinema’ in (re)collector, Surveillance Suite, and the web-based work Today, too, I experienced something I hope to understand in a few days. Surveillance Cinema: James Coupe will be held on August 11 at 7Pm. Check out our event posting for admission prices and more info on the artist.

Sneak peak of Surveillance Suite

You have oodles of chances to see the widely talked about The Talent Show until its closing on August 21. And, in an excellent example of some of the exhibition’s themes, go ahead and like it on its Facebook page.

Come here often?

For years, we (and by “we” I mean other folks at the Henry and people at other contemporary and university art museums) have been thinking and talking about museums as social centers and places for community interaction.  I hear the average museum visitor spends less than 5 seconds with a work of art. What are museum visitors doing the rest of the time? Talking? Getting a coffee? Reading wall texts? Waiting? Feeling cultured? Using the bathroom? Flirting?

This week, two blog posts pose the plausibility of museum as pick-up joint:

From Matthew Yglesias:
“If you go alone to a bar and come up empty, you’ve wasted the evening and hurt your liver. If you go alone to a museum and don’t meet anyone, you still meet Vermeer or a real gigantotherium. The principle is analogous to Edith Stokey’s recipe for how to never ever wait in line: carry a book!”

From  The Reality-Based Community:
“At a museum, you get a constant flow of interesting things to talk about without having to recite autobiography, it’s quiet, the atmosphere isn’t heavy with premature sexual tension, the lights are on, and there’s a cafe to have coffee and a nosh.”

Social Media: Virtual to Visceral

Last week Maxwell Anderson, from the Indianapolis Museum of Art, had some settling things to say about the role of technology in the transition from virtual to visceral audiences during the opening plenary for the 2009 Museums & The Web conference.

“As social networking continues to grow, a priority for museums should be to open the experiences they offer on-site to visitors online. By prioritizing production of web-based high-definition video, real-time transparency in reporting out museum activities, and new avenues for audience participation, museums may be able to stand out in the increasingly cluttered media landscape.”

The conference explored variable media strategies currently being used within museums from experimental exhibition initiatives (like using GIIS and GPS to map collections in physical spaces) to new interpretive plans (exploring collaborative histories through wikis) to new platforms for Digital Asset Management (Fedora, Drupal, and Cloud Computing).

As a first timer to the conference I found the experience invaluable. I naively attempted to make it to every session I physically could while volunteering, trying to take notes, and participate in the backchannel. I think my head exploded. Twice. It was a marginally overwhelming experience and there is still a lot to unpack. But even with the variety of topics presented throughout the conference the issue of transparency and community involvement was one that stuck with me.

As a social media advocate, I couldn’t agree more with the statement made in the opening.  New technologies can help to build community, channel relevant news and information, extend conversations beyond the walls of institutions, and provide a space for the co-creation of knowledge. By inviting visitors, staff, and artists to join in on various networked communities, museums can incite communication and promote the dialogue and transparency necessary for relevance.

This was also the first forum in which people didn’t respond reluctantly to the idea of community generated content, in fact majority of the folks in attendance were searching out more ways to get their audiences involved.  Personally, I feel that the more access and opportunity for ownership we provide our visitors the more they will invest in providing relevant and engaging content.

As a reader and social media citizen, how would you like to be more involved here at the Henry?