MOMA: Talk To Me

This is the hallway on the third floor of the MoMA leading into the Talk To Me exhibit.  Before one even enters the main room of the exhibit there are about seven works, all presented on monitors, to view.  The hallway was divided into to lanes and a museum attendant impatiently repeated directions: “If you’re looking at the videos stay on the right.  Go to the left if you’re just passing through.”  I wanted to see the videos so I went on the right side.  They all looked neat but it was hard to focus on any one of the screen given the number of people passing through and the six other screens.  Inside there were about 187 more projects presented in one room divided by only a few columns, creating a sort of figure eight with no obvious directions or flow to the space.

All the stimulation and disorganization made it kind of hard to enjoy the exhibit.  This isn’t the way I suspect one best experiences art.  In contrast, the website dedicated to the exhibition is well designed and easy, practically fun, to navigate.  I think that says a lot about the type of work that was shown and the way it was displayed.  Very few of the projects could exist with out descriptions.  They just wouldn’t make sense.  Description panels (which explained the experience of the work, as opposed to the traditional offering of boring biographical/historical/materials information) were crowded together incoherently on bright red dividing walls.

There were only a few works that one could interact with (as opposed to watching documentation of someone else interacting with a work).  One was a touch screen that displayed a map of New York with streets highlighted yellow.  You could navigate with your fingers to a block and touch the yellow bar and a video of something happening on the block would appear.  It was actually really fun, but the experience was ruined by the insanely excessive UI and overly designed graphics.  The creator was trying to hard to make it look like an iPad app.  The idea is cool and intuitive.  It probably didn’t need any UI at all.

Other projects suffered similar problems of display.  One of my favorite pieces was the Communication Prosthesis, which, like the map, didn’t need explanation.  The prosthesis itself was presented in front of several portraits, when a video piece or a few portraits would have been sufficient.  I think this is a case where explaining the technology takes precedence over the visual display of the work.

Overall, it was difficult to evaluate the physical interactions involved in these pieces because what I saw was mostly documentation and the experience itself was overwhelming to the point of exasperation.  I felt conflicted between enjoying the videos, being distracted by more interesting looking projects and my general feeling of claustrophobia.  I really liked the idea of the Menstrual Machine and I would have liked to try it, but obviously I couldn’t, so I can’t really say what it was like and I also felt hella cheated.

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Author: owen ribbit

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