Saturday, February 21, 2015

Human Devices (Globalization and Me)

Globalization and Me  Jonathan Sanchez
Virtual Global Museum Tour
The topic I researched was museum websites around the world. The idea that someone an artist, student, scholar can now view works from museum collections via the internet may seem like old news. Yet virtual presence of museums has recently dramatically changed. Museums are no longer merely one place in one geographic location they have gone global.
Looking into changing museums in particular the web personas of museum I discovered a few great books on the subject. The most important of these sources was from Bautista, she takes on the subject of museums and technology headon. Most of the other sources address the idea of what a museum means, how that meaning has changed over time and what the future holds for museums. Bautista addresses all of these ideas as well but really looks deeper in the culture that has inspired museums and the technology that has changed them.
As someone that has been in out of the museum field for many years, I witnessed the clash between traditional museum culture and the introduction of technology into that world. When I began in museums it was still common to find film cameras, accession files were usually a kind of library card catalogue system, signage might involve silk screening or a print shop. While in the field all of these things were relegated to some museum somewhere. Now data entry is the most common job listing on most museum websites, close behind it museum educators. The clerical work, that is in museum culture, the important stuff is all done on a computer, but the museum educator is a new symptom of a more user friendly museum culture. Likewise, most museums offer educators packets, additional info, and virtual tours of the collection. In short the two go hand in hand museums consider the outreach potential of the web presence and persona while documenting recording their collections.
“Globalization put pressure on museums to think in terms of a global network,” (Bautista, 2005, pg 17). A very important notion one of global cultural heritage versus regional or national has shaped and driven museums in this century. Along these lines the most important question Bautista raised in her introduction was, “How can technology help all museums to better understand and engage their communities?”
My Virtual Museum Hop
To create my work and finish my research I set up a loose perimeter for virtual fieldwork. Beginning in Phoenix I would museum hop eastward eventually circling the globe and finish in San Francisco. I would test the museums websites, observe them, and make notes. Further I would consider them aesthetically and look for some thread that might be carried into my final artwork. The challenge was to be inspired by the websites as an artist to create a work inspired by the process. In turn the websites would be part of the work with links available for viewing.
Phoenix PAM
The Phoenix Art Museum site is useful and not unattractive. As I roamed it I was struck by a particular Georgia O’Keefe work Canyon Country and thought it might be useful as a starting point. Then I noticed they have a touring exhibit of on Leonardo and became torn as to my direction. I ended up using the Leonardo after going and seeing the show at the museum. I also did my research at the PAM library and archive.
Phoenix.jpgLeonardo inspired mixed media work. Print techniques, pen, and acrylic.
The New York Museum of Modern Art is of course sprawling and fantastic where else can you see an entire Japanese village, and Egyptian temple under one roof? The site is also impressive in its way it is visually stunning and full of information and images. A Miro Hirondelle Amour (1934) work kept popping up and I thought it might inform my work. I decided to explore his work further on the site and decided he would inform me in general but no specific work would.
Miro informs the work in small ways, but no specific work was borrowed from.
London Tate Modern
The Tate Modern site is austere even frugal as if they could spare the pixels needed for color or perhaps it is an attempt at a clean elegance that would make Mies Van Der Rohe proud.
I was struck by the ancient looking but timeless work of Henry Moore, in particular, the stone work, “Decumbent Figure” (1938). The simple abstracted reclining figure would be echoed through my hop through several other cultures.
London.jpghenry_moore.jpgsketch of the Henry Moore work
Paris Louvre online
The Louvre is such an impressive building with so much of French history tied up in it, it is fitting that they have the most extensive virtual tour I ran across. You really seem to glide through the museums it is impressive. As you stop at various works you can engage with them and learn more about them. I discovered my reclining figure a few more times on this page.
Paris.jpgParis_Istanbul.jpgoriginal sketches for Paris and Istanbul
Museum of Modern Art Berlin
The Berlin Museums site was very bright and friendly and I was struck by the mix of works present. A work by the artist Rainer Fetting Gelbe Mauer, (Yellow Wall 1977) really struck me and I thought I might use it for inspiration for my final work.
I used the pallete of the above mentioned work but did not incorporate the work directly.
Istanbul Modern Art Museum
The Istanbul site was more European than any of the other sites, it seemed a homage to the De Stijl in particular Mondrian. As simple photo work made a big impression on me and I decided to reinterpret the work from Barbara and Zater Baran from their exhibit Observatory 2015.
turkey.jpggraphite and monoprint
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
I begin to feel as if the same web designer is working on all of the museum sites. Most of the pages seem to follow a common aesthetic of mostly white with thumbnails as if imitating the long standing convention of white walls in museum. The first thing I see on the site however is my reclining figure again this time in green as depicted by Alexander Pogorhelsky.
Moscow.jpgberlin_moscow.jpgMoscow and Berlin sketches
New Delhi National Museum of  India
Finally a museum marches to its own drum and hangs thumbnails on a black background. Strangely enough the first image I see is another reclining figure this time frame the BC. That was the point where the research and project became a little spooky I had gone through time and around the globe and found not differences but the same thing over again.
new_Delhli.jpgDelhi_Tokyo.jpgDelhi and Tokyo sketches
Tokyo National Museum
Back to the normal images on white convention for a very useful and impressive site overall. A tiny jade axe caught my eye while wandering the site it seemed similar to an abstract figure from Henry Moore though it was listed as being from 3000 BCE. I began sense a theme of technology from stone tools, to the devices of the Renaissance from Leonardo to bridges of the final work. Coupled with the images of figures it began to take on this universal idea of all of mankind throughout time.
Jadeite Axe
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Back in the USA the San Francisco museum site comes off as the most modern polished and stylish that I encountered on my travels. In truth I set out to do the research and looking at the landing page of the SF museum I discovered an image of thousands of little images. I then thought would it be great to make a piece like this and then paint it. So the step of painting it would add an expressive quality not present in the photos.
A photo of a sculpture entitled Bridges from the artist Mark de Suvero really caught my eye and took me back to the Leonardo devices from the first museum.
In closing
What I have found is that it is possible and even easy to work in this way that is to draw inspiration from museum sites and their digital collections. The potential for global work is therefore great. How will young artists with access to these global treasure troves be inspired is an incredible question to ponder? Museum websites and their openness allows for the furthering of and an artistic celebration of a global cultural heritage.
My final work entitled, “Human Devices,” is both a play on the idea that the images are inpart of devices created by humans and artistic representations of the human form through several cultures over a vast amount of time. Spanning (no pun intended) suspension bridges back to stone tools the work revels in ingenuity.
“Human Devices,” 2015 41x23 mixed media (acrylic, graphite, monoprint, pen on eight canvases

Bautista, S. S. (2014). Museums in the digital age: Changing meanings of place,
           community, and culture. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press.