Media Art Galleries and the Museum

In preparation for the May 24 Research Lab A Sensorium of Cinematic Apparatuses, the students of the UvA MA seminar Curating the Moving Image reflect in their blog posts on a particular aspect of the themes in the required theoretical readings or on the development of the curated EYE on Art evening.

Curating Cinema and Galleries
By Caitlin Veen

CloseUpEYE Close Up 2016, Florian and Michael Quistrebert, 2015

Visiting the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam I experienced the classic aesthetics of the ‘white cube’ gallery space and ‘black box’ movie theater models that presented distinct conditions of space, time, and place and consequently the position of the viewer. As a viewer I first observed the traditional two-dimensional paintings and photographs within the dimension of the ‘white cube’. After which I was led into a ‘black box’ space exhibiting moving images. Observing the time based objects in the ‘black’ room I noticed that passing visitors took a short glance into this space and then passed by. Which made me aware of the difference of the relationship between time and space in experiencing paintings and videotapes and art installations. Obviously these moving images need to be viewed longer to become involved in a dialogue revealing their meaning.

WhiteCubeBlackBoxThe White Cube                                  Black Box in White Cube                Black Box

In the last ten years of the millenium video and film with applications in video art and computer aided environments, became progressively visible in contemporary art practice. Clearly the entering of film into the space of the gallery created new ways of presentations of cinema. However considering the specificity of different kind of spaces harboring art we are confronted with architectural, cultural and ideological differences of the movie theater and museum as historically specific spaces with their own convictions. Two-dimensional and motionless paintings in the museum belonged to the sphere of space but when pictures became ‘moving’ pictures, considered as time based objects, they exposed a problematic relationship between time and art. The conversion of the motionless picture in the museum into to the sphere of time of the ‘motion’ picture became acknowledged with the existence of film, video and digital art. These time based objects created specific frameworks in cinema and the gallery space but how can these objects be related to the spectators in the specific space of the museum?

In a museum we expect a ‘place with control over time and our contemplation of the presented motionless pictures’ (Groys 2004). It is a place where space is structured for its visitors that can walk around in an exposition area and remain mobile to actively engage with the objects. Very often such spaces are set up like a ‘black box’ cinema theatre including seats. In the current Close-Up group exhibition in EYE visitors enter a dark space where videos on single screens, multiple screens and large scaled spatial installations are presented. In this black box experience Mariska de Groots work used strong visual effects with her ‘stroboscope’ like project CineChine (2012).

CineChineEYE Close-Up 2016, Mariska de Groot, CineChine, 2012

This generation of artists and filmmakers incorporate film and video in their work. Their different video works and spatial installations become more accessible by introducing new perspectives within the space of the museum. Paradigms concerning the increase of media art in museums emphasize the importance to examine the spacial isolation of the black box film experience of cinema in a white cube gallery museum space. In the discourse of time based art in museums Balsom clearly expresses her opinion considering the museum as a respite from the ‘privatization of experience’, in which cultural memory is excavated, contesting the logic of technological progress and conceptualizing collectivity in an age of individuality (19). However the exposition space in the museum has changed over time and now is challenged to attract audiences into new constructions of space. In different architectural structures of space media art became exhibited in museums but often are set up as a ‘black box’ cinema theatre including seats.

CloseUp2EYE, Close-Up 2016, Installation View

In the current Close-Up exposition in EYE visitors enter a dark space where spectators experience video installations. As well in the Stedelijk Museum installations of media art are viewed in a cinema-like space. As a consequence of immersion the viewer can loose contemplation and autonomy as mentioned by Groys (2004). Due to immersion viewers feel positioned outside the museum as in a film experience in cinema, robbed from autonomy and freedom. As mentioned earlier I left the video art space in the Stedelijk Museum without watching the entire film thinking about what I did’nt see, what I’d missed. This notion described by Groys acknowledged my state of helplessness and fear of having missed the essence of the material. However Groys also poses that it is impossible to watch all the videos from beginning to end, especially when you jump in halfway or near the end not having any sense of the duration of the presentation. This would not be the case with Andy Warhol’s Empire mentioned by Groys, an eight hour footage of the Empire State Building in New York. The installation offers the spectator the opportunity to walk around and come back without missing much. Viewers are not bound in time and space and have the opportunity for contemplation. The structured space of museums allows visitors to walk around in an exhibition area in which mobility is essential for an active engagement with time based objects.

CloseuUp3EYE Close-Up 2016, Felix Burger, Weisser Zwerg Collection 2016

Therefore I consider that media art in the structured space of the museum can be made more accessible and attractive to a bigger audience in the expansion of the black box experience in which space itself should become a part of the media art object. Merging the ‘white cube’ art gallery with a ‘black box’ movie theater experience integrating them into a novel space and time would actively engage viewers with moving images thus undergoing a synchronic experience in the totality of a new spacial environment in the museum.

Balsom, Erika. ‘Introduction: The Othered Cinema. Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013.
Balsom, Erika. ‘A Cinema in the Gallery, a Cinema in Ruins.’ Screen 50.4 (2009): 411- 427.
Groys, Boris. ‘Media Art in the Museum’. Last Call 1 (2001) 2: 34.

EYE. Close-Up – A New Generation of Film and Video Artists in the Netherlands, 2016.


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