Art Mobs returns with a new project. Last year we hosted a gallery event at Marymount Manhattan College. Now we're focusing our attention on the Museum of Modern Art. We've produced (unofficial) audio guides for MoMA, and we're making them available as podcasts. We'd love for you to join in by sending us your own MoMA audio guides, which we'll gladly add to our podcast feed. Why should audio guides be proprietary? Help us hack the gallery experience, help us remix MoMA!
[Update: Watch a video report about Art Mobs on RocketBoom.]
Need inspiration? Here's a sample of our projects:
- If a painting could speak, what would it say? Two MMC students and a cinema professor go slumming as they lend character and voice to an expressionist painting set in a conspicuously disreputable French cabaret.
- We do it for moving images, so why not compose soundtracks for still images? Listen to our student musicians—and a professional hip hop artist from Brooklyn—as they sample and remix everything from symphonic themes to vintage 1950's television ads to speed-metal licks and wafts of ambient trance, all inspired by selected MoMA works.
- Do you like your art criticism served up more sardonic than saccharine? Thanks to an MMC art history professor who knows his profession but doesn't take it too seriously, you'll hear things you'll never hear through MoMA's headphones.
- Two MMC students and a digital media professor take on the inscrutable forms in a Jackson Pollock painting. Is it art interpretation or Rorschach test?
There are two ways to send us your audio guides:
- Email your audio guides to this address.
- Upload your audio guides to our iDisk (download the iDisk utility here). [Member Name: dave7]
Would you like to produce an audio guide but you're not in the NYC area or can't make it to MoMA? No problem, MoMA has placed images of hundreds of works of art from its collection on its website.
Subscribe to the podcast feed here. To do so, you'll need to have a podcast aggregator installed on your computer. For Mac try iPodder or iPodderX. For PC try iPodder or jPodder. You can also download the audio guides through your web browser here. And if you're in the NYC area, grab your iPod or other portable MP3 player and head to MoMA. If you're not in the area, we've attached pictures of the art to the MP3 files so you can experience the guides on your computer (or iPod photo).
Apologia: We love MoMA. Hackers hack a platform out of respect for it, because its elegance invites participation. With its return to Manhattan, MoMA is once again the most vital museum in the city.
[UPDATE: We are proud to collaborate with art students from Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, New Jersey. Thanks to Will Richardson (blog), Supervisor of Instructional Technology at the school. We will be hosting their MoMA audio guides as they become available.]
The mission of Art Mobs is to explore the intersection of communication, art, and mobile technology. Last year we collaborated with the NYC-based digital arts group YellowArrow to host a gallery event on Marymount’s campus in Manhattan. With the help of YellowArrow, we designed a messaging system for mobile phones that allowed guests to send and receive SMS text messages about works of art on display in the gallery. We also tested podcasting as a medium for delivering audio tours to gallery guests. Podcasting is a new technology for making audio content available on the Web via RSS. Art Mobs is an ongoing project for Organizational Communication students in the Department of Communication Arts at Marymount Manhattan College.
Our project—including its name—owes a debt to Howard Rheingold who coined the term "Smart Mobs," and to others who have extended the idea. The logo at the head of this blog is an obvious hack of an Apple iPod ad, and we hope that it is an example of Fair Use.
Finally, feel free to email us with questions or suggestions.
Q & A: Marymount Manhattan Monitor reporter Jill Marino Interviews David Gilbert
Describe this semester's project.
We are creating, unofficially, audio guides for the Museum of Modern Art. MoMA of course already offers audio guides (for a nominal fee), but we want to make our own, and to invite others to do so as well. With the near ubiquity of iPods and other portable MP3 players, the platform is already out there, in our bags, our coat pockets, on our belts. With a new Web-based technology for audio distribution called "podcasting," we have a seamless system--from Web to application to player--for delivering any sort of homemade audio content we want. In a sentence, we are democratizing the experience of touring an art museum; we are offering a way for anyone to "curate" their own little corner of MoMA. I'll give you a taste: One of our audio guides captures the smart, irreverent banter between a student and an art history professor as they view works by Chagall and Picasso. Others offer music composed and performed by student musicians inspired by several art works.
Is it any different from the one you did last year?
Yes, last year we hosted a gallery event at Marymount showcasing the work of Marymount student artists. That project had two parts. We set up a mobile phone system that allowed patrons to leave short text messages about the art works, and we created audio guides for several of the art works that patrons could listen to on iPods via a podcast. This semester we're focusing on just the podcasting part, and we've taken our project to MoMA. This time we're also inviting others to produce their own audio guides which we will make available, along with ours, on the Web through our podcast feed.
What is your initial opinion on art?
Our project is part of what Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig calls "Remix Culture." Art has always involved sampling elements from canonical works for the purpose of deploying them in ingenious and novel ways. Picasso said it most provocatively: "Good artists copy, great artists steal." From Sophocles to DJ Dangermouse, all art has been produced in this way. With recent advances in digital technologies, the ability to sample and remix has been democratized. With almost any new personal computer, my students have access to audio post production tools that are more powerful than those found only in the most expensive editing studios two decades ago. The audio guides my students are producing are not merely "guides," but "soundtracks" for the art. We are sampling, in a sense, from MoMA's collection to produce an audio-visual experience that incorporates the original art work. These "works" can only be experienced by downloading the podcast and visiting MoMA. And while you're at the museum, it's our hope that you'll pull out the earbuds and experience the works at MoMA on their own merits as well.
What do you want your students to learn from this project?
I want them to learn that they do not have to be passive consumers of content from any medium, whether it be television, radio, the Web, or even an art museum like MoMA. From an organizational perspective, we see something important happening today. Thanks to personal computers and decentralized technologies of communication like the Internet, it has become harder for organizations to maintain proprietary control over their goods and services. If you don't like the fact that your new Sony PSP can't surf the web, just download the latest hack. If you think you can improve on one of the tracks on that new Jay-Z CD you just bought, then rip it into your audio editing program and remix it yourself. Organizations that embrace the creativity of their customers or patrons tap a burgeoning resource. Remember that movie Field of Dreams? Well, what I'm saying here is rather than "build it and they will come," it's more like "let them come and they'll build it!" I'd like my students to enter the organizational world with the idea that their customers will help them shape the organization if they are just given the chance. Your customers (or patrons) will do your PR for you, they'll do your market research for you, they'll do your new product development for you. That big wall between the organization and the public is coming down fast, and I'd like my students to get ahead of the curve.
What do you hope will come from this project, as far as where the Marymount and art community are concerned?
The Marymount community, by virtue of it's location in the middle of Manhattan, is already imbricated in interesting ways with the NYC arts community, including the small but fabulous Hewitt Gallery of Art. The Art Mobs project is a way for students to make connections between the arts and new media technologies, and between traditional organizations and Remix Culture.