Category Archives: museums

Due to the generation gap between our Gen X predecessors and the influx of us Gen Yers entering the working world, there are many misunderstandings about the value and importance of social media sites. My dad, who is in his late 40s, often rolled his eyes at me for using Facebook; calling it “dumb and pointless.” He’s not singing the same tune now that he has reconnected with the majority of his high school graduating class to help plan their belated 30th reunion/collective 50th birthday party. Now he wants to know the ins and outs of Facebook, and he always has a list of questions for me so he can learn how to use all of the site’s features effectively.

I do not think my personal scenario is entirely uncommon, and I think that the older generation needs to find a practical application (other than reading status updates and looking at friend’s photos, which the majority of use recent college grads began using Facebook for) in order to understand the value of social media sites. Though it may take a bit of coercing, convincing an institution or museum to use Facebook and Twitter as PR/Marketing tools will have great, measurable results.

Why do I sound so confident? Well, because I’ve experienced it myself. As an intern at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, CT, I worked in many capacities. I pretty much learned how to use a computer around the same time I learned how to talk, so I am very versatile when it comes to technology. Though I was primarily working as a curatorial intern for the American Painting department, I was asked to help create the Wadsworth’s Facebook “fan page.”

I did a bit of googling and quickly found instructions on how to sign up the museum for a fan page. I had the page created in about five minutes tops. Once created, my next job was to teach the PR/Marketing assistant how to navigate Facebook. In no time she was able to update the page, add photos, create events, post links, etc. She marketed the monthly event, Phoenix Art After Hours, via the new fan page, and attendance increased drastically at the event.

Just by creating a Facebook fan page, WAMA was able to quickly and easily reach a diverse audience. The ability to share content to a large group of people led to increased awareness (but due to the economy in Hartford not necessarily increased attendance) of subsequent functions. They actually had to turn people away from a free showing of the Disney/Pixar movie UP!, Andrew WK came to perform a concert, and the museum has been getting more sponsorship. With almost 3,000 fans in less than a year, events at the museum and arts/cultural events in the Hartford area are getting great publicity. They’ve also created a Twitter account which has 446 followers.

Even though it may seem as if social media isn’t relevant to non-profit, arts organizations, creating a Facebook fan page or Twitter account can, if nothing else, increase awareness and interest in your institution. For this reason, it is important that future or current Generation Y museum employees familiarize themselves with and learn the importance of social media. If we’re lucky, our predecessors will be willing to listen, learn, and adapt and benefit from the new, “hip” world of social media.

In a public lecture discussing the conclusion of his work on the Rwanda Series currently displayed at the UConn Contemporary Art Gallery, Alfredo Jaar (Chilean born “architect that makes art”) stated that his two main objectives when making art are exploring: 1) public desensitization to images and 2) the limitation of art when trying to express/manifest genocide (trauma) and its effects. Discussing his involvement in three arenas” 1) the “privileged” museum/gallery space (art world) 2) public interventions including the community, and 3) teaching and learning from the new generations, I noticed a common theme – the spectacle used for accountability.

Jaar uses the spectacle to create a sense of shame and shock in order to make its viewers accountable for their (in)actions. His works – which will be discussed later – provide possible and temporary solutions/answers to societal problems. His pieces are active, creating experiences that require the viewer to engage in a tremendous amount of self reflection. In this way, Jaar uses the spectacle in an unconventional way that makes people aware of their humanity.

In regard to art/art history, “the spectacle” refers to the ideological concepts of Guy Debord and the Situationists International. In Debord’s 1967 publication of The Society of the Spectacle, he states:

#5: “The Spectacle cannot be understood as a mere visual deception produced by mass-media technologies. It is a world-view that has actually been materialized, a view of the world that has become objective.”

Here, Debord explains that the spectacle is not merely a creation of the media, but that it is actually the manifestation of the dominant world view of the society in which it is created.

#18: “When the real world is transformed into mere images, mere images become dynamic beings – dynamic figments that provide the direct motivation for a hypnotic behavior. Since the spectacle’s job is to use various specialized mediations in order to show us a world that can no longer be directly grasped, it naturally elevates the sense of sight to the special pre-eminence once occupied by touch: the most abstract and easily deceived sense is the most readily adaptable to the generalized abstraction of present day society. But the spectacle is not merely a matter of images plus sounds. It is whatever escapes people’s activity, whatever eludes their practical reconsideration and correction. Wherever representation becomes independent, the spectacle regenerates itself.”

In this statement, Debord emphasizes the way in which the bombardment of images (the spectacle) of mass media has created a separation between reality and how people experience reality. All human experience is now mediated by images – representations of “a world that can no longer be directly grasped” in other words, directly experienced.

Debord’s ideas in The Society of the Spectacle mixing Marxist and Situationist ideologies, is relevant to and manifested in Jaar’s work. Jaar’s interest in “the public desensitization to images” is an interest in a societal phenomenon many years in the making. Due to the fact that images are simply mediations of reality – not reality – they are easy to dismiss, regardless of subject matter.

The invention of photography started this desensitization. When the first photos of exotic animals, people, and places were disseminated they shocked and entertained. The first ever motion picture caused people to scream and shout in the theatre due to the shocking “realism” of the crudely constructed scenes. With rapid industrialization, technology advanced at an alarming rate, and within a century these novel, impressive advancements became commonplace, banal, boring. Today we can sit in a 3-D IMAX motive theatre watching the latest blockbuster action movie without even blinking an eye. No shock, no awe. If anything, we are underwhelmed, under enthused.

This is the very reason why we (the Western viewer) can see photographs, watch videos of heinous scenes – genocide, war, famine – happening a world away and say “oh, that’s so sad,” think about it for a few minutes, push it out of our minds, and move on with our lives. Despite “seeing it with our own eyes” these images are not real too us – they’re merely another mediation of reality – of a world we cannot, will not, do not want to experience, which is, therefore, not real.

Jaar’s work is so effective because indifference is not an option. His works are connected to real people and real situations that are too important and too personal to ignore. If for only a moment, his works overcome the public’s general desensitization through their poignant yet shocking messages. His Rwanda project from 1994 to 2000, makes people acknowledge the devastating genocide that the Western world tried to ignore. In his final installment of this series, a 26 minute video now on view in UConn’s Contemporary Art Gallery, Jaar points the finger and finally calls the world out for its collective delinquency.

In early 1994, Dallaire (a Canadian UN Ambassador in Rwanda) discovered from an informant that they were planning to exterminate the Tutsi. Despite Dallaire’s best efforts, after the deaths of 10 Belgian soldiers, Western governments began pulling their troops from Rwanda, stating that it was merely a “tribal conflict” and that they did not want to lose and more of their soldiers. Once Western troops were evacuated, over 800,000 Tutsis were murdered in three short, terrifying months. This genocide could’ve been stopped, but instead of sending more troops, troops were evacuated. Africa didn’t matter – it was nothing more than what the Eurocentric media depicted it as: poor, unhealthy, insignificant.

Regardless of the amount of images and videos depicting the situation in Rwanda or direct pleas from Rwandan Tutsis, it was all too easy for the world to turn its back and ignore the devastating genocide taking place in this “far away,” out of sight out of mind, place. To this day, the guilty parties that removed troops and ignored the cries for help will not admit to their mistakes and injustices. Jaar’s work makes the viewer, simply as a human being, feel like a responsible party – which is essential to ensuring that this type of delinquency does not happen again.

Jaar’s work is not “art for art’s sake.” It is an art of purpose. It’s thoughtful, calculated, and it purposely puts the viewer in an uncomfortable position, where he/she has to come to terms with his/her accountability as a human. His works have important social purposes which focus on the societal phenomenon of public desensitization to images and he uses “the spectacle” as a way of making images powerful again by forcing the viewer to have a reaction that is difficult to forget.

Welcome to my Art/Art History blog! I am a second year master’s student at the University of Connecticut, and I am looking to start a museum career upon graduation in May! I would describe myself as tech savvy, quirky, intelligent, fun, helpful, and insightful. I am interested in engaging with and utilizing social media tools to make a memorable and lasting impression on possible employers.

I am an incredibly driven and motivated person. I graduated an entire year early at the age of 20 from UMass Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in Art History with a minor in Classics. From there I dove straight into the Art History master’s program at UConn, Storrs.

I have had awesome work/internship experiences in the midst of all the schoolwork. I am currently a Graduate Teaching Assistant at UConn, teaching two sections of 20 students and assisting with the survey courses: Ancient to Medieval and Renaissance to Present. I also coach long, high, and triple jump at my high school alma mater for the Indoor and Outdoor Track seasons. I have also been interning in the American Painting and American Dec Arts Departments at the Wadsworth Atheneum for over a year. The project that I am most proud of was my work obtaining copyrights and rights/reproduction permission for the exhibition catalogue American Moderns on Paper: Masterworks from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art which is currently on display at the Amon Carter Museum.

At UMass I worked in the Image Collection Library, maintaining the slide collection as well as helping create a new, online image database using Luna Insight and Inscribe. I absolutely loved this job, and it left me with a passion for slide libraries and fascination with catalouging cultural objects. I also worked as an executive assistant at a local bank, as well as a gallery guard and docent.

My combination of teaching experience, museum experience, library/meta data experience, paired with my enthusiastic outlook and unwavering motivation make me an excellent addition to any museum staff.

In this blog I will write about my experiences while teaching, working with, and thinking about ART! I hope you enjoy!