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Friday, June 16, 2006

Do We Really Need Video Tours?

Remote ViewingI spent the week in St. Louis. This evening I managed to find an extra hour in the schedule before my flight home, so on the way to the airport I made a quick stop at the St. Louis Art Museum.

I didn't have any plans for the visit, but when I arrived I managed to sweet talk my way into a preview of SLAM's new installation of the Whitney's traveling exhibition, Remote Viewing (Invented Worlds in Recent Painting and Drawing). The show opens to the public tomorrow.

I noticed that almost everyone at the preview was walking around staring at the screen of an iPod, watching the video tour that SLAM has produced for the show. It's similar to the one that Christie's commissioned for the Donald Judd sale, and it could be the first of its kind for a museum. (SLAM has made the video content available on a special exhibition website.)

I am always an advocate for innovative educational and outreach offerings, but I can't help but question whether it's really such a good idea to encourage people to wander through galleries looking at a tiny video screen. I noticed as many eyes focused on the iPods as I did on the art that the iPods were supposed to be illuminating.

Update: I totally missed the delicious irony here: video tours for an exhibition called Remote Viewing. I'm glad someone's more on the ball than I am.

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