The New Video-Maker: Art Museums

By Sofia Hernandez Chong Cuy
August 26, 2010

In a 2009 article for The Art Newspaper, titled “With Newspapers in Terminal Decline, What Future for Arts Journalism?” András Szántó argued that museums are creating alternative and innovative media infrastructure similar to news organizations, with the result that “arts groups are getting better at telling their own stories and directly engaging their constituents.”

As director of a museum, the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City, I am particularly interested in the museum’s role as image-makers, whether in sharing a behind-the-scenes view of an exhibition’s installation or presenting a curatorial grand narrative in a guided walking tour. Many museum videos are now conceived for online platforms rather than for broadcast or a physical archive, so curatorial, pedagogical, and editorial concerns go hand in hand with the institutional tasks of communication, marketing, and audience development.

Community interests are the driving force behind Rufino.mx, an online project we at the Museo Tamayo commissioned to the local collective Salón. With an eye to contemporary thought and cultural practices, it focuses on the museum’s program and on its local community, featuring videos of exhibition walkthroughs, artists’ studio visits, and interviews with designers, curators, and critics. The programming is meant both as a complement to the museum-visitor experience and to stand alone as an entertaining educational tool.

Museo Tamayo is hardly alone in developing arts-related video content online. The Museum of Modern Art’s popular “Behind the Scenes” online video series focuses on the workers’ perspective, be it the artists, their assistants or performers. The UK’s Tate Channel, home of “Tate Shots,” presents videos about modern and contemporary art in general, including a selection of films by artists in their collection, documentation of public programs, and artist interviews. Smaller institutions are producing innovative video and Web sites as well; Art Tube features videos about art and design produced by the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, and the highly praised Art Babble, founded by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, shows a selection of art videos produced by various arts organizations and is becoming the most important public online database for free art-related video.

One open question that emerges from these developments concerns the weight of intentionality in the interpretation of the art object. Most videos produced by museums today prioritize the voice of the artist, the curator, or another specialist in the field. On the one hand, this presentation focuses a deserved and demystifying attention on artistic intentions and processes, frames of reference used in creating both artworks and exhibitions. On the other, this way of presenting art may result in an emphasis on judging art and one’s experience it by the way in which ideas are verbally articulated—when in our field, artists have chosen to think, make, and communicate primarily through visual language. Are there other ways to experience art through video that we have yet to explore, or are we fated to didactic, documentary forms?

Comments
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1.Catalina García
August 28, 2010 1:45 PM
I think that it is undeniable that the development of computer technology has changed the world. And the fact that museums use computer technology to assist their exhibitions, strengthen education functions, create cultural assets, and develop knowledge economics is an amazing way of broadening their reach in promoting the development of cultural creativity, cultivating cultural talents, give new life to our culture, and improve Mexico's image. As a Mexican I am grateful for institutions such as Museo Tamayo. Congratulations to Sofía Hernández. I am currently designing a Cultural Diplomacy Postgraduate Course for the Universidad Iberoamericana and would be honored to get an interview and explore the role of this institution in the portrayal of Mexico's image around the world.
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2.david
August 27, 2010 4:55 AM
These types of videos are fantastic, but they should only be used as tools to expose/promote the functions of museums. As long as the intent of the artist and the curator do not get lost in the process, then I am for it. These types of videos should never be used as anything more than promotion. It does raise interesting questions when this type of video is used to document exhibitions of video installations.
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3.LV
August 27, 2010 3:06 AM
Of course there will be new ways to experience art through video as we move along and grow more comfortable with this medium. Right now a lot of the videos productions from museums focus on their exhibitions because it helps them promote the events and also start to teach as they reach audiences from all the social networks. This way people from any background start to understand and not feel intimidated by art in more accessible way.
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4.Maria
August 27, 2010 12:42 AM
It was a great surprise to discover Rufino.mx a few weeks/months ago. There's a lot of information, which is actual and up to date. It is a very good way to see and read about themes and events, and to listen to the people who are working in art, cultural development and design. Love it!

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