Gedney’s contact sheets / participation at MOMA

William Gedney

I’ve been digging through Duke Library’s Gedney collection looking at all the contact sheets. I love seeing other photographer’s contact sheets, the sense they give of the photographer’s approach of a subject, the momentary reactions to the scene rather than the well-considered edit afterwards.

I took advantage of SFMOMA’s monthly free day and was promptly turned off by their semi-interactive show The Art of Participation. Only at an institution like MOMA would a show with the word participation in its title include signs that say “Do not touch” and staff who sternly ask people to “step behind the line.” To be honest, I’d rather there be a physical railing between the work and I than some invisible barrier that I’m not too sure of. I feel like I’m constantly being watched and that’s not my idea of a fun time viewing art.

Some pieces were interaction friendly while others were historical and off limits. You could tell what was which by observing other people, but to be sure, you had to glance at the sign. Personally, I want to look at the work first before reading any (preferably no) signs, so this was a bit deflating, like somebody scraped the icing off the cake. I walked into a dark room with a circle of vintage microphones, and the staff member encouraged me to participate by demonstrating speaking into the mics and virtually jumping around the room. I gotta give her some credit for doing her job enthusiastically, but by that point, I was in no mood to join in. Participation is a choice isn’t it?

However, I’ve never seen so many young people having fun there before (I think there may have been a school trip). Definitely a welcome change from the usual hovering in dead silence. Maybe I’m just a grumpasaurus.

On a positive note, it was the first time I’d been there after they changed their photography policy, and it felt right to see people snapping away on their digicams and big honkin’ DSLRs. My idea of art is something you can take with you, in a manner of speaking, and look at, think about again, share with others. So being able to take photos for personal use in an art museum feels very natural.


~ by Jin on February 4, 2009.

2 Responses to “Gedney’s contact sheets / participation at MOMA”

  1. What kind of microphones were they?

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