Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Brooklyn Museum's "Click" results are in

"Lance & Tomoko hanging the "Click" show," Brooklyn Museum

Results are now posted for Brooklyn Museum's "Click: A Crowd-Curated Exhibition." The show got underway this spring with an open-call for artists to electronically submit one photo on the theme: "The changing face of Brooklyn" & continued with a public evaluation process in which online visitors could evaluate the photos (I wrote about the process here).

Now the museum has put up a website analyzing the results., The photos are displayed tag-cloud style -- relative size of images indicates their popularity with evaluators -- & a number of tools are provided
to search in interesting ways & select & compare photos by various criteria. All this to test the question: " a diverse crowd just as 'wise' at evaluating art as the trained experts?"

In the age of Flickr it's a trendy question. Because it falls across basic fault lines of class, education & politics, it's also one guaranteed to provoke riproaring (& attention-getting) arguments. But I'll give "Click" its due for making a fair run at it. The director of the project, Shelley Bernstein, seems to have made a special effort to head off dogfights (she led a recent blog entry with, "Click is not a is a study in crowds.") So maybe the way to look at is: the results are not just art -- they're also data. And sociology. And politics. And an interesting glimpse at the zeitgeist as a famous (mythical) borough morphs into... something else.

I do, however, have to respectfully disagree about the contest. You can get a sense of the competitiveness out there by taking a look at the anonymous comments on the submitted images . The ones I sampled were frequently angry , sometimes really nasty, & shockingly negative. Wow, you thought professional critics were mean?

Anyway, I'm not weighing in right now on the question "Click" poses. For one thing (full disclosure), I submitted an image & it didn't make the cut in any of the categories of the (non) contest. For another, I'm looking forward to seeing what the "Click" blog's experts have to say.

Can an anonymous crowd judge art in any meaningful way? Can they curate a diverse body of work? Let's see.


Shelley said...

Hi Tim,

Thanks for posting, I've been enjoying them. It's nice to see people writing and really discussing the show. Have to agree about the comments - hyper critical and that really surprised me too. I am starting to find the pre vs. post comments interesting - they differ in tone...and now they are influenced, so I'm interested to see how they evolve as we move forward.

Mary said...

I can't believe that this sort of idea has any merit as far as deciding which among a pile of photos is more worthy than the next based on the statistical "votes" of a bunch of consumers. The notion of the "best" in photography being selected by viewers is nothing new; all the big sites have a process for selection that involves only clicking to select/vote for a photo. I call this the lemming look in action; select photos that correspond to what's already popular and "readable" and available. So, the results are really boring.
As for the comments and whether or not they are unkind, well... this is the anonymous internet, after all. On a site where the comment makers were likely to receive a return comment I believe there would be less harshness (sites like Flickr are rampant with the "awesome"-ness commenter).
What's even more interesting is the artist's statements; they mostly seem canned and plagiarized or trying to emulate a review or critique the photographer read somewhere. That should have been a clue to the organizers of the project that what they were getting was mostly pablum.

Tim Connor said...

I think the results bear out Mary's comment. Ken Johnson in his NY Times review really seemed to have trouble even paying attention to the work, spent most of his time arguing that the question about the wisdom of crowds supposedly posed by the show was completely meaningless. As a reviewer I realized I could either trash the show or leave it alone; nothing else would be honest. I chose the latter because I still think any move by galleries & museums to open up their selection process -- even a misguided move -- beyond the who knows who, who went to what school, who's charming and/or pretty, whose work is cutting edge in the currently approved style for cutting edges, etc etc., is good. Also, there was some lively work in there -- unfortunately,in my opinion, most of it didn't wasn't popular, so you'll never see it.