I Dream of Content-Trash

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They come dressed in their post-brunch best. They come in packs. They come to be photographed.

They flock to the sanitized byways of Williamsburg for the Dream Machine, a new and wildly Instagrammable “experience” that compels users to let their imaginations “run wild” as they explore nine surreal rooms—of clouds, bubbles, ball pits, cotton candy—inspired by dreams. Soon they will number in the thousands, this well-groomed crop of spendthrift pathfinders, but today, in the first week of the Dream Machine’s two-month lifespan, the crowd is smaller, almost intimate.

What does the attendee, the user of the Dream Machine get in return? Quite literally, a dream of someone else’s design. Inside the Machine’s guts, the globally integrated spectacle of our ceaseless stream of content-trash launches its assault on the final frontier: the idea of human sleep. But it’s not just our dreams. As a result of this advancing bacchanal of VSCO filters, of data mining, of likes and shares and sponsored posts, “the primary self-narration of one’s life shifts in its fundamental composition,” writes Jonathan Crary in 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. “Instead of a formulaic sequence of places and events,” Crary continues, “the main thread of one’s life story is now the electronic commodities and media services through which all experience has been filtered, recorded, or constructed.” This idiot pageant designed specifically for Instagram, in other words, this plasticized dreamworld, is more and more the very stuff of our lives, or at least the stories we tell ourselves.

Instagram is changing the way we experience art, and that’s a good thing

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Increased visitor photography at galleries and museums has proved controversial at times. Recently a visitor to Los Angeles pop-up art gallery The 14th Factory destroyed $200,000 worth of crown sculptures. The sculptures rested on top of a series of plinths, and while attempting a selfie the visitor fell, knocking the plinths down in a domino style chain reaction.

Banning photography on the basis that it interferes with the visitor’s experience could be seen as cultural elitism; expressing a view that art can only be appreciated in an orthodox manner. It also ignores the potential of Instagram to bring a new dimension to artists, curators, exhibition designers and visitors.

Recent research at Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art Gerhard Richter exhibition showed that visitors use Instagram as part of their aesthetic experience. A number of participants posted Richter’s art works on Instagram creatively immersing themselves in the image, wearing clothes matching the art, and copying Richter’s signature blurred style.

Another study at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences’ Recollect: Shoes exhibition in Sydney found that audiences used Instagram primarily to engage with exhibition content; not by taking selfies. Visitors mostly photographed the intricate details of the shoes’ design.

This finding was echoed in a larger study that focused on Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Far from the narcissistic selfie-obsessive behaviour that much media coverage insists is occurring, Instagram offers visitors authority and agency in sharing their experience.

This connects audiences with museum content in a way that they can control and is meaningful to them. New research shows how this activity is also tied to place – the museum, and the city beyond it.

Using Instagram in public spaces like museums and galleries is complex. It’s tied to broader research that shows how social media use in public spaces is challenging a range of social norms.

The virtual Swedish Design Museum opens today

opening of the virtual Swedish Design Museum, focusing on architecture, design and fashion

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Today, Sweden announced the opening of the virtual Swedish Design Museum. It focuses on architecture, design and fashion. The first exhibition, “Live from Sweden”, offers visitors a glimpse into the Swedish lifestyle and the design objects Swedes surround themselves with.

Online museum

The virtual Swedish Design Museum is not your typical museum – it has no physical collection. It is an online museum with the purpose of making Swedish design accessible and visible to people in all corners of the world.

A Starry Night Crowded With Selfies

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The city’s summer tourist season is ending, but visitors still crowd four and five deep in neck-craning hubbubs, brandishing phones to take close-ups and grinning selfies and somehow partake of “Starry Night,” the van Gogh masterpiece at the Museum of Modern Art.

The crowds were ceaseless all summer, as they are much of the year — bobbing, weaving, snapping away, denying quiet contemplation. They puzzle no less an art lover than Ann Temkin, the chief curator of painting and sculpture, who has watched the “crazy magnetism” of the painting and her beloved Vincent grow ever since cameras first appeared on phones.

“It’s as if taking a photo of a work in a museum means ‘seeing’ it to a viewer, even though someone like me worries that taking the photo replaces seeing it in the slow and thoughtful way I would ideally wish,” Ms. Temkin ruefully concedes at the bustling museum. “And the problem with all the photo-takers is that they make it impossible for someone who wants to do that kind of looking to do so.”

Selfie Factories: The Rise of the Made-for-Instagram Museum

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Art in the Age of Instagram

If “made-for-Instagram” exhibits suggests something about our selfie-dominated culture, it didn’t start in places like the Museum of Ice Cream. It started on the internet and then spilled out everywhere else—in nature, in restaurants, even in the contemporary art world.

In 2015, the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian opened Wonder, an immersive art experience featuring nine contemporary artists. One room featured a prismatic rainbow made from 60 miles of thread; another room was wallpapered with dead insects; in another, 10 towers of index cards stacked and glued together loomed over visitors like volcanic rock formations. The exhibit, for those who experienced it, was bizarre, beautiful, and at times bewildering. It was also Instagram gold.

Where, though, do we draw the line between art and Instagram filler? What separates the monochromatic paintings of the avant-garde movement, like Ad Reinhardt’s series of square, black canvases, from a room devoted to the color blue in Ferney’s Color Factory? To someone without a robust sense of art history, why does an exhibition like the National Building Museum’s “Beach,” a 10,000 square-foot installation featuring deck chairs and umbrellas set up amid one million white plastic balls, belongs in a category apart from the Color Factory’s yellow ball pit?

When Fashion Meets Technology, You Can Wear Your Tweets

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Museums are clearly paying attention to the impact of technology on fashion, with “#techstyle” on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, through July 10, and “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology” opening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on May 5. The design curator Ron Labaco has witnessed a wider institutional acceptance of this trend just since he included a few digitally produced works of fashion in his 2013 exhibition “Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital” at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.

When Mr. Labaco was organizing that show, he said he was told by a director of a European fashion museum, “There isn’t enough significant movement in the direction of digital fabrication in fashion to even warrant a chapter in the catalog.”

Mr. Labaco said, “Now we’re moving away from the idea that this is a novelty that is just a flash in the pan, to artists who are really dedicating their lives to exploring what is possible.”

The Museum of Fine Arts commissioned a version of the “Twitter dress” from the London-based CuteCircuit. Visitors can send tweets from their phones, or artworks from the museum’s collection (selected on an iPad attached to the display) that will then appear across the 10,000 micro-LEDs in the dress’s fabric (and it’s machine-washable).