MOMA: Oh, not much, just visiting some Abstract Expressionists

The current Abstract Expressionist show at MOMA in New York has, I am pleased to report, a bench in just about every room of the exhibition.

What interested us, apart from an apparent change in attitude with regard to seating at MOMA (from almost none to more than adequate, at least for this show), was one particular pattern of use that we had not seen before.

Many visitors sat in order to gaze at the work more closely, and/or to rest. But some used the bench as an opportunity to interact with a handheld device.

From what we could see, these were not audio tour players, but smart phones or Blackberry-like devices. Users seemed to be checking messages or texts, or actually texting in at least one instance.

Are these simply visitors who are unable to be out of touch for more than a few minutes? Or is it another form of leaving the room and chilling out – changing gaze and focus not by looking out of a window, but into a window? Or both?

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2 Responses to “MOMA: Oh, not much, just visiting some Abstract Expressionists”

  1. Lori Says:

    I was at the MOMA last year at this time and you would have seen me sitting on those same benches pulling out my i Touch. It had nothing to do with feeling disconnected or needing to check in on the world. I was looking up more information about the artist that I was looking at. I wanted to know his biography, who he was taught by and influenced by. Although I am sure that many people are just feeling out of touch but these devices, along with free wifi allow further exploration right when you want it. If I hadn’t had the chance to look up the information then I would have forgotten about it later.

    • stevetokar Says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I know that I’m missing part of the story on smart phones, tablets, and similar devices in museums, and your comment helps clarify things. This probably means that audio tours, as we know them, will either change or die, especially as wireless connections become ubiquitous. Why listen to just one arbitrary viewpoint about an exhibit when you can randomly access a whole host of narratives – or simply pluck out the specific facts that you need at that moment?

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