Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ring My Bell

Yesterday I went to the Museum of Communication, which faces certain interesting curatorial challenges, given its subject matter. When "communication" is presented in a museum setting, it often comes down to displaying a series of inventions. This furthers a perspective on communication that understands it instrumentally, as enabled by a series of increasingly sophisticated tools that are invented by scientific geniuses like Alexander Graham Bell or Thomas Edison. To give it credit, from its opening displays, the museum tries to draw attention to social practices, rhetorical conventions, and the ways that communication functions through mediation rather than transparently.

The museum is currently exhibiting images of people with their online avatars, an archive of images that was first highlighted in the New York Times, which are now collected in the book Alter Ego: Avatars and their Creators.

It is also running a singularly bizarre show called STAR-RING, which deals with the way that telephones have been featured in movies. The exhibition runs from the appearance of split-screen as a cinematic convention with which to present telephone conversations to the emergence of cell phone spectacles such as happy slapping videos.

As one exits the museum, one is reminded of the mixed Internet/postal phenemonon PostSecret, as the museum presents samples from its own collection of about 5000 cards created by visitors.

Despite some thoughtful meditation about the nature of communication, the museum still represents corporate rhetoric about interpersonal exchanges and has its own creepy treehouse feel.

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