Photo by Esther Simpson on Flickr.
One of the most important lessons I learned about the use of technology in galleries is that when using it, there’s hardly a middle road. (Hardly… there is maybe one.) Either the technology should be immersive and unobtrusive. Or, it should be overwhelming, in your face, undeniable.
Either technology (and media, etc.) should be used as a tool, or be art in itself.
The moment people notice tech (because of an unintuitive touchscreen, a distracting beamer, flickering lights) it should be part of the artistic experience, or be unplugged. In the V&A I stumbled upon a plague that said it quite nicely, “Only when the technology is invisible is it of any use” (Jonathan Barnbrook, 1990).
Ron Arad’s Curtain Call, this summer in the Roundhouse in London, had me thinking about all this. An overwhelming experience of images and sound and a 360 degrees screen and really nothing else. It worked like a charm because of and in spite of the heavy reliance on technology. Maybe that’s the only middle road: Technology used as art, to become a tool for something bigger, the superlative of an immersive experience.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb is teaching me not to make predictions, but next time I’ll have to think about the use of tech in gallery, I promise I’ll aim at making a stunning installation completely invisible.