Who's To Say?

The Brooklyn Museum is hip to this internet thing. Their current show, "Click!" (note the dot-fun exclamatory spelling!) is the latest in what seems to be a slew of museum shows to pick-up the theme of "crowdsourcing." While this term, coined by Jeff Howe in a 2006 Wired Magazine article originally referred to corporate R&D, the principal of a large body of "amateur" volunteers making collective decisions has not only rocketed a number of online ventures to success, it's also become a model for online activism, collective organizing, and art. The Brooklyn Museum's show invokes New Yorker magazine columnist James Surowiecki's ideas about "The Wisdom of Crowds" (essentially that collective knowledge is greater than the sum of its parts) in inviting online audiences to discuss and vote on photographs submitted by respondents to an open call. Curator Shelley Bernstein (whose official title at the museum is not Curator but, of course, Manager of Information Systems) opens a tricky can of worms in asking whether a diverse crowd can be "just as 'wise' at evaluating art as the trained experts?" In a sense it doesn't matter, like curators and critics before them, what they say goes. After the crowd has been sufficiently sourced, the artists get an exhibit at the museum and are displayed according to rank. Incidentally, the assignment for this photo study is to capture the face of Brooklyn, so the layers of sociological reflection are highly recursive, which somehow seems fitting. In her curatorial statement for Phantom Captain: Art and Crowdsourcing, at New York's Apex Art gallery, Aurora Picture Show founding director Andrea Grover argued that "crowdsourcing as a method of artistic production appears to be heir to the throne of 1960s and 70s happenings and participatory art." Fortunately, you don't have to be in Brooklyn to participate in this be-in, simply log-on and get to criticizing! - Marisa Olson

Image: Tamara Porras, Pippin Building, 2008

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