Google Glass Brings Its Visionary Tech to the New Museum for Generational Triennial Exhibit

Posted by Rachel S on Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Google Glass to debut at New Museum in New York

The Generational Triennial is a once every three years event that features emerging contemporary artists. The next Triennial will be held in February 2015 and will be curated by Lauren Cornell, Curator of Digital Projects and Museum as Hub along with artist Ryan Trecartin, a featured artist in the first Triennial held back in 2009. What’s particularly exciting about the forthcoming Triennial is the participation and sponsorship of Google Glass.

The New Museum announced earlier this month that Google Glass would be the lead sponsor of the Triennial. In addition to this sponsorship, the New Museum will utilize Google Glass to create a visitor engagement app. Lisa Phillips of the New Museum says, “We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with the company’s inventive minds to explore new ways that technology can enhance public engagement and improve visitor experience at the Museum.”

David Datuna's Portrait of America

The project with Google Glass is the New Museum’s first foray into expanding visitor experience using technology but isn’t Google’s first trip to a museum. The Smithsonian installed a piece of artwork for President’s Day Weekend at the National Portrait Gallery called Portrait of America by David Datuna that could be experienced via Google Glass.

That work was an oversized US flag covered in numerous pairs of eyeglasses. Once the viewer dons Google Glass, they are able to see pictures, video and interactive facets of the work about historical figures and American culture. To deepen the experience, the artwork itself has cameras embedded and as the viewer sees the work, the work, in essence, sees the viewer as it records images and video.

Google Glass at the museum

This reminds me of the great line from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure where he says “The mind plays tricks on you. You play tricks back.” In this case it’s the mind of the artist, but I’m not sure how I feel about the art appraising me as I’m appraising it. Neal Stimler of the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been an early embracer of the tech and has introduced many colleagues to it in his efforts as a Google Glass Explorer.

We don’t know a lot yet about exactly how Google Glass will be used at the Triennial, but we can see how other artists are using it. Datuna, the creator of the Smithsonian work that used Glass, is heavily exploring the use of the technology alongside his work. While some may see it as a detractor from the art, Datuna sees it as not interfering with the work.

Google Glass at Viewpoint of Billions

Datuna says, “It’s not about technology, it is about engagement. As artists we have to look at new and creative ways to engage a 21st century audience, Google Glass is merely a tool to assist with expanding my narrative. I predict new tools like Glass and wearable technology will become part of a growing list of innovative tools for the art world in general to explore, in a variety of ways.”

The flag was the first of 10 works in a series Datuna developed called the Viewpoint of Billions. He insists that the art he creates is traditional and that Glass is utilized to increase the reach of his works but that the tech isn’t part of the works themselves. And it seems that the efforts to expand that reach have worked. Amy Henderson, Cultural Historian at the National Portrait Gallery, said, “This was one of the largest audiences I can remember turning out for a specific artist installation at the National Portrait Gallery in over 30 years.”

Image sources: Hyperallergic.com, AlwaysFashionWeek.com, PBS.org, Rokivo.com

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