week 9: on the Google Art Project

I believe that “street view” is understood as a code for “the real” in our digital culture. We understand it as such, because it represents a photographic snapshot of an actual physical location, and we decode photographs as being real and true to life. When we have no other way of understanding what a location actually looks like, we take what we are given (the Google maps representation) and accept it as reality. 

I believe the user-curator culture that we live in enables people to embrace and get in touch with their creativity, especially those who may not have thought of themselves as creative, otherwise. The only concern I see with a culture that encourages viewers to record an experience as they undertake it (ex. by photographing it in order to curate a Pinterest-style collection of their favorite images) is that it detracts from a viewer simply going to a museum, standing in front of a work of art, and either “oohing and awing” at it or shaking their head and walking to the next piece of art.

The Google Cultural Institute is a valuable creation because it brings pieces of high art to those who may not otherwise have had access to. I do not believe it discourages people from visiting actual museums–those with a physical location. As the prompt mentioned, I do believe that digital museums such as this can “[enable] individual learning, pattern recognition, and understanding of the museum function.” It gives viewers (yes, even those online museum spectators) the ability to engage with and be inspired by creative material. For that reason, I am not surprised that “[a Pinterest-like] feature was so successful upon the Art Project’s launch, that Google had to dedicate additional servers to support it” (Wikipedia). The Google Art Project is bringing the experience, knowledge, and culture to a wider audience.

Integrating Google’s street view idea with the concept of a museum worked well because viewers took Google’s representations as “real” because the media they were exposed to were digital representations of the physical objects, and they already had experience as taking photographic representations of things as “real.” Of course, experiencing works of art in person and seeing the imperfections and textures of the individual works of art (ie. canvases, etc.)  is another experience, but the Google-museum-without-walls experience provides a similar experience for those who cannot view the works of art in person.

There is value in Malraux’s idea of the art book standing as an example for all that the work of art stood to gain from the advent of the reproducible image in its ability to carry the ‘revelation of the world of art’ beyond the physical walls of ‘real’ institutions.