The Order of Things probes the relationship between logic and perception and challenges the traditional roles of artist, curator and viewer by using Processing to create data visualizations of participants’ museum behavior over time.
Generative Artworks created with Processing
Storyboard detail: Input
Storyboard detail: Continue to next selection
Storyboard detail: Output
Storyboard detail: Code
Las Meninas along with a bird’s eye view diagram of the lines of sight in the painting
Diagram detail: Lines of sight
Diagram detail: Key
Put hyperbolically, the museum is no longer simply the guardian of treasures and artifacts from the past discretely exhibited for the select group of experts and connoisseurs; no longer is its position in the eye of the storm, nor do its walls provide a barrier against the world outside.
—Andreas Huyssen, Twilight Memories
a whole complex network of uncertainties, exchanges, and feints
—Michel Foucault on Las Meninas, The Order of Things
This hypothetical museum-wide installation is conceptually based on the Spanish Baroque painting by Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas. The 1656 painting is relevant in a contemporary museum context and expressly was a provocation for this project because of the way it investigates and challenges the act of looking. When you're viewing Las Meninas, the configuration of the painting implies that you not only embody the role of the viewer but also the roles of the artist and the monarchy—a structure which Velázquez embedded in his painting in order to rupture the hierarchy of looking. I created a bird's eye view diagram of the lines of sight in the painting to show how Las Meninas creates these simultaneous roles.
Las Meninas is also germane to the discussion of virtual experiences beyond the scope of the museum, as simultaneity is a fundamental affordance of most, if not all, digital media.
For the sake of this project, the concept of simultaneity presented in Las Meninas is applied to the museum experience—resulting in the role of the monarchy being equated with the curator, while the roles of the viewer and artist remain intact. The challenge then becomes how to design a museum experience in which the participant acts simultaneously as the viewer, artist and curator. The result here is that the participant acts as the viewer by the obvious act of looking at artwork, the curator by selecting a set and order of artworks that can be shared with others and the artist by producing the culminating visualization.
The Order of Things explores the question: “What does my experience look like?” When an experience is systematically translated (here, into a visualization), it becomes more modular and therefore easier to share and compare with others.
This project provides a framework for museum-goers to reinterpret traditional works of art in the context of today’s technology, while revealing how that technology creates opportunities to act outside of traditional hierarchies. It is beneficial to both participants and the museum, as it allows participants to reflect on their unique behavior as well as to share and compare their experience with others, while simultaneously providing the museum with an array of insightful user-data. Ultimately, participants play a direct role in curating the museum, as the museum tailors its exhibits in response to that data.