Missing the Point: Art Tourism and the New Wave of Art Fanatics

By armgar

Event: Untitled (The Drop), performance in Performa 17 by Barbara Kruger

Kruger Fans were disappointed—yes, I just labeled the new wave of followers and lovers of Barbara Kruger’s art Kruger Fans—they’ve written about it all over the internet. From Vogue to Artsy, these ‘art critics’ were not impressed with buying tickets to wait in a long, slow-moving line, just to buy “skater” fashions. But they did it anyway (Yotka, 2017).

Barbara Kruger is a Performance Artist Now?

The setting for the performance was a pop-up shop featuring a limited number of Volcom-brand tees and sweater, a special MetroCard, and even a skate deck, all printed with Kruger’s new work, for sale. Tickets were $5. Attendees became the actors, waiting outside to get their turn to make a cameo in the shop. No, really. The performance was us, standing in line, waiting to be let into the pop-up shop. For what? To make a purchase. That was it.

Barbara Kruger is a Non-Performance Artist Now

The focus of “The Drop” performance and her other installations became the resurfacing of Kruger’s drama with Supreme. The over-hyped, clothing brand relies on promoting the anti-authoritative, skater subculture, but it’s mainly just an exploitation of their aesthetic and caricature of their masculinity. Buyers consist of young males, who wait in long lines for expensive clothing. These particular events are known as ‘drops’. The brand is accused of having ripped off (read: stolen) Kruger’s typographical design treatments to come up with their brand identity. Later, they turned around and sued another brand for appropriating and using a version of their logo. The irony is unreal. If it’s not apparent, her partnership with Volcom is in direct, market competition with Supreme (Zuckerman, 2013).

On the surface, the pop-up was Barbara Kruger’s turn to give her middle finger to Supreme. She did this by not only ripping the brand’s style (and the idea of branding a MetroCard), but also by appropriating their sales strategies of building an air of great desire for limited-quantity items that promise a certain lifestyle. In a way, Barbara Kruger took back what is rightfully hers, and took a few other things along the way (Hodge, 2017).

Quickly criticized as anti-climatic, the internet dubbed “Untitled (The Drop)” a lack-luster non-performance. Meanwhile, Kruger’s other site-specific installations, especially “Untitled (Skate)” at Coleman Skatepark, garnered all sorts of attention and acceptance. I believe the reason that the skatepark was more successful, is because Barbara Kruger actually appropriated a whole skatepark, including the skaters. She served Kruger Fans an easy-to-digest performance: no surprises, provided the en vogue actors oozing the right aesthetic, and plastered war phrases and terms on a school bus. What a spectacle (Indrisek, 2017).

An Open Letter to the New Wave of Art Fanatics

You are the jerks that Barbara Kruger references in her work. You immediately succumbed to Kruger’s own version of brands’ manipulation tactics used to convince you to buy forgetful, useless products. “Untitled (The Drop)” is meant to be a reminder that we are capable of recognizing the audacity of certain groups’ actions, yet, are so quick to accept this information and move on with no action. We never really acknowledge the core of the problem, or attempt to protest and correct those situations. Instead, we become part of that problem. Even if you insist that you know it’s wrong or inappropriate, you still follow the masses (Williams, 2014).

Of course, those that study Kruger’s art are fully aware of the dualistic nature of her work. It intends to attack consumerism’s veil, while at the same time setting us up to succumb to the manipulative sales strategies, and enacting those consumerist-driven tendencies. They know her work is a call to action to apply self-reflective, critical thinking to the approaches we take in our daily lives (Canelo, 2016). We should get to know the institutions that we interact with, beyond the public-facing marketing campaigns. The underlying message here bears a reminder to go beyond consumption of information and no-action.

I urge the new wave of art tourists and Kruger Fans to not rely on art to teach them about culture. Culture is not a category defined by an institution. It does not come in a neat package, nor is it framed, hanging in some Chelsea studio in the gentrified New York . Culture spans the schools of thoughts. You can’t rely on any one institution to teach you everything you need to know about it.

Art is an industry maintained by consumerism—just like fashion and retail. Museums rely on event and ticket sales to promote agendas. Nevermind that you are unaware of this psychology. Your responsibility is to apply critical thinking and art theory to all works—which many bloggers, magazine editors, and art spectators miserably fail to do so more and more every day (Gottshalk, 2017).

Does it even matter that Barbara Kruger donated the money from sales to charity? Nobody wrote about that. Find the real problems that need solutions, or you might just miss the point.


Sources

Canelo, M. J. (2016). Art as social commentary: visual syntax and meaning in Barbara Kruger’s collages. Ways of seeing, ways of making seen, 70.

Gottschalk, M. (2017, December 08). Is Culture in the Americas in Trouble? Arts Leaders Say Yes. Retrieved December 10, 2017, from https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-culture-americas-trouble-arts-leaders

Hodge, K. (2017, November 07). Barbara Kruger Takes Aim at Supreme With “The Drop” Pop-Up. Retrieved December 09, 2017, from https://www.highsnobiety.com/2017/11/07/barbara-kruger-supreme-the-drop/

Indrisek, S. (2017, November 09). I Went to Barbara Kruger’s First-Ever Performance-and Left with a Skateboard. Retrieved December 09, 2017, from https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-barbara-krugers-first-ever-performance-left-skateboard

Williams, P. (2013, May 04). Artist Barbara Kruger Responds to the Supreme Lawsuit. Retrieved December 09, 2017, from https://www.highsnobiety.com/2013/05/02/artist-barbara-kruger-responds-to-the-supreme-lawsuit/

Yotka, S. (2017, December 08). Was Barbara Kruger’s The Drop a Success? Retrieved December 09, 2017, from https://www.vogue.com/article/barbara-kruger-the-drop-supreme-perfoma-2017

Zuckerman, E. (2013, May 02). Artist Barbara Kruger Is Not Cool with the ‘Totally Uncool Jokers’ at Supreme. Retrieved December 10, 2017, from https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/05/artist-barbara-kruger-supreme/315652/


References

Barbara Kruger. (n.d.). Retrieved December 09, 2017, from http://17.performa-arts.org/artists/barbara-kruger

Barbara Kruger. (n.d.). Retrieved December 09, 2017, from http://17.performa-arts.org/artists/barbara-kruger-the-drop

Maximizing Generalizability, Precision, and Realism: A review of Incorporating Eye-tracking in UX Research to Inform Design

By armgar

Jen Romano–Bergstrom is a UX Research Lead at Instagram and Facebook. Some of her work currently involves survey design, usability testing, and writing. She is also known for using the research method known as eye-tracking to collect data based on human behavior. This technology now allows for users’ physical actions—all along with emotional responses—to be tracked for further analysis (Facebook Research, Person: Jen Romano–Bergstrom).

For a company and app like Instagram, this means they can determine what content users favor and how to guide them to it easily. The data is shared with influencers and advertisers. What does this mean to a regular user or the general public? Well, better placed ‘Like’, ‘Share’, and ‘Comment’ buttons…and ads, of course.

Furthermore, how would the methods employed in eye-tracking measure up to McGrath’s strategy circumplex in determining successful research on human behavior?

Generalizability

Romano-Bergstrom sums up that eye-tracking studies may be better for conducting research on those users who are not good with verbalizing their thoughts. The most notable (emphasized by Jen) is that people do not read dense text on Facebook and they only read what they need to read. Users are also reported to consume this content on mobile faster than they do on desktop.

The notable aspects of these summaries is that the Actors, in accordance with McGrath’s research strategies, cover a vast portion of the population. Evidence has been gathered between young and old, experts and novices, and mobile and desktop users in remote and lab settings.

Precision

Eye-tracking involves tracking users’ eye movements. Specifically, as users scroll through the apps, researchers can follow the linear movement of the eye and record lengths of time given to spans of attention versus gaze. This data can be represented virtually and in real-time. The maps created by the eye movement can be processed as video recordings or static images for later review.

There is a high level of control in recording the data represented: if the gaze falls of the screen, it can still be observed, but won’t affect the mapping process. The researcher can determine whether those ‘off-screen’ actions are relevant or not.

Realism

Researchers are also able to watch as users learn to interact with the product — something that can tell a lot about users’ behaviors. It is also valuable in the sense that testing can be accomplished successfully in unmoderated and remote testing.

Designers are able to test initial drafts by displaying screenshots and mock-ups on-screen that perform basic functions. Post-launch testing of features and things like copy, icons, placement  can also be administered.

The Dilemma

McGrath undoubtedly stresses that you cannot maximize all there criteria (McGrath 1994). In this case, the design of the eye-tracking research methods are well beyond flexible. 

There are three categories of the user experience data collected with Eye-tracking: Observational, Self-Report, and Physiological. Click patterns can be analyzed through observation. Meanwhile, users are more likely to think-aloud in a setting where eye-tracking is administered. They can report satisfaction and difficulty of the task more readily. If moderators are present, they have a chance to debrief the users. Tracking is also being expanded to include collection of emotional and electro-dermal activity through new quantitative/numerical coding.

From a physiological perspective, researchers can track the eye and observe what attracts users’ attentions. They can discover areas of confusion and/or interests. From this, designers and researchers can validate their updates to the content or the site’s interactive elements.

Sources

Facebook Research, Person: Jen Romano–Bergstrom. Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://research.fb.com/people/romano-bergstrom-jen/

Jen Romano-Bergstrom, Incorporating Eye-tracking in UX Research to Inform Design (personal communication, October 11, 2017).

McGrath, J. (1994). “Methodology matters: doing research in the behavioral and social sciences.” Original paper. http://d.ucsd.edu/class/grad-IxD/2015/ private/readings/mcgrath_methodology_matters.pdf.

Information Consumption: The Do’s and Dont’s

By armgar

In Digital Disconnect, Robert McChesney presents the regard of the press by the founders of the United States of America as the system that is meant to inform the public and expose officials of any crimes against humanity (2003). He gives rise to the notion of the public moving away from gathering such knowledge from traditional sources, like the press system, to the Internet (McChesney 2013). How are we, the actual public sphere, to fare in this time of Critical Juncture? Don’t log off just yet; keep that browser window open and library card. Follow closely on your path to do-it-yourself-consumption of knowledge.

Do Think Before You Consume
Marija Dalbello warns that collecting and publicly exposing information, especially cultural heritage, will result in appropriation and in the transformation of those traditions (Dalbello 2009). Not everything or everyone is willing to be discovered. Or is it?

Do Cite Your Sources
According to CIS experts, it’s impossible to work around copyright and distribution systems (Vaidhyanthan 2006). So don’t double-think it. Just cite it.

Do Share
Retaining rights for your research should result in equal and opposite reactions. Copyright laws protect your work. Sharing the license means that you can change the way commercial industry controls creativity. You can help to shape culture and the essence of copyright (Vaidhyanathan 2006). While we may not know the exact measure of impact, Benkler will argue that sharing and keeping content open is also an opportunity for freedom from borders (Benkler 2006).

Don’t Over/Under Estimate Value
Well you have to, but leave that up to the experts. This group of experts “increasingly discover focus upon context” (Schwartz and Cook 2002). Context is where the true value lies.

Do Question Everything
As Queer Theory proposes, we have to remove evidence of bias from institutions. This is the only way you are going to gain power on how to consume in a just manner. Use evidence as backing (Drabinski 2013).

Don’t Think You Can Apologize Later
No one is listening to you at this point. 

Sources

Benkler, Yochai. “The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom.” Yale University Press. 2006. Accessed September 3, 2017.

Dalbello, Marija. (2009). “Digital Cultural Heritage: Concepts, Projects, and Emerging Constructions of Heritage.” Proceedings of the Libraries in the Digital Age (LIDA) conference, 25-30 May, 2009. Accessed September 18, 2017.

Drabinski, Emily. “Queering the Catalog: Queer Theory and the Politics of Correction.” The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, Vol. 83, No. 2 (April 2013), pp. 94-111. Accessed September 6, 2017.

McChesney, Robert W. “Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy.” 2013. Accessed September 3, 2017.

Schwartz, Joan M. and Cook, Terry. “Archives, Records, and Power: The Making of Modern Memory.” Archival Science 2 (2002), pp 1–19. Accessed September 6, 2017.

Vaidhyanathan, Siva. “Afterword: Critical Information Studies.” Cultural Studies Vol. 20, Nos 2 /3 March/May 2006, pp. 292 /315. Accessed September 3, 2017.

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