The museum of the Third Kind: in which the author envisions new directions for the art museum as audiences change, architecture evolves, institutions subdivide and electronic resources expand our capabilities and expectationsDouglas Davis
They favor active, participatory recreation over passive, institutionalized forms. They prefer indigenous street-life culture--a teeming blend of cafes ... musicians ... small galleries ... where it is hard to draw the line between performers and spectators. They ... want to pack their time full of dense, high-quality, multidimensional experiences. Seldom has one ... expressed a desire to get away from it all. They want to get into it all ... with eyes wide open.
--Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class (and How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life), 2002
Profound shifts.., have occurred in recent contemporary artmaking.... The strangest undercurrent informing these tectonic shifts ... is the Internet, the global reach of which has eclipsed Marshall McLuhan ' s predictions.
--Chrissie Iles, Introduction to The Whitney Biennial, 2004
I prefer to think of [your] "Third Kind" as a place of passion ..., not grand or majestic but committed to the drama of risk-taking.
--Renzo Piano in conversation with the author, 2005
As museums throughout this and other lands struggle to grasp the meaning of a new century charged at once with promise and peril, it's clear we must find a new language to express what's coming: new forms of building; larger, more demanding, more fragmented audiences; and a multiplicity of means of museum-going, much of it "virtual," conducted through varying means of electronic access. (1) Where this critical cultural artifact is concerned, we should consider putting aside our materialist obsession with size, not to say gross attendance figures, and turn to Platonic matters--what we now call "content"--and new, extended types of individual interaction, congenial to an engaged public differing profoundly from its predecessors, in terms both of need and expectation.
Of course this means you and me, the "new audience" that has confronted directors and curators for at least a decade. Despite our drive to participate, we're still faced at every turn with passive, stolid interpretations of museum design. Instead, we should move ahead--toward structures that are cerebral, interactive, quick to change or modify their forms with every new show. We're told repeatedly that museums are expanding, attracting swarms of bodies into their galleries, cafes and shops. The legendary success of the Guggenheim in Bilbao, endowed with the wry charm of Frank Gehry's curvaceous titanium design, is perpetually cited: how, in less than a decade, it has vaulted little-known Bilbao to a place among the top ten tourist attractions in the world.
We've been alternately seduced and threatened by the "Global Guggenheim," the outreach of the museum's CEO, Thomas Krens, whose primarily entrepreneurial vigor has become--in the media and in the popular mind, at least--a standard of judgment for all museum directors. If the "First Kind" museum--the private collections of kings, popes and dukes--has been replaced by the vigorously public museum, beginning with the opening of the Louvre to citizens in 1792 and moving relentlessly toward today's wooing of the mass audience, then the Guggenheim's dominance leads too many of us to assume the "Second Kind" is our permanent destiny.
But here I argue against prevailing wisdom, for reasons beyond the recent evidence of damaging overreach at the Guggenheim--broken budgets, angry trustees, failure to gain approval or financing for an innovative Gehry-designed museum on the East River in Lower Manhattan, and the closing down of Rein Koolhaas's 70,000-square-foot Guggenheim Las Vegas. (2) None of these temporary rebuffs will slow our confirmed materialist museologists, for whom numbers are supreme. Indeed, the satellite Guggenheims that Krens is hoping to establish in Rio and Taiwan--and, we've recently been told, Guadalajara and Singapore--may further extend this embattled genre. (3) Yet I'm still driven to suggest, in a contrarian vein, that the museum's destiny in the 21st century, in scale, content and audience, involves fundamental change; indeed, many museums are already engaged in discovering and developing unfamiliar delights for an unfamiliar audience. I suggest this destiny is neither First nor Second Kind but something entirely new, complicated and surprising--in brief, "Third Kind." This term had its first fully public airing in a talk I gave at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in 1997. (4) Briefly put, "Third Kind" connotes a protean, de-centered museum that gives primacy to its program, not its material condition or geographical place. Often the "Third Kind" museum may occupy several sites, some temporary, and remain in constant flux, exploring and extending the new media toward which art museums condescended in the past. Today, the entire curatorial community is aware that the interactive digital access provided by the Web must be central, not marginal, in its thinking. (5)
The Web provides access to an international gathering of individuals never before possible, and brings together a far-flung audience no one of sound mind can view as simply "mass." Your specific needs, my specific wishes must now be fundamental in the design and programming of art museums, particularly those that reach out to our rapidly expanding contemporary culture.
Shells, Screens and Beyond: The Buildings
The transformed museum doesn't imply a loss of focus on exterior form. Rather, I think we'll gradually begin to recognize a distinct new esthetic--a baroque shell often in flux, often attracting attention to itself as an emblem of a singular identity, occasionally (or perhaps often) divorced from the inner configuration as well as the programs of the museum itself. I will not be surprised to find rakish vanguard museums adopting the "mutable screen" storefronts and walls already seen in Times Square, changing throughout the day, perhaps altering imagery or message to accord with the latest exhibition or performance inside, perhaps responding visually to faces and voices on the street. Taking a tentative step in this direction is Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron's striking Schaulager building (2003) on the outskirts of Basel, an art-warehouse-cum-museum which incorporates digital screens into its beveled facade.
Zaha Hadid's complex pile of rectangular concrete boxes in downtown Cincinnati, (6) loaded onto an incongruous transparent glass lobby that seems incapable of holding the weight above, has been interpreted by some as a "response" to the galleries and offices inside. But inside, the results are far more complex. The heights and shapes of its galleries differ greatly. Long, gently inclined staircases traverse the interior space, affording glimpses through slits in the gallery ceilings that act as peepholes to events above or below. Providing the unexpected at every turn, the structure is a de-centered "center," waiting for new expressions of art hardly predictable at this moment.
Further, one could scarcely have imagined the rising in tradition-bound Rome of another Hadid-designed institution dedicated to vanguard culture, named the "Museum of Art fox' the Twenty-First Century," or MAXXI, which is being built in a series of sweeping linear, transparent arms. Reflecting even less enthusiasm for "neutrality" is the winning design (2003) by Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio in the competition for the Eyebeam Museum in Manhattan, to be devoted primarily to new media, destined to rise in Chelsea--or perhaps nearby (it faces an uncertain future). The floors are intended to loop into one another, while video monitors are to offer views of objects and events occurring throughout the structure. On view at the Whitney in "Scanning: The Aberrant Architectures of Diller + Scofidio" two years ago, (7) the project diverges sharply from the traditional museum's obsession with single focus within a static, meditative space. (8)
Elsewhere in Manhattan, innovative energy will shortly be poured into a lot at the intersection of the Bowery and Prince Street: the result will be a galvanized zinc-clad structure housing the new New Museum, where each floor will jut out independently from the building's core, the kind of feat to be expected from the severe band of Japanese architects chosen for the job--Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, founders of Tokyo's SANAA, Ltd. The new New will not only double the old New's space, but will house generous new media facilities. Indeed, director Lisa Phillips told me in conversation a few months ago that the new New would not only focus on media pyrotechnics but would use other buildings, here and around the world, for exhibitions and performances. In the meantime, having vacated its former home on nearby Broadway, the New has appropriately "decentered" itself, moving to a portion of the Chelsea Art Museum, where it recently presented a lively survey of the East Village art scene in its heyday [see p. 92, this issue]. Last fall, it also--in Third Kind mode--sponsored street projects in Lower Manhattan, including a temporary periscopelike piece by Julianne Swartz enabling passersby to communicate by sound and sight with the occupants of a venerable Bowers' flophouse, the Sunshine Hotel, which will be the museum's neighbor.
Today's museum-architecture-on-the-edge can indulge visual innovation as flamboyantly as in the past, while signaling new priorities. In this sense, the opening in spring 2004 of the "new" Brooklyn Museum (it no longer specifies "of art"), with its $63-million facelift, is virtually a pedagogical act, a declaration of the vast difference between our needs in this century as opposed to the last two, if not three. Driven by a conceptually demanding director, Arnold Lehman, and an equally demanding architect, James Polshek, the renovation is dedicated to what Polshek calls "the borough of refuge."
The Brooklyn job is the essence of deconstruction. The moment we emerge from the newly renovated Eastern Parkway-Brooklyn Museum subway stop, we see how much the focused Neo-Classicism of McKim, Mead and White, who first planned and began to build "the world's largest museum" in 1896 (they only completed one wing), has been gently but firmly reformed. Facing us is a half-cupola in glass, flooding the once-dark lobby in sunlight. Better, we're offered choices as to both entrance and viewing: up the wooden deck stairs we can go, tracing a semicircular path around the Beaux-Arts facade that once loomed here, ogling the museum's exhibitions from slits in that facade ... then back down again, if we wish, on the reverse side.
The words that come often to the mouths of both Polshek and Lehman--"transparency," "asymmetry," "interaction"--reflect explicit Third Kindism. When Polshek insists his inviting and humane tier of steps plus viewing decks is a "hemicycle" correcting the "frontality" of the revered McKim, Mead and White classic, he speaks for the larger spirit of the movement I'm beginning to describe.
Our current taste for complexity provokes a heightened appetite for shapes that defy modernist textbook norms. None of the forward-looking structures discussed here is simply modern, postmodern or even a hybrid of the two. Today, the lean, simple geometry of a modern classic, say Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building on Park Avenue, seems not only abstract, but unreal--a toy of the mind, cut off from what we see as truly real in our lives and work, which are increasingly dense, complicated, unpredictable.
As for the transformed MOMA in midtown--the reopening of which was this season's headline museum event--its final configuration took place at the hands of director Glenn Lowry, the curators of his famously headstrong departments and, of course, architect Yoshio Taniguchi. Ironically, many of us were misled by the radical signs of asymmetry, complexity and contradiction at MOMA Queens, the museum's temporary quarters--its wide-open galleries and ungainly clutch of marine plywood forms on the roof spelling out its logo. But radicality-in-reverse is the hallmark of the new $425-million, high-modernist MOMA, which is primarily a quantitative expansion of its earlier quarters, despite the surely well-intentioned interpretations of its furiously engaged makers. The galleries, as we now see them, are palatial and self-absorbed--so large they make Alfred Barr's original democratizing (if claustrophobic) drive to force the public into the equivalent of a middle-class living room space a lost, if not demolished, idea. The early, and provocative, desire of Lowry to weave departments into closer interaction with each other is overwhelmed now by stylistic neutrality and stupendous scale. The result, paradoxically, seems monumentally and quintessentially Second Kind. (9)
Digital Manifestations and Beyond
It is of course Gehry's success in Bilbao--offering a flamboyant, gently comic facade that both chides and graces the more conventional exhibition spaces inside--that is the key influence now shaping the coming generation of architects, designers, curators and artists, who are increasingly creating an interdisciplinary genre. Diller and Scofidio, who are driven to produce and occasionally participate in performances in their own structures, are vivid evidence of this trend. For their Blur Building, a media pavilion devised for Swiss Expo 2002 on Lake Neuchatel, shown in the form of photographs and models at their recent Whitney exhibition, they enveloped a sturdy steel structure in a filtered-lake-water fog, producing an aptly ironic metaphor fur Third Kindism. Blur visitors were outfitted with digitally managed "braincoats" that signaled the personality profiles of their occupants to others as they passed through the pavilion.
The Blur and its designers reflected signal changes of attitude, in both anti-formal design and professional behavior. The architect is now quite likely to emerge from a background of varied skills in addition to formal architectural training. Diller, Scofidio and other Third-Kind designers evidence a complex involvement in all the arts, as well as a concern for contemporary social and ecological issues. They aren't content simply to build. The latest Third-Kind architectural groupings mingle artists, curators and digital designers. A salient example is the multidisciplinary design team that created the new Dia facility in Beacon, N.Y., which included artist Robert Irwin and Dia director Michael Govan, along with the aptly named Open Office architects based in both New York and Los Angeles.
Today's digital technology has enabled architects to model/design on their own, with unprecedented swiftness. This development began in the 1980s when computer systems began to invade architectural offices, allowing a single designer to turn out 3-D CadCam models by simply drawing on a desktop, achieving results that previously required multiple hands at the drafting tables. At the New Museum in early 2003 a provocative architecture exhibition devoted to the profession's newest practitioners ("Superficial: The Surfaces of Architecture in a Digital Age") was presented entirely through virtual access--on computer terminals in the museum's tiny Media Lounge, linked to a glowing Web site. Young "paper" architects have always announced their presence via drawings and models. But I suspect the "Superficials" (among them the SANAA group that later landed the commission for the new New) see their terminal-based images as central, not peripheral, to their work, nearly all of it based on the use of digital software to design, plan and construct.
Meanwhile, the built museum increasingly enhances its virtual competition. The rapid increase of virtual visitors to institutional Web sites has inexorably put pressure on museums to provide more choice, easier access and more useful information than ever before. (When the Louvre opened to the public, captions placed on the wall were revolutionary instruments of democracy.) All this is certain to drive the Third-Kind museum architect to provide access to endless keyboards and mural-size screens, and encourage museums to produce special programming for the Web.
The relentlessly progressive Tate Modern in London, not simply satisfied with Herzog & de Meuron's renovated power plant in once-drab Southwark, now employs a curator of Web-casting who regularly presents live lectures and events to an international Web audience approximating the number of "real" visitors to all other programs. (10)
Here, in passing, I want to confront the fear (we encountered it during the advent of TV and video art) that a new, apparently dematerialized medium-i.e., the Web--will somehow drive us all indoors, away from public spaces like theaters, movie houses or museums. The very reverse, of course, happened in the '60s and '70s, and will again: information breeds like rabbits, access leading to a hunger not only for more but for going out in search of different forms of art creation. (11)
In their design for the new ICA in Boston (which from afar resembles nothing more than an open, upside-down laptop), Diller and Scofidio envision a wireless electronic system linking the museum visitor at each point to every other point--as in their Eyebeam proposal--on rows of computer screens that provide, in effect, infinite choices of seeing or knowing; it will include access to the digital arts throughout the world, via a resident database. The museum, which will appear to float (if not blur) upon its waterfront site on a pier adjoining Boston Harbor, also plans to host performances and digital art displays in its main space, incorporating a 300-seat theater where the glass walls can adjust to various performance needs, ranging from transparency to filtered light to total blackouts.
Splintering, De-Centering and More
What is signified by these developments is something beyond material innovation, beyond even the arrival of a Web that draws millions to the art museum's virtual extension. And that is nothing less than an intense individuation of experience, sure to force us, one day, to look back on the last century as an obsolete, megalithic "mass media" era. In every way--from the physical personal access to digital information and imagery available to most of us to the retreat in architecture from size, stolidity and symmetry--our built environment grows more personal and more intimate.
The splintering and de-centering of major museums continues, as we see in MOMA's partnership with P.S.1, as well as the outpost of the Dia Foundation in Beacon, N.Y., a permanent adjunct to the long-established Manhattan venue (currently closed for renovation-or perhaps relocation [see "Artworld," p. 208, this issue]). The Guggenheim's own multiple outposts are part of this story, as well. And certain major European museums are not far behind: it was recently announced that both the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou have imminent plans for satellite museums in cities far removed from Paris [see "Front Page," Mar. '05]. While the Louvre has not chosen a designer for its branch in the northern French city of Lens, near Lille, the Centre Pompidou is already under way in Metz, in northeastern France, with an ambitious structure by Shigeru Ban Architects, of Japan.
Gehry himself has moved, I believe, beyond the Second-Kind monumentalism of the Guggenheim program. He broke ground in the spring of 2004 for the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum, a campus of small galleries and study-meeting-education centers in Biloxi, Miss. Sited within a grove of ancient live oak trees in Tricentennial Park near the Gulf of Mexico, the center of this functionally fractal organism consists of renovated houses and galleries that once provided living and working space for ceramist George E. Ohr, among others. (Jeremiah O'Keefe, former mayor of Biloxi, is the organization's major living patron.) Ohr's eccentric, free-form pots early in the 20th century provided delight and inspiration to his colleagues, far from the main avenue of modernism. The complex will incorporate the landmark Pleasant Reed house, the first home built in Mississippi by a former slave, plus a welcome center, a ceramics studio and a group of small wood-framed, tin-roofed houses converted into galleries open to changing exhibitions.
At once Third Kind and vernacular, hewing closely to the forms of the vintage structures found there, the Biloxi project glories both in its past and in Gehry's own esthetic, incorporating the materials of this century. He has designed multiple open pavilions flooded with natural light. In their intimate scale, each "house" (the word seems more appropriate than "museum") provides for contemplative viewing, offering small alcoves--some clad in stainless steel--to accommodate works of varying sizes. (12) The Gehry of 2004-05 seems as moved by what he calls "this little job" in Biloxi as by the grandeur, however witty and modulated, of Bilbao, or the clean finesse of his recent Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, decked out with sophisticated screen facades. (13)
In a sense, Ohr-O'Keefe responds almost point by point to calls lately voiced for smaller, more focused museums. Among these calls is Victoria Newhouse's book, Towards a New Museum, which in 1998 radiated a passion for what she labeled the "monographic museum," centered primarily on single bodies of work (and presenting exhibitions related to that work)--phenomena such as the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the Jean Tinguely Museum in Basel and the Brancusi Studio in Paris. (14)
Newhouse is even more committed to structures entirely devised for a single artist's work. By now a tradition in Europe, the artist's gallery/archive, often self-designed, running from Canova through Delacroix, Turner, Gustave Moreau, the Picasso museum in Antibes, Henri Cartier-Bresson, August Sander and more--is a phenomenon that ought to attract more Americans, she believes. The late Isamu Noguchi was among the first when, in 1985, he founded in Queens--a borough becoming a haven for de-centered art--what he called his Garden Museum, nestled within the walls of a converted red brick photo-engraving factory not far from P.S.1. With the museum renovated and recently reopened, the foundation, directed by Jenny Dixon, carries on in his name. Also artist-designed in the 1980s is Donald Judd's notable Chinati Foundation in Mafia, Tex., which has major holdings of Judd's work (including large-scale site-specific pieces) and preserves several of his studios and collections; it exhibits the work of other artists as well. (15)
The immense new Dia:Beacon, though it can hardly be called monographic, qualifies as Third Kind in the intensity of its concentration on highly selective subject matter. Housed in a sturdy steel-and-concrete former box factory, Dia's grand facility allows its in-depth collection of a narrow range of artists a long-term presence in the huge spaces provided for them. (16)
Nearby, the Beacon Cultural Society is breaking ground in the midst of the Vintage Beacon Terminals complex. (17) This intensely hybrid Vision was originally conceived by a group of developers, civic leaders, a former museum director (David Ross, who turned both the Whitney and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art toward both new media and a younger audience nucleus) and Sam Yanes, who pioneered cultural uplift at Polaroid. Though it's too early to call what is developing there a "museum," the society is clearly driven by high cultural goals. It recently purchased the former Beacon High School for use as studios, exhibition spaces and a community center. This unprecedented institution intends to attract private collections, build a kunsthalle and stimulate the making of new art. The result may well be a unique form of art education and presentation for the entire community
As the decades pass, we're going to find more, not fewer, institutions devoted to closer contacts between art-makers and their public, and to rare, specialized subject matter (consider the elegantly academic Museum of Sex on Fifth Avenue in New York, which opened late in 2002). My forecast art museum, which I see coming with a rush late in this decade, will increasingly encompass the exotic, the thematic, even the "green" issue of the environment itself, already Visible in the work of major architects like James Wines, Anthony Walmsley, Norman Foster, Renzo Piano and more. Walmsley and Wines co-designed a significant (if provisionally rejected) entry in a 1998 competition for a National Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar--nothing less than a "Green Museum," which has been widely discussed and written about since. The project was inspired by what Walmsley calls "shifting desert sands," together with the traditional oasis garden. The project mixed low and hi-tech: the walls were also charged with interactive video technology presenting manuscripts and artifacts too fragile to display. (18)
Content as Form
As this article goes to press, Hadid has just won a competition in London to build the British Architecture Foundation's exhibition center. As befits her premise, it rises up over a tiny plot of ground to explode geometrically outward; a concrete ribbon shaped like an arrowhead, along with an arching cantilevered space, may make her Cincinnati building seem quite conservative. Her victory betokens again our changed needs and tastes.
As does the success lately enjoyed by the Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron, whose non- (if not anti-) classical approaches, linked to the specific needs of contrasting environments and publics, are on extensive display right now, along with their deep involvement in "new media" solutions. Their Walker Art Center building in Minneapolis, inaugurated this year in late April, which counterpoints Edward Larrabee Barnes's monolithic, minimalist box (1971), is enlivened by an asymmetrical tower, expansive, irregular windows, an aluminum mesh skin. Their adventurous new structure for the de Young Museum, located on the site of its earthquake-ravaged predecessor in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, is set to open in October. Though it incorporates greater square footage and more gallery space than the prior, now-demolished building, it reaches farther below as well as above ground, and gives back to the park more than an acre and a half of its former footprint. A bright copper skin will gradually oxidize to a green patina that will blend into surrounding nature. The park itself seems to penetrate the asymmetrical plan--watercourses and areas of indigenous vegetation find their way through the museum's ground floor, thanks to the participation of landscape architect Walter Hood. The building is also penetrated by light wells affording daylight to many galleries; other spaces, underground, provide darkness where video and film can play at large scale.
In a quietly prophetic book, The Cultural Politics" of Everyday Life, philosopher-linguist John Shotter attempted in 1993 to define what he called "knowing of the third kind." (19) At the heart of this knowing, which is already revising the next wave of museum architecture, is a conversation between many minds, brought together by a multiplicity of communicative options and devices which few of us had experienced in the early '90s. Central to Shotter's concept is the respectful attitude by the new activist and thinker toward serious interaction with "the other," his/her single user and individual audience member. Perhaps the proper mission of the future museum is a hyper-"conversation" that results in unexpected forms, in the kind of knowing that led to the transformation of economic theory in Richard Florida's book, The Rise of the Creative Class, which focuses on "creativity" rather than the hard-nosed logic of mass production. (20)
For Piano, in his current steel-and-glass expansion of the venerable Pierpont Morgan Library in Midtown Manhattan, with a new entrance, a covered courtyard, more galleries and plenty of those ubiquitous terminals, the visitor becomes a creative user, able to encounter on the Web a dense presentation of the Morgan's massive treasury of books, documents and drawings. Here is yet another case where the spectator is conceived in the active, rather than traditional passive sense.
The same relationship with the visitor will pertain in Piano's recently announced addition to the Whitney Museum, which, while deferring to the powerful forms of the Marcel Breuer original, will more than double the gallery space, providing transparent bridges linked to a row of townhouses on Madison Avenue. "The Whitney ...," Piano says, "wants to be daring, surprising: curiosity and surprise are the first expressions of cultural life." (21)
A leading figure among the architects, artists and designers conceiving the new museum, along with Gehry, is Daniel Libeskind, whose radical 1996 proposal to expand the V&A in London, dubbed the Spiral, anticipated so much of what's under consideration here. Though the project seems to have been permanently suspended [see "Artworld," Nov. '04], the design is no less crucial in its influence. Libeskind was also, of course, the initial victor in the competition to replace the World Trade Center towers. How often, in the recent journalistic and critical coverage of both his spire-topped, radically green "Freedom Tower" and his Jewish Museum in Berlin, are we reminded of meaning rather than style, of content rather than physicality alone? In Berlin, we hear insistently not merely about the museum's sliced metallic geometry, but about the power of the dark void below, the empty gallery signifying the evil of the Holocaust. Libeskind's originally planned Ground Zero void--since voided by authorities--was also to have been an intense, psychologically interactive space.
As Philip Nobel recounts in his new book, Sixteen Acres, the clash of officials, realtors, families of the 9/11 victims and vociferous occupants of the downtown Manhattan neighborhood has virtually brought the overall planning of Ground Zero--the task for which Libeskind was named--to a halt. (22) But one bright spot is the naming of Gehry to design a major performing arts center as a critically important component of the new complex, also slated to house museums (including the Drawing Center). (23)
Reviving the Personal
In 1999, Beatrice yon Bismarck, a young German critic, propounded what seemed then a fantastic thesis: the most radical innovation coming for museums in the new century, she wrote, will be the "Living Artist's Archive"--everything he or she saved, used and documented, in connection with the works--in brief, the materials of the artist's life and thought. (24) Those who recall how Berenice Abbott chanced upon the imminent trashing of the negatives and prints of Eugene Atget in the 1930s--by a landlady who saw his death that morning merely as a chance to find a new tenant--knows how vulnerable such materials can be. Further, those who see the high cultural value of what might be classed as "ephemera"--letters, scores, sketches, video, works originating on the Web or in micro-media like the Palm Pilot--sense the same urgency that seized Abbott long ago. Already we see institutions like the Getty in Los Angeles and the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe beginning to collect videos, photos, letters, notes and other documentation of performance work. Here and there we find collectors like Egidio Marzona in Udine, Italy, and George Waterman in New York City and New London, Conn., buying archives of this kind and preparing storage for them. They are both considering placing their holdings on the Web, perhaps accompanied by a narrative provided by critics, curators or the artists themselves. Allowing documents of this value to be accessed, and even downloaded, is the essence of digital democracy. More than one video artist has had this idea, too, as well as museums such as the Centre Pompidou and the Ludwig Museum in Cologne.
Today, I see the Living Archive proving its relevance in an even more dramatic form than yon Bismarck envisioned: in real-time Web video visits to artists in their studios and among their works in progress. This is possible now through innumerable Web-based video conferencing methods, most of them low in cost. Such extended face-to-face "visits" are more informative and intense than conventional lectures. Video projection linked to computers can access a streaming Web, with a degree of interactive resolution equal (or perhaps superior) to high-quality photography, making possible mural-scale images; and surely, one day, computers will facilitate even touch itself. Further, for those who collect or prize digital video or digital imagery, Google (surely to be followed by others) already provides software that allows buyer and artist to devise alternative, one-of-a-kind versions of given works on the very terminal being used for conversation. (25)
Here, as the new century evolves, we may see the artist, the museum and the collector/viewer merge persona, objects, hands and more. Perhaps then we will begin to unravel possibilities yet unforeseen in ... the mind of the Fourth Kind.
(1.) We already know Google.com is in the midst of scanning major portions of the New York Public and Oxford University libraries, for our instant access. This development recalls the tale told long ago by Jorge Luis Borges, "The Library of Babel." The story first appeared in 1941 in The Garden of Forking Paths. (It is republished in Borges, Collected Fictions, New York, Viking, 1998, pp. 112-18.) Borges returned to this idea over and over, one example being "The Total Library," an essay published in 1989, in which he imagines an entire nation given over to the collecting of books (Borges: A Reader, New York, Dutton, 1998, pp. 94-95). How ironic that this European-Latin American fantasy is now being executed in Mountain View, Calif. Today, the "total museum" (adding prophetic force to Andre Malraux's conception of the "museum without walls") is becoming an electronically available reality, as well.
(2.) Michael Kimmelman, "An Era Ends fur the Guggenheim," New York Times, Dec. 6, 2002; Lee Rosenbaum, "The Guggenheim Regroups," Art in America, February 2003; and Fred A. Bernstein, "Post Prada, a Design Star, Rein Koolhaas Slims Down," New York Times, Apr. 24, 2003.
(3.) Carol Vogel, "A Museum Visionary Envisions More," New York Times, Apr. 27, 2005.
(4.) This term, scattered for years throughout many of my informal talks, classroom dialogues and complex lecture titles (at U.C. Berkeley in 1996, for example), became a for-real focus at the Victoria & Albert Museum on Mar. 7, 1997, when, inspired by Daniel Libeskind's radical design for the V&A's "Spiral" addition, I revised the title of a keynote lecture for a gathering of museum directors and curators to read: "The Museum of the Third Kind: The Next 100 Years." I returned to the term and concept again in the New York Times on Sept. 20, 2000, in "The Virtual Museum: Imperfect but Promising."
(5.) Most of our larger museums now meet their "cultural consumers" on the same interactive, dense, choice-driven ground recommended by Richard Florida in his widely read and debated book The Rise of the Creative Class (and How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life), New York, Basic Books, 2002. Among his flourishing competition (most of whom agree that the "new" consumer is more selective than his or her predecessor) is Virginia Postrel's The Substance of Style (How the Rise of Aesthetic Value is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness), New York, Harper, 2003, and the stern, sober and prestigious Beyond Productivity: Information, Technology, Innovation, and Creativity, eds. William J. Mitchell, Alan S. Inouye and Marjory S. Blumenthal, Washington, D.C., National Research Council, National Academies Press, 2003.
(6.) See Joseph Giovannini, "Hadid in America: A Lightness of Being," Art in America, November 2003.
(7.) See Tom McDonough, "Diller + Scofidio: Critical Structures," Art in America, October 2003.
(8.) Scanning: The Aberrant Architectures of Diller + Scofidio, eds. Aaron Betsky, K. Michael Hays, RoseLee Goldberg, et al., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art/Harry N. Abrams, 2003. On the same subject, cf. Zaha Hadid Arkitektur/Architecture, ed. Peter Noever, Vienna, Haus Katz Verlag, 2003.
(9.) I cite here--with gratitude--discussions I had in 1997 with Glenn Lowry, in which he eloquently declared an intention to "retell" the modern art story, "which has been far too linear and predictable," he told me. "We want to soften the lines between the departments and their galleries because the genres of art-making were and are interrelated. The story doesn't fit the contradictory reality of art in our time." Ironically, this is precisely how MOMA behaved in its temporary warehouse quarters in Queens. See also John Eldertield, Imagining the Future of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1998.
(10.) See "Tate and Digital Media: An overview of key ways Tate are utilising digital media," London, Tate Modern, January 2002. This is a "white paper," so to speak, but easily the earliest complete published program by a major museum devoted to the digital arts.
(11.) Marshall McLuhan's assumption that the media would hypnotize and unify the masses--perhaps killing off the print medium (and even human intelligence itself)--is still a widely shared myth, which I tried to factually debunk in The Five Myths of Television Power, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1993. In truth, the print medium and all forms of vigorous activity (swimming, running, attending art museums) have increased since the introduction of television. We now hear the same sad song sung about the intense use of the Web--by similarly skeptical observers. It seems almost impossible to argue, successfully, that new media often enhance and extend others, including visual art-making. See also The New Television: A Public/Private Art, eds. Allison Simmons and Douglas Davis, Cambridge, MIT Press, 1977; included are essays by artists, critics, curators and museum directors. The publication is based on "Open Circuits: An International Conference on the Future of Television," held at MOMA in 1974 and focusing on video as art.
(12.) The conceptual link between this campus and the Project Row Houses in Houston, founded--or rather, converted in 1994 in a poor, largely black neighborhood by artist Rick Lowe--is uncanny. Stretching over a block and a half, these 22 gradually restored shotgun houses seethe with vibrant, socially useful functions and avant-garde art activities--after-school art programs and homes for the poor in transition; seven houses are offered to professional artists for installations. Art and life find a mix here, and it's not surprising to hear the word "museum"--in its Third-Kind mode--used freely to describe the activities along the once-humble row. See Frances Colpitt, "Report from Houston: Space City Takes Off," Art in America, October 2000.
(13.) My own conversations with Gehry over the years have been consistently inspiring and useful. One of our exchanges, moderated by Cristine Wang and Christen Clifford, can be seen and heard at http://dougiasdavis.net.
(14.) Victoria Newhouse, Towards a New Museum, New York, Monacelli Press, 1998.
(15.) This outpost invokes Third Kindism in its de-centering (it's as far as you can get from a major city) and multiplicity (in addition to an assortment of Judd-renovated structures at an old military base that the foundation purchased, it occupies buildings throughout the town). See Daphne Beal, "The Chinati Foundation: A Museum in Process," Art in America, October 2000.
(16.) See Nancy Princenthal, "Dia:Beacon--The Imperturbables," Art in America, July 2003.
(17.) See Suzaan Boettger, "Report from Beacon: Cinderella on the Hudson," Art in America, June 2003.
(18.) See Anthony Walmsley, Manifesto for the 21st Century: The Three S's, New York, CUNY, 2004. He argues that the mounting sensitivity to environmental waste and excess is already stirring, in architects like Renzo Piano, James Wines and Sire van der Ryn. These "New Greens" may have been prefigured by Wines himself (the founder, in 1970, of the SITE group), with Allison Sky, in Green Architecture, Los Angeles, Taschen America, 2000.
(19.) John Shorter, Cultural Politics of Everyday Life: Social Coustcuctionism, Rhetoric and Knowing of the Third Kind, University of Toronto Press, 1993.
(20.) Florida, see note 5.
(21.) Renzo Piano in conversation with the author, February 2005.
(22.) Philip Nobel, Sixteen Acres: Architecture and the Outrageous Struggle for the Future of Ground Zero, New York, Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 2005.
(23.) The precise fate of the architecture that will finally rise on Ground Zero--though Libeskind remains, formally, the master planner--is even more uncertain than at the beginning of the competition and debate over planning. Funding difficulties and legal challenges continue to confront Libeskind, Gehry and all the other architects involved in the "re-making of the future," to quote New York's Mayor Bloomberg. See Ada Louise Huxtable, "The Death of the Dream for the Ground Zero Site," Wall Street Journal, Apr. 20, 2005.
(24.) Beatrice von Bismarck, "Mit offenem Aus (und Kin) gang: Perspektiven archivierender Praktiken im Kunstfeld," in Kritische Berichte / Ulmer Verein fur Kunst- und Kulturwissenschaften: Zeitschrift fur Kunst-und Kulturwissenschaflen, No. 2, 1998, pp. 44-54. See also Interarchive: Archival Practices and Sites in the Contemporary Art Field, Beatrice yon Bismarck, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Diethelm Stoller and Ulf Wuggenig., eds., Cologne, Kunstraum der Universitat Luneburg, 2002.
(25.) At this writing, Digital Persona, Inc., is offering a new "fingerprint" mouse, which allows us for the first time to exchange tactility, no matter how limited, at a decidedly modest cost: www.digitalpersona.com. Of course the "digital glove," which has been available in advanced digital labs for quite a long time, makes specially prepared digital objects on a screen quite easy to touch or grasp. (At Brown University in 1995, thanks to the generosity of its then-president, Vartan Gregorian, I caught a ball thrown across the Atlantic Ocean.) And Dimensional Media Associates in New York, commissioned by the Pentagon in the late 1990s, developed a means of "touching" wounded soldiers at long distance.
Douglas Davis is an artist, critic, educator, political columnist and author of The Museum Transformed: Design and Culture in the Post-Pompidou Age, Abbeville Press, 1990. A Web-art pioneer, he created The World's First Collaborative Sentence (1994), now in the collection of the Whitney Museum.
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