I recently came across a commentary by Jonathan Jones on the Guardian website about the banning of selfie sticks in museums in the US. Now, if you follow Jones, you know he is not holding back about his opinion as an art critic, but this time he has touched a pretty sensitive topic: how should one experience art? And more crucial: with what?
His commentary comes at a time when discussions are reaching boiling point about one device that got suddenly popular after last Christmas: The selfie-stick.
The selfie-stick has divided the nation, like no other invention during the last years. It became the Marmite of our digital world: you either love it or hate it. If you live in London and walked through central in the last couple of weeks, you have seen them: individuals or groups taking selfies in front of London’s attraction with selfie sticks. You can argue that the selfie stick is just another physical add-on to photography enthusiast, just like the extra lenses and tiny tripods. But never have I seen such a discussion on- and offline about a simple plastic stick.
The selfie-stick started out as a novelty. One of these presents you rather hide at home but are still kind of intrigued to use. Sales went rocket high during last Christmas, and out of a sudden, the once so embarrassing selfie sticks are popping up everywhere. And with them the restrictions of using them.
During the last week, leading museums in the USA have banned visitors from using selfie sticks, three weeks after the very successful #Museumselfie day in January. But the digital officer of the Met Museums in New York assured in an interview with Mashable that they are not against selfies, just against selfie sticks. Using your arm is still allowed. And along comes the question: How do we experience art in an age of such fast paced technological developments? And what is right and what is wrong?
Jones writes in his commentary that “There is nothing wrong with the traditional idea of the museum as a place of hushed severity” and that “museums should ban, one by one, all the contemporary intrusions that disrupt the authority of great art, from photography to loudmouthed tour guides.”
But can museums do that? And should they? Taking pictures in museums goes along strict policies. In central Europe, Germany for example, taking pictures in museums is still forbidden. So by allowing visitors to take pictures, have museums over here already opened up to the new developments of our time?
Paintings have become celebrities in their own right. Every major museum is having at least one Blockbuster exhibition every year, trying to draw in the masses with names they are familiar with: Warhol, Rubens, Picasso, Polke. Artists, they feel, everyone needs to see at least once in their life. (Something we could discuss in length all over again). But how much can we take home with us? The feeling, the emotions, we felt when looking at a print of the Campbell Soup? Or something more tangible? Maybe a photo we took, with or without ourselves on it. Something we can share once we are at home, on social media platforms, with our relatives all over the world: We were here.
And that is when ArtGuru came along. We encourage everyone to take pictures in museums wherever they can and wherever they are allowed to do so. And we understand the social aspect of visiting a museums. Unlike Jones, we feel art is active, alive and does not need ultimate silence to be enjoyed. If the artist listened to Jazz, then why don’t we? If we feel touched by a painting, why not share it? (with or without your own face on it). ArtGuru can make just that possible, while still recognising the artist and title of the picture. And for that you don’t need a selfie-stick. That still works ‘manual’.
We won’t change that.