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December 12, 2013  |  Learning and Engagement
Catalysts: Exploring Multimedia Art Online @ MoMA
Doug Aitken. sleepwalkers. 2007. Installation view, The Museum of Modern Art, January 16–February 12, 2007

Doug Aitken. sleepwalkers. 2007. Installation view, The Museum of Modern Art, January 16–February 12, 2007

This past fall, MoMA Courses Online launched Catalysts: Artists Creating with Video, Sound, and Time, a six-week survey of performance, video, and sound art created since 1960. As MoMA’s 12-month Digital Learning intern, I facilitated the production and monitored the progress of online courses, in addition to troubleshooting digital and technical issues. Being a media artist myself, I was excited to be part of the class. I loved the mixture of exclusive access to the landmarks of media art history and the stimulating conversations among the diverse course participants as they shared ideas and blogged their progress on WordPress sites they created as part of the course.

One of the most interesting things I learned about was the history of the Pepsi Pavilion, built by E.A.T (Experiments in Art & Technology) for Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan. E.A.T., a collective founded by Billy Klüver, Fred Waldhauer, Robert Rauschenberg, and Robert Whitman, constructed this geodesic dome with a spherical Mylar-mirror interior and installed a water-vapor cloud sculpture within.

E.A.T. Pepsi Pavilion. Expo '70, Osaka, Japan, 1970

E.A.T. Pepsi Pavilion. Expo ’70, Osaka, Japan, 1970

Surrounded by large speakers, Pepsi Pavillion visitors heard and saw E.A.T. performances infinitely reflected on the walls, and cloud elements appeared as holographic images, creating a totally immersive experience. The Pavilion was ahead of its time: many well-known artists today combine elements of “spatial infinity” and interactive performance on a smaller scale. Take, for example, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms, which I recently visited at the David Zwirner Gallery. I greatly appreciate artists who extend our perception of space beyond our normal physical and intellectual boundaries.

Yayoi Kusama. Infinity Mirrored Room — The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away. David Zwirner Gallery, 2013. Photo by Cindy Yeh

Yayoi Kusama. Infinity Mirrored Room — The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away. David Zwirner Gallery, 2013. Photo by Cindy Yeh

I also really appreciated that Catalysts was packed full of original hard-to-find artist videos, audio works, and performance documentation that I could view and review on my own. The intimacy that comes with such a close engagement with each piece is remarkable, and was heightened by exclusive interviews with curators—including MoMA PS1 chief curator Klaus Bisenbach, who spoke about his experience working with media artist Pippilotti Rist to produce her MoMA installation Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters).

Pipilotti Rist. Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters). 2008. Multichannel video projection (color, sound), projector enclosures, circular seating element, carpet. Installation view, The Museum of Modern Art, November 19, 2008–February 2, 2009. Courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and Hauser & Wirth Zürich London

Pipilotti Rist. Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters). 2008. Multichannel video projection (color, sound), projector enclosures, circular seating element, carpet. Installation view, The Museum of Modern Art, November 19, 2008–February 2, 2009. Courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and Hauser & Wirth Zürich London

Catalyst students worked very hard on their media projects. Here are two of my favorites:

Nada Cat is a visual art student from Japan currently living in Australia. In her project for Week 3, she successfully combines projections, audio, and handheld video to portray herself.

Tom Powers’s sound object really stood out to me, as it was not only beautifully minimal, but also disorienting for the viewer.

Credly MoMA Online Courses Badge

Credly MoMA Online Courses Badge

Catalysts was a pioneering course in so many ways; it was the first time we streamed works of media art in the online classroom, offered a studio art course for media, showcased student works in blogs accessible outside the online classroom, and awarded digital badges from Credly.com for course completion. Twelve of the 30 participants have been awarded the first MoMA digital badges (seen at left).

The Catalysts course is taught by artist and educator Randall Packer.

 

You can join in on the next course session! Registration for spring is now open.

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