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Museum as Laboratory: Artists Experiment

What happens when the Museum turns into a laboratory for artists?

This year MoMA’s Department of Education invited artists Allison Smith, Paul Ramirez Jonas, and the creative collective The Office for Creative Research to be part of the second year of Artists Experiment, an initiative to develop public engagement experiences through collaboration with contemporary artists. Exploring MoMA’s history, resources, and spaces, each of these artists approaches the Museum like a laboratory—a place for thinking, collaborating, and experimenting with the museum experience and our visitors.

Allison Smith. Troops Drilling at Fort Jay, part of The Muster project. 2005. Photo: Amy Elliot

Allison Smith. Troops Drilling at Fort Jay, part of The Muster project. 2005. Photo: Amy Elliot

San Francisco–based artist Allison Smith’s work investigates the cultural phenomenon of historical reenactment, or “living history,” using it as a means of addressing the relationship between American history, social activism, and craft.

Paul Ramirez Jonas. Key to the City. 2010. Image courtesy of Paul Ramirez Jonas

Paul Ramirez Jonas. Key to the City. 2010. Image courtesy of Paul Ramirez Jonas

At MoMA, Allison is researching the history of the Department of Education, specifically exploring the work and programs developed by MoMA’s first director of education, Victor D’Amico. Allison is considering how MoMA’s rich history can speak to our current education practices, mining strategies and ideas from the past to inspire new experiences at the Museum today.

Brooklyn-based artist Paul Ramirez Jonas is interested in articulating shared stories and histories, working with and transforming different forms of public art and public symbols.

Paul has been looking at the visitor experience at MoMA, exploring public spaces designed for interaction including the bookstore and the Museum’s information desks.

He asks the question, how can we build on the visitor experience at MoMA.

New York–based collective The Office for Creative Research (O-C-R) includes artists and data experts Jer Thorp, Ben Rubin, and Mark Hansen, a multidisciplinary research group exploring new modes of engagement with data, through unique practices that borrow from science, technology, and the arts.

The Office of Creative Research. And That's The Way It Is. 2012. Image courtesy of the artists

The Office for Creative Research. And That’s The Way It Is. 2012. Image courtesy of the artists

O-C-R is looking at massive amounts of information from the Museum’s collection database. From image titles to notes on how to install a work, O-C-R is thinking about how this data can be explored and activated by Museum visitors to facilitate interaction, learning, and exchange.

What can you expect?

Throughout the winter and spring, Artists Experiment will present a range of programs and interactions developed with each of these artists. To kick things off, we invite you to join us for the January 29 launch event, Social Exchange: Artists’ Reception. This special event is a chance to meet the artists in person and get a little taste of what’s to come. The Office for Creative Research and Allison Smith are creating an interactive, performative work for the evening, and Chef Lynn Bound is preparing a special menu in collaboration with Paul Ramirez Jonas. We hope you’ll join us for this warm, winter celebration!

Look out for other upcoming Artists Experiment programs at MoMA.org/artistsexperiment.

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