A Poet's iPod Guide to Art
On Digital Storytelling and
21st Century Literature
On Toys and Transmedia
Digital Video Poetry
A Poet's iPod Guide to Art
(Note: this essay was written sometime in 2004. Alas, the exact date was lost in a weblog archive crash.)
As anyone who visits this site or reads my weblog knows, I spend a lot of time thinking about new combinations of technology and the humanities. How do new forms of media affect the evolution of the humanities? Further, how can the humanities embrace and incorporate new technologies?
One of my recent experiments in this direction was inspired by a trip to The Field Museum here in Chicago. When walking through the museum, I noticed a bunch of people with little black headsets listening to prerecorded lectures with backstory behind each piece. Then, on the way out of the museum, I noticed a bunch of people pulling their little white headphones out of their pockets and queuing up their music on their iPods. Into this conceptual mix was added one further element: when I was younger, I won a poetry competition with a piece inspired by Pablo Picasso's The Old Guitarist, which is hanging up on display at The Art Institute of Chicago.
What if, then, an art museum were to offer a collection of MP3s written by local poets, each piece inspired by a different work in their collection, and the whole schebang was downloadable to an iPod?
As a proof of concept, I spent a Saturday morning in November wandering through the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, studying pieces and scribbling down short poems in a notebook. I wrote six pieces which will soon be downloadable here, organized by the artist's name and the name of their piece (which, then, is the name of each poem). I invite you to come back and download these pieces and visit the Museum of Contemporary Art with them on your iPod to give this experiment a test of your own. I'm currently talking to different poets and working on a better proof-of-concept using an iPod Photo to include pictures of the works themselves to accompany each piece; this next stage will most likely be done at the Art Institute, as the MCA does not allow photography inside the galleries. Ironic that such a modern experiment isn't facilitated by a modern art museum, isn't it?
What I'd ultimately like to do is organize a massive project for poets to descend upon a gallery and do a monthlong collaborative exhibit for National Poetry Month. If the technology (and the budget) were to support it, RFID tags could be embedded in the nameplate for each piece, so an RFID-aware device like a smartphone could be waved over the plate to trigger the proper track, but the iPod model allows for the poetry to be taken with the visitor when they leave the museum with their iPods, and thus facilitates future research into the poet's work online. If an iPod photo is used, then further research is also faciliated into the work of the artist as well via the tiny snapshot of the artwork included with each track.
As always, if there are any takers in the audience (by which I mean museum curators), drop me a line!