[David Gilbert, a professor of communication at Marymount Manhattan College wants] to teach his students to stop being passive information consumers - whether through television, radio or an official audio guide - and to take more control, using as his model the guru of so-called remix culture, Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Stanford Law School.Art museums can be so stuffy, so entombed. I love the idea of walking around with some brilliant, witty character talking in your ear. I don't even necessarily want someone knowledgable talking to me. Just say something interesting that goes with the experience of seeing the picture. It can even be counterpoint. Talk about life or talk about art. Riff on the images or gossip about some person you happen to see while you're there.
"It's not incumbent on us to, you know, praise the art necessarily," Dr. Gilbert said recently at the museum, wearing neon-green sunglasses and leading a group of students through the underground tour. "That's part of the playfulness and fun of this project. If we want to say something irreverent or something scathing about the art, that can come out." ...
So far, the unofficial guides cover only a few of the [Museum of Modern Art's] works - by artists like Pollock, Cindy Sherman, Francis Bacon, Picasso, Max Beckmann and Marc Chagall, whose well-known "I and the Village" comes in for a critical pummeling by Jason Rosenfeld, a Marymount professor of art history, who calls it "the worst, most reductive kind of art" and blames Chagall for all the "ugly menorahs" and tacky stained-glass windows in modern synagogues.
"It's the worst style that ever developed in the history of art," he declares.
Next time I go to a museum, I expect to see people with white "earbuds" laughing inappropriately in front of serious masterpieces. Those who want to experience the art museum as a religious pilgrimmage are going to be disturbed, but let them buy a tiny iPod Shuffle and load it with Gregorian chants or Bach and they won't have to hear any of the irreverence that would spoil the spiritual ambience.
UPDATE: The Times article gives two websites to download these podcasts. I went to the Wooster Collective site and listened to a little of the Basquiat commentary mentioned in the article. This commentary had the same kind of problems that those Adam Curry soundseeing podcasts have: the people don't have much to say and aren't articulate. If the "uhs" don't drive you away, maybe you'll stay around long enough to notice that these people seem to have a vocabulary with only one adjective: "interesting." This was like having people near me in a museum who would cause me to look at paintings in a different order to avoid hearing them. I was imagining much better speakers!
Uh, here we are, uh, on our, uh, way, over to the, uh, show, which is really interesting, uh...
Let's try the other site mentioned in the Times article, Art Mobs. I'm listening to the Chagall one, the one that the Times singled out as sharp and witty:
That was the problem with Russia, is that it was full of orthodox religiosity and Christianity. That's why, you know, Lenin (a great Jew), Marx (a great Jew), had it right... Or was Lenin Jewish? ... I don't think he was, but we'll claim him, because he was a good egg... is because they wanted to get rid of religion, you know, religion was the opiate of the masses to Marx, who was a self-hating Jew, I guess, essentially. But my point about this painting is ...
You may find us screaming or groaning in front of those paintings and not laughing, I'm thinking.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Podcasts undoubtedly have their share of idiotic and contemptible statements. But you can't Google for them or see them in Technorati or link to them and critique them. I happened to transcribe one just now, but that's not much different from transcribing something I heard someone say down at the coffeeshop.
Thus, podcasting is not like blogging. It lacks the inherent structural safeguards that make the blogosphere work in service to the truth.