Three sentences on a tiny square of paper. Cassette players with those clunky and outdated foam headsets. Motion-activated audio. When it comes to tools for making it possible for patrons to interact with and interpret art, many museums and galleries still seem to rely on low-tech options. Given all of the streaming video, tablets and smartphones, and the widespread availability of wireless connectivity, you’d think there would be a better way for artists to tell their stories in their own words.
Any time I’m trying to interpret the meaning behind an abstract painting or sculpture, I usually find myself relying on the "stand and stare" approach, a technique I used heavily when trying to find the hidden sailboat in one of those Magic-Eye prints that became hugely popular (even though I’m still not sure why) in the 1990s. I both cases, I typically spend a few minutes looking for that elusive "schooner" before moving on to the next exhibit. Sound familiar? If so, hope is on the horizon.
When I first saw shineBIG, a video journal and portfolio showcase for creatives, the thing that immediately drew me in was the ability to click on specific areas of a painting and see and hear from the artist in his or her own words. Much more than a static artist statement, I was able to immediately catch a glimpse of their personality, mannerisms, etc. all thanks to short video clips created around unique elements in each piece. Of course it wouldn’t be art if some things weren’t left up to the imagination. In the example included as part of the shineBIG beta, the artist hints at what an image "could be" but then after a few seconds of playful teasing, he promptly lawyers up and won’t confirm or deny the image’s true meaning.
What I love most about platforms like shineBIG is that they give us yet another glimpse into the future of interactive visual consumption and that future looks pretty awesome. Smartphones, tablets, and mobile apps are only the beginning—over the next year or two you’ve got to think emerging technology, the cheapness of data storage, HD webcams, and mobile video are only going to continue to blur the lines between our virtual and physical worlds and, in turn, help to make both a lot more interactive.
Until then, you’ll probably find me staring at that Magic-Eye print—I know that sailboat has to be in there somewhere. Now where is it?