MOMA, a backdrop for Facebook…what would Sartre think?

Today I went to the Museum of Modern Art, aka MOMA and for the most part it was very enjoyable. It helps that my friend works there and so I went for free.  I was by myself and lasted about two hours. I really can’t stay in a museum much longer than that…I get the “mall” or “Target” effect…glassy eyes, seeing stars, etc.

Sometimes I really try to “get” what the museum is putting out. I stare intently at the placards describing the context of these particular pieces of the artist’s work. Now and then this is really fascinating and informs what you are about to see.  But most of the time it doesn’t really affect me much… I just wander around…struck by what grabs me visually and aesthetically.

There are always pieces that make you think, “I could have done that.”  Sure.  I could’ve put a little piece of cardboard in a white frame. I know I can do this.  But the person that did that is an artist. He has devoted his life to art, walking the walk and talking the talk.  Heck, he made it to MOMA!  It’s like they say, “showing up is half the battle.”  And maybe that’s the point. “I’m an artist…so if I want to put a piece of cardboard in a frame and call it art, it is art. Nuff said.”

And now we come to the point of this post and what annoyed the hell out of me during my visit.  The excessive picture taking of everybody there!! Yes I snapped a couple…but using my Iphone flash..and not of paintings anyone else was looking at (yes I’m perfect..haha ). But seriously, it was out of control.

People were taking pictures of the whole room, of the paintings, of themselves in front of the paintings. There was one particularly annoying girl yelling to her boyfriend ‘get a picture of me in front of this!”…and therefore causing everyone to wait until he was done taking the picture. People regularly snapped pics of their friends in front of huge canvasses…requiring them to be far enough away to prevent anyone from actually looking at the painting. It’s like the art is not so much known as art anymore…but as a backdrop for Facebook.

This got Desdemona thinking about our society and how technology has revealed (or created?) a need for us to be seen. If you go to MOMA, but no one took a picture of you there and put it on the Web…did it really happen?  Of course it happened, but not in today’s currency.

I wish I had read Sartre more clearly when I was in college.  I really don’t have a solid grasp of Being and Nothingness…but Wikipedia had some interesting summaries regarding the Chapter called The Look:

“The mere possible presence of another person causes one to look at him/herself as an object, and see his/her world as it appears to the other.”

From Being and Nothingness p. 235 the Chapter The Look

“Thus the look is first an intermediary which  refers from me to myself… What does being seen mean for me?”

    Maybe the obnoxious woman at the museum needs to see herself in the eyes of others to be real.  If no one is looking at her, she does not exist. Does Facebook and TV, blogs and Foursquare..automatically make everyone into objects for another’s gaze?  And are we wise to preemptively control what they see? Or dumb because we cannot just live in the moment.

    And now…time to watch me some Bachelorette!


    1 Comment (+add yours?)

    1. Neeta
      Jul 16, 2010 @ 22:10:41

      I like blogs that complain about people and then quote from Satre. It makes me feel better about my own non-stop internal rant which i am trying to quieten as I age. Living in NY doesn’t help. I may have to become hill billy to shut that critic up. Good luck with the blog thing!


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