The Walker Curates the News: 12.15.14

Cosmic Buddha, part of the Smithsonian's Smithsonian X 3D, a way to build access to collections through 3d renderings online.

Cosmic Buddha, as viewed in Smithsonian X 3D, a browser-based tool that allows access to collections virtually.

“Is a museum a database?” As a symbolic representation of our society, “the museum has become contingent on a metabolism that is eager to mimic the logic of the database, the engine feeding the scalability required by the private digital enterprise,” writes Mike Pepi at e-flux. In an effort to enhance their cultural capital appropriate to our times—from brand marketing to new methods of engagement—museums are reformulating their structure despite the danger of digital paradigms abrading “the contemplative possibilities offered by a gallery space.”

  • Or is a museum a change agent? A group of museum bloggers—including Nina Simon, Mike Murawski, and Adrianne Russell—are urging museums, regardless of collection, focus, or mission, to actively engage with the issues of racial justice that have prompted massive public protests nationwide. In a joint statement (accompanied, apparently, by the corresponding hashtag #museumsrespondtoferguson), they note that only the Association of African American Museums has issued a statement on the events in Ferguson, Staten Island, and Ferguson. They write:

    We believe that the silence of other museum organizations sends a message that these issues are the concern only of African Americans and African American museums. We know that this is not the case. This is a concern of all Americans.

  • Filmmaker David Lynch says, “It’s a sad time for alternative cinema” as the new ideas now end up on cable television. “The art houses are gone and the alternative cinema… the only place people really have is film festivals to show their work on a big screen.”
  • Sentimental knowledge related to “the debunking of the distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art” plus the “de-professionalization of music criticism [are] tendencies that need interrogating.” Referencing Nicholas Szczepanik, Owen Pallett, and PC Music, James Parker and Nicholas Croggon write about the state of music criticism today.
  • From the Afros to Zulu Nation, Cornell University is digitizing former Def Jam publicist Bill Adler’s hip-hop collection—some 500 vinyl records, 100,000 media articles, and more. The move represents growing scholarly interest in hip-hop, both at Cornell and in academia in general. “In fact, Cornell takes hip-hop so seriously that it’s storing the Adler Archive with its rare books and manuscripts in a secure vault 150 feet underground.”
  • Unbowed by criticisms—and death threats—last month, artist Jon Rubin says he’ll use all $15,000 from an award from The Pittsburgh Foundation and Heinz Endowments to expand Conflict Kitchen’s offerings of food and information about Palestine. “I have no problem with outside organizations or individuals critiquing or challenging the methods of our project. That’s part of the nature of working in the public sphere, but I do take issue when individuals and organizations seek to police or silence speech. The counter to the call for less speech should always be more speech,” Rubin said.

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