Couple devicing

couple devicing in a gallery - Art Institute of Chicago.jpg
couple devicing in a gallery – Art Institute of Chicago.jpg by Anne Petersen, on Flickr

This photo of a couple intertwined on an art museum bench looking each of their own devices is quite curious. For one, they are in an art museum with plenty of artwork to look at, yet they choose to look at their digital devices. For two, they aren’t sharing the same device, they look at their own individual screen. Despite looking at their own screen, their bodies are intertwined together. Such a mix of digital consumption amidst traditional consumption with physical interaction.

Sure, a sign of the times. Being attached to our screens. The caption for this photo even invents a new word “devicing.” However, is there a precedent for community devicing in our culture? In other cultures? We eat meals together. But traditionally it’s a meal shared. Consuming your own digital device is a bit like each person getting their own meal to consume. So perhaps digital screen consumption is like fast food restaurants. Everyone gets their own style burger in their own box.

We read books together. It’s not so strange for a couple family members or friends to be in the same room and reading different books. So why would it be strange for people to be using their own digital device? Perhaps because there is no cover on the device that immediately says what each person is reading?

But what is strange is devicing in an art museum. This couple’s actions transform what going to an art museum means. They have transformed the art museum into a cafe. What was once a place to go and contemplate the artworks on the wall, now becomes a place where the artwork is not even considered. The art is a mere backdrop for consuming what’s on your digital screen. It’s no wonder why art museum limit the number of benches in the galleries. Curators have long known that if they put too many sitting places in the museum, it’s no longer a museum. It’s a cafe.

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5 thoughts on “Couple devicing”

  1. I saw a couple just like this at the art museum last week, too! I did find it strange that people would sit on the benches avoiding the art work in front of them.

  2. Oh our treasured glow screens. Museums offer experiences beyond what a glowing piece of glass has to offer. It’s an encounter between human and real object. For that matter, I’m in favor for having no signage at all accompanying pieces. Maybe a flier at the exit that gives nuts and bolts info about each piece; just enough info so the patron can research the work later. (Emphasis on the word, “later”.) Let’s just allow the piece to alter the patron’s experience. Force the patron to engage the object mono a mono. Actually THINK about the object. I don’t want a glow screen or a printed sign on the wall telling me how to experience art in a gallery or museum. That’s the job of the art itself. Glow screens in the context of a museum is nothing more than a pacifier; a pacifier which cozies us into a stunted stage of infancy disrupting any attempt at experiential growth. Somebody hand that couple a pair of pacifiers. Oh wait they already have those objects in their hands.

    1. Lol. I like your tough love. “Oh wait they already have pacifiers in their hands. In some ways I agree with you–experience the artwork. However, I somewhat differ in the approach to engaging with the work. I’m all for anything that will prompt people to think about the artwork. I wouldn’t mind there being MORE signs by the artwork to give people thought.

      Most people don’t know what to think about the artwork on the walls. Sometimes I leave little pieces of artwork in art museums. My hope is that when people see my things I leave behind, that will prompt some additional thought about the art on the walls.

      And actually, I encourage device use in art museums. I find going to an art museum so much fun when I find different ways to use my iPhone to interpret the artwork. Sometimes it’s using a fishe eye lens to look at the art. Or maybe it’s using a slo-motion video. There are so many ways we can engage artwork with our mobile devices. Is someone looking at a screen most of the time? Yeah. Should they be looking at the actual art more? Perhaps. But if we can get people to consider a piece of art for longer than five seconds, perhaps that can lead to some authentic thought and realizations.

      Because of my mobile camera I shot over 25 photos of a single painting in the Art Institute of Chicago. That experience made me appreciate all the more the textures and details in the painting. (which by the way, I should write a blog post about that and share the photos–which is an even more time that I will spend thinking about that particular painting.)

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