Your mouse the judge in latest Bklyn Museum show

The Brooklyn Paper

The Brooklyn Museum has appointed you the judge, jury and exhibitioner for their latest photography project, "Click!"

The exhibit, which runs from June 27 until August 10, is half-art show and half-psychology experiment that engages the public at every level of the artistic process.

The theory is that a diverse sample of citizen curators can make wiser decisions than just a handful of art experts. Photographers were asked to submit works that follow a theme, then each anonymous piece was publicly evaluated online, and finally each photograph will be displayed according to its relative ranking.

The inspiration for the project came from the critically acclaimed book The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. Using the theme "The Changing Faces of Brooklyn," the exhibit's organizers hope to put crowd theory in a visual arts context to the test.

"This seemed like a good opportunity to reflect our physical location as an institution in Brooklyn and connect to local photographers," said Shelley Bernstein, the museum's Manager of Information systems and the exhibit's organizer. "In addition, it was a theme that was broad enough to encourage a wide variety of submitted works."

The project, the first of its kind at the Brooklyn Museum, began with an open call for photographs. Participants were asked to electronically submit their work that reflected "The Changing Faces of Brooklyn" along with an artist statement. During the open call period – the entire month of March – 389 images were placed in the evaluation pool from an international sampling of artists. The reasoning is clear from Surowiecki's book: “Diversity helps because it actually adds perspectives that would otherwise be absent and because it takes away, or at least weakens, some of the destructive characteristics of group decision making.”

Phase two, which began April 1 and ran until May 26, was the online curation process. The organizers created an open forum where participants could evaluate anonymous and randomized images. Each visitor answered a series of questions about his or her perceived experience and knowledge of art. According to the "Click!" blog, 3,344 visitors left a total of 410,089 evaluations and 3,098 comments were left.

Finally, the experiment will culminate with the museum's exhibition on June 27, where the prominence of each photograph will depend upon its public evaluation, sort of like a blog's tag cloud.

"Click!" will not be totally without trained criticism, however. When the exhibit opens, there will be a panel discussion with experts in the fields of art, online communities and crowd theory, including Surowiecki himself, to analyze and discuss the showcased work.

"We're not quite sure how it's going to turn out," said Marcus Romero, an associate publicist for the Brooklyn Museum. "It's more of an exhibition of the theory than just works of photography. It's been a very interesting process."

“Click!” runs from June 27 to August 10 at the Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway). For more information, go to www.brooklynmuseum.org or call 718-638-5000.


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