Kate has done her 30 days, she has her $10,000 and I am sure a stack of non-disclosure agreements signed. The experiment is over and so begins the postmortem. The irony is it is almost pointless doing a review of the job that Kate McGroarty did over the last 30 days (much to her joy I am sure) since she did an affable job at saying nothing. That’s the place to start with this review for me, in that regardless if the Directors of the Museum of Science and Industry didn’t allow her to be open, she wisely decided there was little to be gained from being objective and human or worse there is really nothing to be said about the Museum that isn’t sterile and devoid of saccharin but regardless there was little said and even less done over 30 days.
How do you measure success in a project like this?
Is it success in the social media arena? If so it was an abject failure since the twitter feed had at most 1,800 followers (less then 300 more then @badatsports and no one works that as a full time job) & 4,126 fans on Facebook (which is pumped by the fact that they initially linked the like button on the site and not the actual Facebook page) but if I was the Director I wouldn’t measure it by social media since that is only a single and rather small apple in the larger marketing & PR bushel.
Is it press coverage? Well that was stilted in the bigining with the media’s interest in the human story of 1 person trapped in a
mine museum which quickly dried up and the press didn’t know how to grab onto the story by and large. Kate was a mascot, she put a ribbon on everything that didn’t have one and cut the ones that did, cheered for the home team and had a free smile for anyone that wanted one. She was in essence the Ronald McDonald clown in a orange countdown shirt and she did it well from day 1 to 30. The problem is from a press angle there is no story to tell.
Success can be measured by ticket sales? That may be true and as I am sure I will never know the performance of foot traffic over the course of that month in comparison to the previous 30 days or same time last year but if that is so then she was part human oddity exhibit/part greeter.
I can go on but this turned out better then I expected since I was afraid if they didn’t get the perfect marketing spokesperson and that live mic was handed to them you would have a mixture of silence from editorial indecision and exasperation as the thirty days came to a close. Not constantly but eventually it would slip out. They avoided that by getting the perfect person for the role, someone who was willing to take what they gave her, put a fun spin on it and make two posts and four tweets a day about it (300 in total but many are replies to others). Also I don’t know what the travel and official work schedule was like for Kate but the volume of posting, tweeting and documentation seemed a bit (honestly considerably) low for someone locked in a building 24×7. The average blogger does 2-3x as much if its a full time gig and many even more then that.
I am not a negative person and more so hate reviews or critics that tear down and don’t build or at least offer constructive direction and honest review. If you live in Chicago you want the Art Institute, Museum of Science and Industry, Museum of Contemporary Art, Field Museum & others to grow, flourish and succeed. At its core this is a good idea, at its core this is what social media was built for and at its core this is why social media will fail. Since the 1980′s (and even before but it really came to it’s own then in my view) there has been a top to bottom clamp on message and public image. Gone are the days where Grocery stores would have homegrown competitions and promotions on the store level, gone are the local town commercials where a franchise owner would speak directly for his/her business or brand. They were all removed so that you could control the message nationwide and eliminate potentially expensive missteps. Social media though flourishes on the human voice, insight, personalization, inclusivity and minutia; the very things that contemporary marketing fears most and actively looks to either eliminate or synthesize artificially in a controlled manner (think bad viral ads or national campaigns exactly the same just customized by local age, race, sex, sports affiliation or celebrity).
In order to succeed you need to make social media a part of your PR team (key point to remember, PR is not marketing and never the twain shall meet) have someone daily write, photograph and honestly talk about all the great aspects, locations & touchstones of your group in such a way that you don’t visit the museum to learn about them but to finally see them in person. People don’t visit the Louvre in droves to see this “Mona Lisa” for the first time but to write the final chapter that image has had in their life by seeing it for themselves, outside of books & film.
The web, where pages are free to publish is the prefect place to build a trap for the human imagination so it can roll around joyfully in subject mater of individual pertinent interest like a pig in mud and learn, celebrate and know as much about your product as possible. Its not a billboard, its a quilt as I presume Kate McGroarty’s wise mother knows all too well. Woven with history, personality, flaws & perfection. Thats how social media works and without it that is how it fails.
Social Media I said in May of this year quietly to whoever would listen was dead, by that I meant its growth had hit a plateau and it had come to the crossroads in its life as so many good ideas have. Those ideas and the people that advocated them always knew what the right path was, without exception they knew it. But they never took it. You know WHY? Because it was TOO damn hard (thank you Bo Goldman). Social Media is a dual edged sword that no one wants to swing no mater how sharp it can cut to the truth since no one has faith in the knight swinging it to not cut themselves or the royal family. Until that paranoia or risk calculus changes as a whole you will get performances like the Month at the Museum, all pomp and no circumstance.
Nothing really said or done, nothing to get excited about and worse yet nothing shared about a beautiful gem locked away that only few get to see and one got to live but can never truly tell about without breaking a presumed confidentiality agreement.
In short, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Ever have an artist that you thought was fun, fresh, interesting and smart? Someone you told all your friends & family about and thought was someone you could be interested in for their entire career? Then they move to a different city, make some money, get a grant/scholarship, sudden increase in press or some other seemingly innocuous change at the time. Then almost overnight you don’t know that person and the work is not just bad on it’s own but seemingly worse for what it could have been?
I was told years ago for some Jasper Johns was kind of like that in many people’s eyes (being a big fan myself I could kind of see it even though I still enjoyed the later work) but for me that person has always been Will Cotton.
I remember seeing video and photos from one of his first major shows back in 1999 and reading Mark Kostabi’s article in Shout and thinking “I agree with Kostabi on something? This is a new feeling!”. Will’s Candyland Landscapes were unlike anything else being made at that time and were wonderful in their unabashed gluttony, scale, execution & humor. During a time when I had as much angst and gritty somberness/passive aggressive irony as any man could take durring the 90′s I liked this idea of slick, fun and cranked up to 11 sensibility. Hoping like Chuck Close he would disasemble the formula over time into a more non-representational approach and I would get art I would want to do and see without having to do all that blasted hard work lol.
Will Cotton then it seemed to me, spent the summer of 2002 in Giverny, France, where he worked under a residency grant from the Monet Foundation and realized that women have these things called breasts, and they are beautiful and now that he has money the women who own these breasts will sit for him; he never looked back. Almost overnight the landscapes were gone, the witty humor melted and it was cotton-candy sky is the limit on cheesecake. Most recently you will see his latest work as the cover of Katy Perry’s new album Teenage Dream.
In some other dimension of reality Will Cotton would have gone to an Analytical Cubism conference, fallen in love with geometric rhythm and not breasts but who am I kidding, “you gots to pay the bills somehow“.
In Other News.
- The Museum of Science and Industry has a PR stunt underway where one person will have the chance to live in the museum 24/7 for a month with full access and receive $10,000. All they have to do is interact with the visitors, blog, tweet and generally promote the institution, not to mention stay sane. Sound great? Well if you do the math, that it’s thirty 16 hour days of confined living; it equates to a 20$ an hour job. I guess it’s not bad but being the unconventional event spokesperson for the museum, near constant walking, no personal internet & sleeping in the U-505 submarine or the coal mine might appeal to some but it looses the shine after a night or two for me. It will be interesting to see who they choose (want to lay odds its not a guy?) and how long it takes for that person to sour. Do I smell Bad at Sports office pool in the making? Some here think it is a great idea so keep reading I will try to keep tabs on this winner and how it goes :) read more here & here
- Theft of a $55 million Vincent van Gogh painting at the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo, Egypt prompts talk of increased security. I am sorry but with only seven out of 43 security cameras functioning and none of the alarms attached to the museum’s paintings working adding a baby monitor would constitute increased security? read more here
- Remember the guy who bought the Ansel Adams negatives for $45 and a few weeks back the grandson of Ansel, Matthew Adams badmouthed them saying something akin to that they were worthless without the hand of the Artist to burn the final image? Well now the trust representing the famed nature photographer filed a lawsuit to halt the sale of prints. read more here
- Ed Marszewski—editor-publisher of Lumpen, festival host, gallerist, and general Chicago indie art world guy-around-town—has remodeled Kaplan’s Liquors, the Bridgeport bar owned by his mother Maria Marszewski since 1986, and reopened it with the name Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar.
Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar
960 W 31st Street
Chicago, Illinois 60608
The Galaxy Dress is the center piece of the “Fast Forward: Inventing the Future” exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. The museum is celebrating its 75 years and has commissioned the GalaxyDress for their permanent collection.
The wearable dress made up of over 24,000 full color super thing LEDs, 4,000 Swarovski crystals & enough bateries to keep it on up to an hour at a time is something to be seen first hand and no photo or video recording does it justice. All this makes The Galaxy Dress the largest wearable display in the world.
Designed by Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz, the London-based design duo behind interactive clothing company CuteCircuit