Artists Addressing Familiar Issues

I took a day off from work yesterday to go to the Museum of Modern Art with my wife. We were eager to see the exhibit “Signals: How Video Transformed the World,” which is due to close on July 8. With one exception (Nam June Paik), I hadn’t heard of any of the artists or encountered their work before. What I was familiar with though where common themes that many of these video works addressed: the birth and expansion of the information society, the excitement of early ICTs as harbingers of a new global society, the broken promises of techno-utopians, the use of ICTs by surveillance states around the world, the creative embrace of ICTs by activists looking for ways to evade the gaze of authoritarian regimes, and so much more. These are issues that come up a lot in the courses I teach in my library’s information studies minor. My own understanding of these concerns comes primarily from reading (books, articles, blog posts, etc.), so it was especially exciting for me to encounter these ideas in works of art that used video in some way.

Stephen Francoeur taking a photo of an artwork with a desk, computer, multiple TV monitors, and closed circuit cameras.
Me taking a photo of Julia Scher’s “Information America.”

In other parts of the museum, I also ran into other works that, as an information professional, resonated with me:

Stephen Francoeur standing in front of oversized reproduction of a red Google Map pin
Google Maps Pin by Jens Eilstrup Rasmussen
Detail from a wall-sized infographic on all the technology that goes into an Amazon Echo
One part of a wall-sized infographic, “Anatomy of an AI System” by Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler (also available on a standalone website)
Photo of a linoleum cut image by Elizabeth Catlett showing Phillis Wheatley seated while writing
“In Phillis Wheatley I Proved Intellectual Equality in the Midst of Slavery” by Elizabeth Catlett