From Passive White Cube Viewer to Active Black Cube User: Tracking Changes in Museum Environments via 'Interactive' Installation Art (Analogue to Digital 1968-2008)

Common Ground Publishing
Publication Type:
Journal Article
The International Journal of the Arts in Society, 2009, 4 (2), pp. 31 - 42
Issue Date:
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In many countries of the world, the art gallery used to be mainly a site for contemplation. Now today, many contemporary gallery spaces globally, are sites for 'entertainment' or 'play', in which audiences are immersed in cinematic programmes, or are forced to interact more directly with the works. From the late 1960s many artists' works worldwide had posed challenges to the institutional framework of the Modernist art museum which had been initiated in New York by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1929. Much of this was commandeered by artists who would employ the latest form of art and technology such as video art to critique institutional structures. While the accessibility of video technology to artists by the mid- 1970s was less than a decade old the process of commodifying the form of video art had progressed in earnest by the major institutional galleries largely from the late 1960s. Yet the ability of mainstream/large scale galleries such as MoMA or those that would follow MoMA to reconfigure their spatial flexibility would take some time. Central to the urgency of meeting their commitments to commodify the form (as a legitimate form of contemporary art) would be the critique of gallery structures by the artists themselves. The galleries wanting to incorporate this work lacked the ability (largely) to accomplish this. The paper tracks the development of the contemporary art museum/gallery framework (from 'White Cube' to 'Black Cube' paradigm) from a period of high-to-late modernism until the present day (i.e. 1968-2008).
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