The Work of Art in an Age of Audience Documentation

11:00am - 01:00pm, Wed 14 Jul 2021

Work by Stephanie Kneissl & Max Lackner, installed in the exhibition All I Know Is What's On The Internet. Installation Image © Tim Bowditch, 2018

The Work of Art in an Age of Audience Documentation

11:00am, Wed 14 Jul 2021

This event is part of our Past Programme

What is the role of audience documentation of artworks in contemporary network culture? What is the cultural value of this documentation?

Over the past decade, cultural institutions have transformed from non-photographic zones of contemplation into sites of photographic performance. Despite these shifts, little institutional attention has been given to audience documentation of artworks (beyond museum marketing teams).

Today, artworks are mobilised as aspirational selfie backdrops, as part of a wider shift to an experience economy, in which - as Dena Yago observes - the exhibition risks being instrumentalised as a social media ‘content farm’. Other initiatives, such as the Hashtag Museum, position audience documentation circulating on Instagram as a data ‘cloud' to be analysed and mined for new “insights”; whilst Ofri Cnaani notes that audience documentation of Brazil’s Museu Nacional and its collection - destroyed in an unprecedented fire - continues to circulate and offers a significant counter-archive.

While the importance of documenting audience experiences has been acknowledged in conservation practices, documentation by visitors has not been given the same attention, nor is it collected. In this workshop we will address the following questions: What is the role of audience documentation of artworks in contemporary network culture? What is the cultural value of this documentation? How might we begin to think about the hypercirculation of art’s photographic reproduction online, in the service of engagement, audience, reach, brand, marketing, preservation and art history?


Theopisti Stylianou-Lambert: "Visitor photography in museums: a balancing act”
Theopisti Stylianou-Lambert is a researcher and photographer. She is associate professor at the school of Fine and Applied Arts of the Cyprus University of Technology and the leader of the “Museum Lab” group at CYENS Center of Excellence. Her research interests include museum studies, photography and new technologies in museums. 

Russell Dornan, "Harnessing visitor photography in museums: a snapshot"
Russell Dornan (he/him) is the Digital Media Content Manager at National Museums Scotland. He commissions editorial content and develops digital projects for museums, from games to webcomics, looking for unexpected and challenging ways to tell relatable and authentic stories. Not a fan of the authoritarian museum voice, Russell’s work showcases multiple perspectives present in and around an organisation.

Kylie Budge, "Art After Instagram"
Kylie Budge researches communication and cultural practices in relation to art and design. She is Senior Research Fellow, Western Sydney University in Sydney, Australia, and previously worked in the GLAM sector. She has published in a range of journals, books, blogs, and other online media, and is a devoted Instagram user.

Rob Horning: "Lines and Crowds"
Rob Horning is an editor of Real Life, a journal about technology and everyday life.

The Work of Art in an Age of Audience Documentation forms part of Documenting Digital Art, an AHRC funded research project and partnership between University of Exeter, London South Bank University, Australian National University, LIMA (Amsterdam) and The Photographers’ Gallery, London.

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