In two weeks, the Brooklyn Museum will open submissions to a publicly curated show called “Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition”. The museum will accept public photographs that go along with the exhibition theme, have the public vote for the best photographs, then the museum will mount an exhibit of them. The basic idea is to test whether James Surowiecki’s “wisdom of crowds” applies to photography.
My first instinct is to say that it doesn’t. Across all art forms, public taste tends to be sort of insipid. Think bestsellers and the artsy posters that get hung on dorm-room walls. I’ve worked with groups of relatively inexperienced (but passionate) jurors discussing the merits of photographs, and again and again I saw the same sorts of responses: fascination with the new. If you haven’t seen a lot of photographs, or studied photographic processes in any significant detail, any high-contrast geometric abstract looks like art, and a slightly manipulated Polaroid-transfer print looks like a revelation. (Given that Polaroid is ceasing film production, those transfers might become a lot more significant.)
Two variables in the “Click!” show will make the results worth checking out:
1.) The volume of submissions. If the Brooklyn Museum gets enough submissions, it’s possible that simply leafing through them and seeing so many similar shots will serve as a sort of quick-and-dirty photographic education for viewers who otherwise have little interest in the history of photography or the contemporary scene.
2.) The caliber of volunteer judges. Judges could range from casual web surfers to major photographic curators, and the Brooklyn Museum has built in a questionnaire to determine the relative experience of the jurors. The exhibition will be divided by jury experience, providing an excellent way to determine what appeals to popular taste and what appeals to “refined” taste.
It’s that last element that separates this exhibition from similar venues already extant, like “We Are All Photographers Now” or even JPG magazine. I’ll post a reminder when the submission and jury periods are open, and a review when the exhibition finally goes up over the summer.