Indian Paintings from Brooklyn Museum Selected Through Unique Online Experiment

Brooklyn Museum Split SecondSplit Second: Indian Paintings, a small installation of ten rarely seen works from the Brooklyn Museum collection, on view July 13 through December 31, 2011, will result from a unique online experiment that was inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s critically acclaimed book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

The project is designed to explore how a viewer’s initial reaction to an artwork is affected by what they know, what they are asked, and what they have been told about the object in question. Just launched on the Museum website at http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/labs/splitsecond/, the experiment consists of three steps.

The first phase consists of a timed trial. To gauge a person’s split-second reaction to a work of art, participants are given four seconds on a countdown clock and asked to select which painting they prefer from a randomly generated pair of images pulled from a pool of 167 works. Next, they are asked to write about a painting in their own words and then rate its appeal on a scale. In the final step, participants are asked to rate a work of art after being given unlimited time to view it alongside a typical interpretive text.

Each part of the exercise aims to examine how a different type of information—or lack thereof—affects a viewer’s reaction to a work of art.

The resulting installation will include the Indian paintings that generated the most controversial and dynamic responses during the evaluation process. Each painting will be accompanied by an analysis of the data collected and a visualization of the data that explores the public’s response during the online evaluation.

The Brooklyn Museum’s collection of Indian paintings is considered among the finest in the United States,and is rarely on public view because of the paintings’ extreme sensitivity to light. Split Second: Indian Paintings provides a rare opportunity to view these seldom seen works.

The installation is organized by Shelley Bernstein, Chief of Technology, in consultation with Joan Cummins, Lisa and Bernard Selz Curator of Asian Art, Brooklyn Museum. Bernstein was also the organizer of the landmark exhibition Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition, presented at the Brooklyn Museum in 2008.

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Urban Art and Antiques first published in 2007. If you are interested in becoming a contributor, let us know. Email eric (at) urbanartantiques.com

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