Friday, October 9, 2020

The wall label is an apparently simple documentary form that has substantial effects on how we understand and interpret art. Often the most public-facing piece of documentation in arts institutions, it stands out as a minor text within broader institutional records. The wall label’s standard categories distill a specific, historically entrenched model of artistic production. Artist, title, date, medium, dimension, collection—these categories best represent work for which creator and product are relatively stable and distinct. Certain tendencies within contemporary artistic practice challenge these categories so deeply that the innocuous wall label—and the broader institutional archive—may conceal key aspects of the work. Time-based media art, born-digital works, and even historical avant-garde works challenge restrictive ideas of medium by working with digital and other networked sources, subverting the static substructure exemplified in highly compressed form within the wall label. Tr...

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