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

By Cyrus Manasseh.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

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).

Keywords: Active, Analogue, Audience, Change, Computer, Context, Digital, Frameworks, Gallery, Interactive, Multi-Media, Participation, Passive, Space, Video

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.31-42. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.158MB).

Dr. Cyrus Manasseh

P/T Lecturer, Landscape and Visual Arts, Faculty of Architecture, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

I am deeply committed to understanding new theoretical perspectives in art and contemporary culture particularly the role institutions play in influencing the public. I recently completed a PhD in museology at the University of Western Australia (2008) titled: “The Problematic of Video Art in the Museum (1968-1990)”. I studied film and art at Reading University and also philosophy at University of London and media at the University of Greenwich in London. At the University of Western Australia, since 2004, I was coordinator, lecturer and tutor of seminars in art/architectural history and film. Publications include “Changing Museum Environments: Global Articulations of the Video Text [1968-1990]” and “The Cairo Museum, the National Museum of Athens, the Ancient Iran Museum and the Louvre: Curatorial Practices from East to West and Back”. My short-term objective is to be active in arts research and education.


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