Revolution can be a gradual process, particularly when what’s being reformed is something as massive, influential, and entrenched as the world’s major art museums. The Museum of Modern Art took a small step for art and a large step for museums and the Internet with Stir Fry: A Video Curator’s Dispatches From China, an original-content Web project designed to accompany the museum’s ”New China” video exhibition, which opens Monday. The site features associate curator Barbara London’s reports on organizing the show: from China, she sent back interviews, video clips, sound files, and her own commentary on her travels around Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou.
While most major museums have Web sites, few have moved into the realm of producing original content; most are showcases for real-world exhibitions, marketing tools to entice the public to the museum’s physical building. Stir Fry is a marketing device, but its recognition of the Web as an exhibition space in itself represents an important step forward. ”We give people an opportunity to venture into the art scene in a different way than going to a museum,” said Benjamin Weil, curator of ada’web, a Silicon Alley Web company that focuses on art and the museum’s partner in the project. ”You have a chance to experience the curatorial process as it unfolds.” MOMA and ada’web have also collaborated on three previous projects, but Stir Fry is the largest endeavor yet and the one that ventures furthest into the realm of a stand-alone exhibition.
Though MOMA is at the forefront of the museum world’s experimentation with the Net, it is still testing the waters gingerly. Stir Fry is prominently linked from MOMA’s site (www.moma.org), but it actually resides on ada’web’s site (www.adaweb. com/context/stir-fry/index1.html). This, says ada’ web’s Weil, ”enables them to circumvent the [attitude that] ‘oh, we are MOMA, we can’t make mistakes.’ Eventually they’ll start doing this on their own.”