Visitor interaction with video art

Neumann, Sara Tess
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The purpose of this study was to see how visitors to the Landmarks Video media station in the Art Building at The University of Texas at Austin described how they make meaning while watching video art and what learning models those visitors drew on in their responses. I conducted a qualitative case study using semi-structured interviews to see how visitors described their meaning making process. I used discourse analysis to compare the visitor’s responses to art and film theories to see where the responses and the existing theories overlapped. I applied the results of the discourse analysis to determine how visual literacy and media literacy could be used in museum education surrounding video art. Visitors drew on a variety of background experiences in their responses to the videos Sigalit Landau’s DeadSee (2005) and Dara Birnbaum’s Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978-1979) including past experiences with art and film as well as experiences with feminism, pop culture, and politics. Their responses also related to a variety of areas within art and film theory. While background knowledge helped the participants begin to make meaning with the videos, it also blocked them when the video touched on something beyond their comfort level. I researched current uses of visual literacy, including uses in the museum, and current trends in media literacy. Due to the fact that the visitors’ reactions related to art and film theory, but they were finding themselves blocked in their meaning making, I conclude that a museum education program that uses current museum education practices in visual literacy, but incorporates techniques from media literacy, would be successful in helping visitors articulate their interpretations of a piece of video art and move past what is limiting them.