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Matching Curatorial & Communicative Purpose: A Move Analysis of The 2014 Whitney Biennial

Poster (image below)
"Matching Curatorial & Communicative Purpose: A Move Analysis of The 2014 Whitney Biennial"

Public texts, such as museum wall texts, can reveal the attitude and intended audience of an organization. Museum visitors use the language within the text to help them decide whether an exhibit is good or bad, approachable or esoteric. Understanding what these texts are doing and how they are perceived by others can aid in crafting texts that match the intended purpose of the organization. For a museum, this is critical. To fail to understand this can lead not only to poor reviews but also to the alienation of visitors.

To deepen our understanding of such texts, this study examined the wall texts (n=55) of two shows with contrasting reviews at the 2014 Whitney Biennial. First, a move framework for the art museum wall texts was developed.  After coding the texts using this framework, the individual moves and steps within each show were further examined. The analysis showed differences in move presence, length and focus as well as in linguistic features between the two shows. These differences can help shed light on contrasting reviews and reveal the curatorial purposes of the two shows. The move framework established here may assist in future studies of explanatory art museum texts and be useful to those who teach or work in museum and curatorial studies. 


Poster of Matching Curatorial & Communicative Purpose

example text screenshot in poster from: http://whitney.org/Exhibitions/2014Biennial/JoshuaMosley 
photo in poster: Julie Ault, Afterlife: a constellation, 2014 (installation view, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York). Photograph by Bill Orcutt - http://whitney.org/Exhibitions/2014Biennial/JulieAult
Analyzed texts and curatorial statements from Whitney 2014 Biennial obtained at - http://whitney.org/Exhibitions/2014Biennial 
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