Attention and Remote Access at the Monira Foundation

In in the course of the Covid pandemic, the Monira Foundation partnered with the “Milcom Memorial Reading Room and Attention Library,” an installation by the research collective ESTAR(SER), to explore the possibilities for remote access to objects of art.  Drawing on the practices of the “attention artists” known as the “Birds,” who have been known to use webcams to access works of art otherwise not available for meditative contemplation, the artist-researchers of ESTAR(SER), led by curatorial director Jessica Palinski, installed a special exhibition — “The Looking Bird” — in the Milcom Room, and configured a pair of web-linked cameras in such a way as to make the tableau simultaneously viewable from two perspectives. Infrared lights permitted nocturnal exhibitions from any location under false illumination. Drawing on the celebrated work of pathbreaking media-artist Nam June Paik (particularly his “TV-Buddha,” 1977ff), this installation permitted universal online access to what ESTAR(SER) called “THE ATTENTION-CAMS,” which became newly valuable under epidemiological conditions that made IRL access exceedingly difficult.  Online programming, including a special event in the “SCENES OF ATTENTION” series featuring the distinguished art historian Natilee Herren, contexualized this covid-response project, and provided an occasion for a ranging discussion of surveillance, digital mediation, and the history of remote sensing. Princeton Professor of the History of Science, D. Graham Burnett, chaired that event and others in this series