Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
If you’ve visited a museum in the last few days and spotted larger-than-average groups of people wandering around and looking a tad lost, their eyes glued to their phones, you were likely witnessing the phenomenon of Pokémon Go. Since the game’s launch last week, many museums have actually witnessed increased foot traffic as players have swarmed to them in hopes of catching some Pokémon, as the institutions are integrated with the game.
For those unfamiliar with Pokémon Go (have you been living underneath a Geodude?), a brief primer: in what is now the most downloaded smartphone app in the US, with its daily active users expected to surpass Twitter’s, users roam the real world to discover and virtually catch Pokémon. It’s a location-based, augmented reality game, and like it or not, it’s now infiltrated a cultural spot near you. Besides being filled with Pokémon, many of these places house “gyms,” where you train Pokémon, and Pokéstops — areas, marked by blue pins on the virtual map, where you may find free supplies, from Pokéballs to potions.
It turns out that a huge number of Pokéstops, as described in the game’s release, are museums, historic buildings and markers, and even public artworks. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for instance, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux’s “Ugolino and His Sons” is a Pokéstop — although it is labeled in the interface simply as “Dante’s Inferno.” Meanwhile, Pikachu seems to be drawn to the electricity of a Dan Flavin at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and Charmander’s been spotted hanging around the British Museum’s Parthenon Marbles galleries as well as Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Also, the Art Institute of Chicago is lit, featuring a whopping 14 Pokéstops.
— Crystal Bridges (@crystalbridges) July 11, 2016
Pokemon Go is live in London. Here’s a Charmander I caught in the Parthenon exhibit of the British Museum. pic.twitter.com/ahYdxsMVku
— PK Sullivan (@pk_sullivan) July 7, 2016
Playing Pokemon GO in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, this is wild pic.twitter.com/tzg0h9O5f8
— Ysa Gomez-Gonzalez (@ysa_gg) July 8, 2016
This bizarre meeting of art and gaming is happening partly because these places are freely accessible to all, but also because Pokémon Go draws its points of interest from the Historical Marker Database, which catalogs permanent and outdoor monuments, plaques, and other markers. If you’re a history buff, this means this is a pretty neat, inadvertent tool to discover local heritage — but really, most gamers are walking into museums with the firm intention of amassing Spearows and Zubats (it probably helps that some institutions offer free wifi).
However, like any app, Pokémon Go has major bugs concerning its integration with the real world — like the very terrible fact that it’s sending people to find Staryu and Magikarp at the 9/11 Memorial and hunt for Doduos in Washington, DC’s Holocaust Museum. As Andrea Peterson at the Washington Post reported, there are apparently three different Pokéstops scattered around the museum, and on Monday, she found players there “who seemed to be distracted from its haunting exhibits as they tried to ‘catch ’em all.’” The museum’s communications director, Andrew Hollinger, is now attempting to “get the museum excluded from the game”; developer Niantic did not immediately respond to the Post‘s inquiries. An online petition calling on Niantic to remove the Holocaust Museum from Pokémon Go has already over 2,000 signatures.
Museums with less sensitive holdings, unsurprisingly, are largely embracing this increased visitorship and are working hard to fire off relevant social media and blog posts, like Cloyster equipped with Icicle Spear. As PhD student Blaire Moskowitz writes for Museum Hack, many players have said the game has actually brought them to their local museum for the first very time. Although, as she notes, “there are also museums where people are just sitting in the parking lot and not venturing inside. At one small museum, nine people were observed sitting in the parking lot playing PokémonGo, none of whom entered the museum.”
Who knows if Pokémon Go will really result in visitors’ increased interest in or engagement with art or historic objects, but here’s hoping that players with their eyes on their devices don’t accidentally back into a work of art and become our next target of shaming.
— Hirshhorn (@hirshhorn) July 12, 2016
— Carla Gannis (@carlagannis) July 12, 2016
— Chinese in America (@mocanyc) July 12, 2016
— (((bpod))) (@bpod) July 11, 2016
— Hirshhorn (@hirshhorn) July 12, 2016
— LACMA (@LACMA) July 11, 2016
New works by one of Bangladesh’s most prominent photojournalists, writers, and activists are on view at the Chicago art space through November 27.
Council often uses humor as a political tool to expose systems of power and inequality in a society in which even death carries a high price tag.
An exhibition at the San Francisco Opera House pairs the work of incarcerated artists with Beethoven’s story of unjust imprisonment.
Many works take disruption and repetition as their themes, and many artists resurface in different sections, creating multiple affinities.
Hear from Holly Jean Buck, Carolina Caycedo and David de Rozas, Simon Denny, Elizabeth Hoover, Renee Kemp-Rotan, Joseph Kunkel, and more at this free public event.
In Cooking with Paris, Hilton capitalizes on her portrayal of being a competent woman, while highlighting its anachronism through her absurd performance. Rosler manipulates the camera in the same way.
EFA Open Studios offers a portal into the creative habitats of over 65 artists working in Manhattan’s longest-running studio program, including Dannielle Tegeder, Wafaa Bilal, Cui Fei, and Anina Major.
A man says Blue Bayou took details of his life without his permission. Several women who appear in the documentary Sabaya say they did not consent to be filmed. How can filmmakers avoid these ethical pitfalls?
Ursula Biemann, Nicolas Bourriaud, and others said they will no longer participate in the event.
There is an official ban against the public mourning of Tiananmen Square victims in Hong Kong and mainland China.