Silly photographs everyone takes.

My sister and I spent last weekend traveling to midwestern museums. Coincidentally we noticed a phenomenon of people posing next to art or architecture in a way to visually combine their physical body with whatever they were standing next to. For example, we stopped at a park as we entered Wisconsin. Travelers were standing next to a sign created in the shape of the state of Wisconsin. For their photos, they replicated with their body the shape of the state. At the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, visitors were positioning their heads in “clever” ways through the mobiles of Calder. (She and I did so too in the gallery opposite the Calder gallery.)

My sister viewed through dramatic wire art at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

At the Art Institute in Chicago people took shots outside on the steps by the lions. My sister and I discussed how people work to arrange themselves for pictures with the Eiffel Tower coming out the top of their heads, or visually “pushing” the leaning tower of Pisa to an upright position. This is surely human nature and hooks into a shared point of view. The simple humor at the juxtaposition is universally understood. How intriguing this is! We intuitively understand and have a shared joke because the subject in the photograph interacts with the artwork or the architecture.

In a post on her blog, Museum 2.0, Nina Simon, also documented this cultural pattern and suggested how museums can build on it to create an engaging experience for museum visitors. It’s a great post for creating “participation” in a way that nudges the visitor into doing something he or she is eager to do anyway. Nina uses great examples from her trip to Taiwan and talks about how this is a topic at workshops she leads. She gives ideas on integrating it into museums.

Actually it is an idea that could be used in a participatory way for many organizations, or even as an intellectual jumping off point for academic environments for discussions about shared cultural understandings and why we are universally and cross-culturally called to mashup with a piece of art or a sign on the highway.

It reads, "God loves you." With the sign in front reading "Private Drive. Stay out. No liars."

It would make a fun, engaging exhibition, too.

And, here is a sign I found on a highway in Minnesota that just begs to have some social interaction participating with this sign… Talk about mixed messages…


About artinthecenter

I am a lifelong artist having studied painting, photography, drawing, and other media, in schools in the US and Italy. I won my first art contest when I was five--at a museum-- and my point of view tends to be as a five-year-old creative child embracing life. Check out all sort of artsy information at: and purchase my artwork at: +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ This policy is valid from 1 January 2016. This is a personal, educational, blog written and edited by me, Jane M. Mason. For questions about this blog, please contact: Sincere effort has been made to cite, recognize, and thank all sources of content, including images. If you feel we have included something in this blog that has not been accurately noted or recognized, please let me know and I will adjust the citation when presented with details. If you are interested in using intellectual property from this blog, please contact This blog does not accept cash or paid topic insertions. However, we will consider accepting free products and other forms of compensation. The compensation received will not influence content. All advertising is in the form of advertisements generated by a third party ad network. We do not have control over the products advertised. The views and opinions expressed are those of Jane M. Mason or the associates of WPD LLC. We only endorse products or services that we believe, based on our expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, other representation should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. This policy has been adapted from For your own policy, go to

2 Responses

  1. random thoughts

    The idea of participating in art makes me think of:
    –going to museums and sharing the enjoyment of art with a group of people
    –that almost irresistible desire to touch a sculpture
    –the tapping of the foot during a concert
    –I’ll no longer thing of art as just the artist and the observer, but rather a union of sorts.
    Thanks for the provocative ideas.


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