© Mathias Maul

Content Becomes Something to be Avoided like a Plague

When I went to Barcelona this March to see a client, I knew that I needed to see one exhibition at MACBA, Barcelona’s museum of modern art: Content Becomes Something to be Avoided like a Plague.

One of the exhibits left me entranced: Gran Error by Ignasi Aballí, a seemingly nonexistant square made up of correction fluid. It reminded me of Richard Tuttle’s marvelous Paper Octagonals, pieces of thin paper that, following the artist’s instructions, should be be glued to the wall so that they “disappear into the wall as much as possible.”

When I saw the 8th for the first time at the Tate Modern last December, I thought at first that I was looking at the dusty remains from a painting that had been removed.

But then, as soon as my eyes attached to its presence, they couldn’t let go. Like a hollow-eyed sculpture whose gaze seems to follow you, this thing followed me, simple as it was, turning from a flat speck into a three-dimensional object that seemed to hover in front of the wall.

The Google Mosh Pit

The Content is King! war cry has been ballyhooed in our industry for nearly a decade now, and I’ve met many people who associate being a king with being large, powerful, and, well, being one of a few. There can only be so many kings, right? It’s hardly surprising that many content creators feel intimidated by the sheer number of kings, one larger than the other, that are already shoving each other around in the mosh pit of Google’s first result page.

Content, of course, may be flat as well. It can be unsurprising at first, go unnoticed, and many people might not even see that piece of paper glued to the wall, or the blog post on your website.

But the viewer transforms the artwork. Through interaction, a piece of paper can become an hovering, earth-encompassing structure, and a menial blog post can become that one thing that transforms the reader, your reader.

To make this transformation possible, the artist needs to know, or feel, which kinds of reaction his work of art might provoke. The same is true for the content creator or curator. Then, content can also work as a very subtle, unobtrusive, and immensely powerful king.

(The exhibition at MACBA runs until June 24 2013, and you should see it. Barcelona also just installed its first Content Strategy Meetup group, so there are at least two great reasons to fly to BCN this spring.)