But is it @rt?

The Museum of Modern Art in New York has acquired the @ symbol into its collection. You can read their blog post about it here. I found this paragraph particularly interesting:
The acquisition of @ takes one more step. It relies on the assumption that physical possession of an object as a requirement for an acquisition is no longer necessary, and therefore it sets curators free to tag the world and acknowledge things that “cannot be had”—because they are too big (buildings, Boeing 747’s, satellites), or because they are in the air and belong to everybody and to no one, like the @—as art objects befitting MoMA’s collection. The same criteria of quality, relevance, and overall excellence shared by all objects in MoMA’s collection also apply to these entities.
In the first instance, allow me to be pedantic: buildings are musealised all the time as part of heritage services, Google tells me that there is a Boeing 747 in a museum here (if not in many other places), and satellites are also institutionalised as replicas in science museums and space centres. The @ sign is not "in the air". In the second instance, I have an issue with the term "tagging", because it implies a sort of intellectual graffiti over heritage. We all acknowledge things that cannot be had all the time; it's called cultural capital, and it is not museum-worthy. Rather, it is what makes museums tick. Finally, I have an issue with MOMA musealising the @ sign, because it seems like this would be more appropriate for the British Library (if we are going to set about collecting intangible intellectual shorthand; Google tells me that there is an alphabet museum in North Carolina somewhere, but it seems to be classed as a roadside attraction). The blog admits the symbol is hardly modern, and it's not art, so I still don't get it's relevance to the museum's mission.

At the risk of sounding as cranky as I feel, what's next? The ampersand? (No offence to the ampersand, which has a fascinating history.)

PS: Wikipedia informs me that "Other names for the symbol include asperand and alphastratocus." I think "alphastratocus" sounds like a species of dinosaur, which I picture as a cartoon gree lizard thing wearing thick spectacles and reading, obviously.


Elee said…
That makes my brain hurt! The collection of symbols...? No, I'm going to have to discuss this one with someone, because it's just to weird to get my head round on my own.

But as a quick aside, it's a shame they didn't do this before the Materiality and Intangibility conference!

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