GLAMi nomination: Artist CRIBS

nominated by: Erica Gangsei, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, USA
institution: SFMOMA
category: Marketing and Promotion

In 2016, SFMOMA relaunched our YouTube channel as SFMOMA Shorts. Each series on the channel was created out of a desire to vary our audiences’ content diet. As museum content creators, we too often stick to providing audiences nutritive, well-balanced, “entree-sized” content – the series ARTIST CRIBS provides our viewers with a snack-sized introduction to artists in our collection.

Visiting an artist’s studio is a rare privilege at the museum generally reserved for curators and select senior staff. We wanted to give our audiences a taste of what it was like to meet the artists face to face. The robust artist studio visit program Interpretive Media began in 2013 provided us with a treasure trove of footage. But many of the most unique moments – off the cuff remarks, non sequiturs, jokes, bizarre collections of things – need to be shared, but do not fit into the 3-5 min mini-documentary format that has become our house style.

This is where we got hugely experimental. Rather than have “strategy sessions” or “stakeholder meetings” to determine a creative brief for the footage ourselves, we presented the ~4TB of raw footage as a creative challenge to a talented local editor, Natalie Tsui. Her mission – play around with the footage, make something of these studio tours that is light, fun, snack-sized, but still provides an valid introduction to an artist and their practice. The result – ARTIST CRIBS – is a playful content experiment and a testament to placing trust in outside collaborators in order to broaden the institutional voice.

The series draws its tone and editing style from MTV’s beloved series CRIBS. The clips rarely exceed 90 seconds, and in them our editor playfully employs editing techniques known by many as the hallmarks of the short-attention-span “MTV generation”, such as jump cuts and fast-changing musical cues. In the beginning of each clip, the artist is introduced through a lightning fast survey of their career in the same way that a musical artist is on the eponymous MTV show.

Museum content creators too often seek permission from leadership in advance of creation. But sometimes the only way one can shepherd in new and more playful content streams is by providing concrete examples. Only once we had a handful of CRIBS videos did we go through an institutional approvals process – clearing these new fangled clips with our curators, museum leadership, and the artists themselves. We also collaborated with IP to ensure that our loving appropriation of CRIBS’ filmmaking language did not in fact infringe on MTV copyright (it didn’t). In parallel, our graphic design studio created a custom intro inspired by the blueprint style intro graphics of MTV CRIBS.

Through the use of these techniques, audiences get to see a whole lot of the studio, and get to know the artist, all while being entertained. As they say, “This is where the magic happens.”

The full series can be seen here: