Split Second invited the Brooklyn Museum’s online community to participate in a project that resulted in a small installation of Indian paintings from the Museum’s permanent collection. Taking its inspiration from the critically acclaimed book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell, this online experiment and resulting installation explored how our initial reaction to a work of art is affected by what we know, what we’re asked, and what we’re told about the object in question.
Split Second began with a three-part activity that explored the Museum’s collection of Indian paintings; participation was open to anyone with an Internet connection. The first stage explored split-second reactions: in a timed trial, participants were asked to select which painting they preferred from a randomly generated pair of images. Next, participants were asked to write in their own words about a painting before rating its appeal on a scale. In the third phase, participants were asked to rate a work of art after being given unlimited time to view it alongside a typical interpretive text. Each part of the exercise aimed to examine how a different type of information—or a lack thereof—might affect a person’s reaction to a work of art.
4,617 participants created 176,394 ratings and spent 7 minutes and 32 seconds on average in the online activity. Demographics of those participating in the activity were analyzed by age, gender, experience level, location, and completion rates. Data from the online activity was analyzed and published on the project's website.
Split Second culminated with an installation on the Museum’s second floor, which opened July 13, 2011. Visitors were able to view a small selection of the paintings that generated the most controversial and dynamic responses during the evaluation process, accompanied by a visualization and analysis of the data collected.
Split Second: Indian Paintings was organized by Shelley Bernstein, Chief of Technology, in consultation with Joan Cummins, Lisa and Bernard Selz Curator of Asian Art, Brooklyn Museum.