The concept of having a week time to research for the next project I absolutely loved. Because normally I've got the feeling that my research process is short and limited in case of time. Therefore I was very happy to have time at least once to properly research next weeks topic "interact*, also because I didn't really knew what to imagine from the word "interact".
When I read the project brief for the first time, I couldn't really image what interactive art looks like. Therefore I started my research off with the projects bibliography. Bit by bit I got a better understanding of interactive art and got really inspired by the work I found. Especially interactive work documented as moving image fascinated me, because it made it possible to experience the interaction as it happened without the fact that I need to see it happen live.
Also most of the interactive art I researched were huge installations which looked very impressive. And the concept of letting people create part of the artwork fascinated me too. I haven't really done interactive art pieces before. But the research process got me really excited to create interactive artwork too, because the uncontrollable part of it and the unpredictable outcome is very interesting in my opinion and makes the project unique and also memorable.
I was a bit nervous at the beginning of this new week, as my former class was split up into new groups and diagnostic students also joint in with us. But I also thought that this was a chance to learn from students who worked differently for the last two months and that I could profit from their knowledge.
We started to speak about our daily interaction with Graphic and Communication Design. I reckoned that my classmates collected examples of interaction in a much wider range than I did. I concentrated more on specific examples and artwork that inspired me. I was surprised that most of the interactive processes presented in my group had to do with mobile phones or electronic devices in general. That for sure is a very common and modern type of interaction nowadays, but in my opinion just one example of many possibilities. Personally interactive installations are the ones that impress me the most, where the viewer experiences the work in a very unique way and becomes part of it.
After that discussion we were split in groups of two and were given a quote to work with. The quote I was working with is "I'd rather be dead than cool", by Kurt Cobain, which seemed really ironic as he was famous and called a very "cool" person. I liked the concept to brainstorm about the quote on my own first and discuss the results with my group partner afterwards. That helped to collect a wide range of ideas and prevent us to get influenced by one's opinion from the beginning. Also to discuss our results with other groups of two gave us new inputs and ideas to our quote, which again helped to build up a wider range of primary research. That made it possible to have many ideas to create an interactive work. I especially enjoyed that the quote I was working with used the word "rather". That gave a good starting point to collect ideas for an expression of this quote, as we directly had the idea to let people decide on something - if they rather choose to be as everyone else, or different. But that we wanted them to decide subconsciously. I'm really interested if the people's instinct will lead them to follow a "path" created by others or if the will go their own way.
In general it was really helpful to work in a group of two, as we could discuss ideas we had and develop these further by discussing about possibilities and improvements. It also really helped me to focus I guess, cause I tend to jump from one idea to new ideas and change everything multiple times instead of developing a specific idea more before throwing it over and changing everything. So working with a partner helped to make decisions and to improve the project idea we decided on further.
To talk about our project idea with a tutor and another group of two was very helpful, because our idea didn't seem to work in reality. We had the idea to capture the way individuals walk in a room, by giving them protection for their shoes which are dipped in colour. But we couldn't find an affordable material to cover the whole floor to not leave the room messy and full of colour at the end of the project. Then we suggested to use flour instead, which could have worked because the floor of our classroom is dark grey and the contrast would have worked well on film. But as flour creates a lot of dust we also didn't wanted to cover the whole room with flour dust. Then our tutor suggested to use salt instead, which turned out to be the best alternative. But instead of covering the whole floor with salt we decided to fill small plastic bags with salt and cut a small hole in the bottom. Then people who attend our project will walk around the given space and the salt will capture the path they take. To give them a point of interest to attend we decided to place a box in the middle of the room, so people will be interested what is in there. When it came to decided what exactly will be in the box we had many ideas. It should be something people can take with them, that gives them a hint what our project is about and which part they played in it.
After the tutorial we decided to design the interior of the box. We basically designed the path we think people will take in our project, because the box is quite an "eye catcher" in the empty room we reckon that people will walk straight to the box and pick up a piece of paper with the project's quote on it and after that play around with the salt a bit longer, in circle shapes and then walk to the exit point of the space. On the small pieces of paper with the expected path on it we also put the quote "I'd rather be dead than cool" - by Kurt Cobain (which was the starting point of the project). With that we wanted to give the people attending a hint about our idea behind the interactive experiment and the part they took in it. By designing these pieces of paper it was very helpful to work in a team, because we had a lot of ideas and therefore the opportunity to choose from a range of possibilities.
Today was the day where we planned the interactive experiment to happen, to film it and to cut the material into a short film. We started in the morning to transform our classroom into an empty space and marked the outlines of the space people can move in with black tape. We also decided to have an entry and exit point to give people a bit of a guidance. We first struggled a bit to install the camera, because we wanted to film the interaction from above. But even with the biggest ladder they had a the loan store the space the camera would film from straight above was too small to even see a quarter of the room... So we decided to film the interaction from the top of the ladder with a camera angle downwards, so all of the space was on camera and from the most "above" as possible, Additionally we decided to film close ups of the happening from the ground too, to make the final short film varied and interesting to watch.
I was a bit worried that not enough people were going to attend the project, because we literally had to get them from the hallway and bring them into the room where we installed everything. No one could find the room on their own and actually see what we are doing, because it was behind two doors. We thought that most of the students at CSM will have time over lunch break to attend, that's why we asked multiple people in the hallway during lunch if they would like to participate and we got a lot of rejections, but especially foundation students, who were in the same situation as we were, were happy to follow us and participate.
It was such an interesting experience to give the control out of my hands and let individuals create whatever they wanted with very little guidelines. It scared me on one side, because I couldn't control the outcome and I was unsure if it will be successful at all. But on the other side the uncontrollable part of the project was so exciting. To see how everyone interpreted the given space differently and individually was more than I imagined. I think they brought the project to a whole new level and created something very unique. They expressed themselves in a completely new way. It was also very interesting to watch how their "normal" behavior changed when they were given a bag of salt with a hole in the bottom. The empty room was almost becoming a stage where people performed their personality. To reach that with an installation so simple was so surprising! Even if the outcome was completely different to what we expected, because the box in the middle of the room which we placed there as an "eye catcher" and to give a little guidance how to move in the room and also to give every participant a slip of paper with the idea of the project and their part of it to take with them. But literally no one took attention to it, which was really unexpected for us, but gave the projects outcome a liberating touch.
According to the quote we wanted to test if people either follow each other or if they find their own way of doing something. And the outcome definitely shows that nearly everyone acted in their own way and created what they had in mind. Maybe that happened because we were limited to participants who attend an Art and Design school, and therefore they aim to be individuals. Maybe people from the general public would act differently and follow each other more. That would be interesting to compare, maybe another time.
After we had about 8 participants we decided to clean the whole space up and start again, but this time with a path made of salt created by us, straight to the box and then straight to the exit, to see if that will lead participants to follow this guideline. But the first participants actually made his whole own thing and literally threw the salt around in all direction. This little "rebellion" against the guideline really strengthened what we saw in the first round of the experiment.
When we finished to clean up the whole room after the end of the experiment, I was really surprised that we made about 15 people interact in our project, some of them actually came into the room, because they had heard about our project in the hallway and wanted to try it too, which was really great!
Because it was late afternoon already we decided to cut the whole material into a short film separately and present the one that's more successful the next day in front of the class. I decided to make it in black and white to increase the contrast of the dark floor and white salt. I also wanted to keep it really simple with a short introduction at the beginning to explain what the project is about and the given quote at the end. To make the whole film more interesting to watch I also decided to alternate between clips from above and close ups. Sound wise the audio of the clips wasn't really usable. But I had the idea to use experimental piano music that supports the mood the different participants were in (softer tones for more precise and slower participants, heavier tones for participants almost throwing the salt everywhere etc). It would have been ideal to record someone playing the piano while watching the short film and reacting to it, but as the film had to be finished for presentation the next day, I searched on youtube and found a piece that suited the project quite well.
It really was a challenge for me to cut the film as I've never done something like this before and the time was limited, but I'm surprisingly happy with the outcome, respecting the restricted time and my limited knowledge. But I extremely enjoyed it and I'm sure that I will work with moving image more often in the future.
To see all the outcomes of my classmates was extremely interesting, because everyone worked with a different quote and therefore the outcomes were of all sort and used all kind of interaction.
One of the projects that stayed in my mind was a group, that captured the way people were feeling, by hanging up sheets of paper with different ways to feel written on it and an ink pad in one corner. These sheets they hung up in different public places in London were people then pressed their finger on the ink pad and then on the line matching the word they were feeling the most at the moment. In my opinion this concept worked extremely well, as many people from the general public participated. I also really liked how simple this project was arranged. And I reckon that the simplicity of it was one of the reason so many people attended.
Another group recorded the maddest thing people have seen on TV, but they only recorded their voices and used them as the audio for a film of dramatic historical events (e.g. 9/11, floods, earthquakes etc). I think it was a very well chosen concept to just record the voices of the interviewed people, because they truly expressed the way their were felling about the event they were seeing on TV and this effect didn't got lost by filming them and making them feel uncomfortable.
Another very successful sort of interaction was used by group that hung up two sheets of paper with pens attached to them. On one "Male" was written, on the other "Female". People then had to outline the shape of their hand on the poster with the attached pen. The pen for the men was intact, but the one for the women wasn't really working, the string attached to it was too short and they even put a barrier in front of the poster to make it even more difficult for the women to reach the poster, to express the inequality of men and women and that usually women have it more difficult in life. The concept of interaction for this project, again was very simple, in my opinion a reason why so many people attended. Also because the camera to document the interaction was behind the people attending it didn't block their natural behavior.
What were the benefits and problems of working in a pair?
- having someone to discuss ideas with
- collection more ideas
- a second opinion
What were the benefits and problems of working in a public place?
- problem: hard to get people to attend, especially when they have to do something out of their comfort zone
- benefit: people of all age groups attending, which gives the interaction a wide range of opinions
What effect did our work have on an audience, how did people react?
- made them think about the path they take
What strategies did other people use that were successful and why?
- recording just the voices of people, which captured a very authentic way how they felt about an incident
- hanging up something where people can draw on
- simple concepts, that participants understand easily, which makes it more likely to attend
How might I approach this task differently in future?
- not restrict space of interaction to CSM, to go out and let people from the general public interact
- record own audio
The feedback on the short film we presented was very positive. The tutor said that he found it fascinating how the individuals change their behavior in the given space with the given guidelines compared how they behave normally. He also said that the movement of the participants almost created a sort of dance, a performance. That is a fact that I liked about the outcome of the project too. A classmate also liked the fact that the short film was kept in black and white, as it strengthened the contrast of the salt on the floor and that was exactly what I had in mind, too. Further feedback we received was that the film has a poetic and beautiful character and that it is self explanatory as a whole, because of the short explanation at the beginning and the quote at the end.
I think an improvement could have been the music. I liked the simplicity of the piano, but I think someone playing the piano reacting to the action in the film and recording this experimental, improvised song and then using it as the audio in the short film would have been even better. That would make the piece more unique and give an additional touch in my opinion. And by recording an improvised song that fits the short film perfectly the moving image and audio would have fitted together perfectly.
Furthermore it would have been interesting how the general public outside of CSM react to the given guidelines and it the path they create in comparison to the paths created by (creative) CSM students and to see if the general public also act as individuals or if they rather follow each other.