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Xavier - Concept and Details

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Saved by Rachel
on February 24, 2011 at 4:17:02 pm

Participatory idea:

We met "Xavier," a small silver man leaning casually against the gallery wall, on our first venture into the Henry Art Gallery's Vortexhibition Polyphinica - Opus III exhibit, as part of the Participatory Design class, and were immediately charmed.* The figure is highly reminiscent of a park statue or public art - he is human, approachable, and familiar. Because of this, he evoked in us a sense of child-like impulse toward interaction. We wanted people to be feel able to pose with him as they would if he were truly a public statue, although were clearly aware that he could not to be touched or treated so informally. To abide by the standards of an art gallery, we recognized that there needed to be an intermediary to frame the public's interaction with what is, after all, a piece of art. Our immediate reaction to the statue was to anthropomorphize the metal form. What was in his line of sight? What might he be thinking, feeling, or asking? What might you have to say, ask, or answer him? We were struck by the idea of giving him a thought or speech bubble and allowing people to fill it in. To encourage that child-like feeling and sense of, inspiration we decided to use a childhood staple - magnetic alphabet letters.


We had our general idea, but needed to work out the logistics and the true purpose of the activity. While our idea and the reasons behind it were initially complicated - people should think about their time in the exhibit; they should reflect on the art; they should use him to express their opinions; they should answer a prompting question that makes them think more deeply, etc. - we eventually realized that to succeed in drawing people into participation, we needed to keep things simple. The exhibit is about presenting many voices and making connections between those voices, the artists, and the artworks that otherwise would not be made. We wanted the visitors who participated to add their voices, make a connection, and participate with both Xavier and the other visitors. Instead of a prompt, we instructed people to respond to the word or phrase in Xavier's bubble by putting up magnetic letters in an adjacent bubble, and then posing as if this speech bubble were their own. We then took a photograph to record the progression of concepts as it occurred. In each instance, Xavier's word or phrase had been left by a previous visitor and each subsequent response became the prompt for the next visitor; thus visitors were able to "talk" to Xavier; the statue provided an intermediary through which they interacted with one another, albeit indirectly.


This word association chain was documented photographically with the contributor, their word, and "Xavier's" word. The photo stream was posted to Flickr and visitors were invited to check out the stream when they got home--both verbally, and through cards we handed out that had the name of the project and Flickr URL printed on one side, and a QR code leading to the site on the other. This allowed the visitors to look at their connections to other visitors, both before and after them. in the chain Each day we started with the word "Form" to reflect the category words of the original Polyphonica Vortexhibition and to demonstrate how many different paths the associations could take.


*We do want to emphasize that the project was a temporary interactive event drawing people into participation with art that they otherwise might not have encountered; it was not an addition to the work of the artist himself. For more information on the artist, Xavier Veilhan, visit his site. For digital access to more of the Henry's collections. see their DIG project.


Design Concept/"Feel":

Clean, simple, nostalgia/childhood, playful, informal, spontaneous, reflexive/instinctive, approachable

(similar to the feel of http://www.savetz.com/fridge/fridge.cgi)


Interaction Plan

  • There will be an initial word made up of magnetic letters in Xavier's speech bubble; the second bubble will be blank.
  • On a table by Xavier will be a sheet of instructions and extra magnetic letters, e.g., "Respond to the word by free association; pose with your word while we take a photo; move your word to Xavier's bubble for the next visitor." There will be a disclaimer for the posting of photos on Flickr. One of us will be standing by the table to facilitate - take the photos, explain the activity, answer questions, and/or explain the project.
  • We will offer visitor the URL for the Flickr stream (http://bit.ly/henryart) so that they can revisit and see how their word fits into the overall sequence.  


Visitor Goals  

     1. Visitors will add their voice to the exhibition by adding words to the sequence.

     2. Visitors will contribute to connections by participating in a continuous photographic record.

     3. The majority of participants will take the Flickr URL with them.

     4. Visitors will visit the Flickr site to see how their word connects to others and see how other visitor's             contributed.  


Considerations to keep in mind:

-Participatory exhibits should become better with use...leave something behind for others to see evidence of participation

-No matter how good the activity is, we need a "hook" to initially draw people in, get them excited...(both marketing-wise before the exhibit, and for people who wander in)

-Drawing people to the back of the gallery

-Setup should be inviting for those who want to jump right in, and those who want to stand back and watch/think about it first (streaming the Flickr sequence on the computer screens).

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