new participatory piece
I’ve just been asked to create a new participatory installation for the Treasure Island Music Festival this October. Identity Tapestry went extremely well there last year and it was a great environment for the piece. Having that number of people coming through is an incredible element to build with.
Knowing thatI was probably coming back, I had a number of ideas on the back burner for new participatory pieces. Just knowing I have a large space, a budget and that many people to work with allows me a lot room to create things. I can think big, but I very much like getting personal, even intimate, and I think about how to create that as well.
Last Friday I went to a planning meeting to discuss what I might do for the festival. Immediately dormant ideas started gaining shape. Just thinking about the festival again- the wind, the people, the sounds… it gave me new ideas. The organizers had some ideas that interestingly enough I had already been poking at on my own, but I was wary of having ideas forced on me in a way that made it a craft commission rather than my art. I needn’t have worried- they were fantastic. They offered ideas without being offended if I rejected them entirely. We talked through the physical possibilities and limitations I had to work with and I now have a canvas to work on.
If a piece is participatory I find discussion essential. Before Identity Tapestry I spent months asking random people on the street to give me a few words or phrases they felt defined them. I knew that people who were outside of my social circle would come up with things important to them that might never occur to me.
Sometimes input is most useful is honing an idea by chipping away the excess. Someone suggests something that rings utterly false and you have to step back and ask “why?” “What aspect of that is so wrong? How does it not fit?” In doing so you are able to define what is actually is important and you define the piece.
After a hour and a half I had the physical form of the piece laid out in my mind. It will be like figures in a crowd, scroll, sails, nets… It will move in the wind and rustle. It will surround. At the same time a separate part of the piece will seem like a ballot-box, a testing site, a mail room… I found a physical system for creating both confidentiality, that is loaded with interesting baggage. People may feel more free with other people’s words than with their own. Part of the process will be taking the words of others and working with them.
As usual will need much more time to sort out the writing prompts and the categories of the words. This will be me walking around asking random people questions. Listing and re-listing categories. The color palette will be effected by the rest and will also wait a bit. The piece is taking shape.