What an inspiring three days this has been…
Perfect weather, smiles all round and the satisfaction of having created something that speaks to people of all ages, cultures and creeds!
First order of the day was setting up the space and tweaking camera angles and settings. Because the weather was so good, most of the settings were consistent over the three days. There were some gusting winds on Friday…but to my great relief, because of the way we had secured the camera to the side of the building with a cable tie, the camera held still in its place. It was great to chat to curious people passing by who wanted to know what was going on and who would subsequently return to the space to see the installation in full swing.
I had the largest grin on my face watching people play and interact in the space. There were many memorable moments over the three days, but I’ll speak here about what most captured my interest as a watcher of human behaviour and interaction.
With young participants, there was a characteristic sequence of interaction that occurred. First, there was the tentative testing of the green patches (or lillypads). Next came the delight of discovering sounds could be made by being on the lillypads and finally, there would be a huge escalation of energy as they continuously ran, jumped and circled around the three spots, (especially if there was more than one young participant at a time). I loved to see this progression from tentativeness to exhilaration and the resulting joy that passersby experienced from seeing young children at play.
Something that gave me great pleasure was observing the age barrier crumble when people partook in the installation. There was a particular moment, when an older lady stepped into a spot and her delight at the spontaneous sound that occurred created an instant connection with a five year old and her siblings who were in the adjacent spots. This interaction and many others like it make me feel as if my work succeeded in creating a live space where people become more aware of their surroundings and others in the shared space.
This didn’t happen 100% of the time of course and I felt sad for the children who weren’t allowed to stop for a brief moment and explore. From their craning necks and pleading looks I could tell that they were aware of their surroundings, while on the other hand, their parent(s) were in too much of a modern rush to take in what was in front of them. I definitely appreciate that people can’t always stop for an extended period of time. However, the beauty of play is that you can just simply walk through it for the effect of the sounds to work and at the least, this facilitates an interaction between you and the environment, creating an awareness that brings a moment of joy. I was happy to see that this did occur as well, that people did simply walk over the patches even if they didn’t have time to pause and play, and the people who chose to do this had a moment of fun without having disrupted their busy timetable at all!
Another interaction that people had with play occurred across all ages.
We now live in a touch-screen orientated world and many of our daily tasks are driven by touch-screens and pressure sensitive technologies. I feel it is because of this that the majority of participants would interact with my green patches as if they had a pressure sensitive pad underneath them. Because people pumped the carpet with their foot, my camera picked up on that movement and therefore, the sounds still worked. However, this meant that the participant would continue to assume that the pads were touch sensitive and as a result, the learning process of how to drive the installation smoothly took much longer than I had expected. Even when on occasion I would explain that it is pure movement that drives the sounds, not pressure sensitive devices, people took time to accept this fact and stop pumping the ground! I did have a write up placed around the space explaining that it was movement that drove the installation…so it was not for lack of information or clarity that drove people to work the patches in this way…it’s the world we live in that drove people to interact in that way.
This is why I think installations like play are important. Humans are so easily conditioned into thinking and reacting in a certain way. If we don’t have art, music and varied opportunities that give us a chance to think, our daily life could become controlled and regulated without us even realising it.
The last conversation I had at my installation was with the gentleman in the background of the photo above. I discovered that he was a friend of the interactive sound/dance artist, Philipa Cullen, who I had not previously heard of. She was an Australian artist who was born in Melbourne, (1950 – 1975), and she was interested in creating a way for dancers/choreographers to be intuitively connected to the music and sounds that they were moving/choreographing to. I feel inspired that my own attempt to connect people to their movement through interactive sounds allowed me to discover Philipa through a stimulating conversation with one of her peers. Please follow these links to more information about Philipa and her work!
Thankyou Pittwater for these days of sun, people and playfulness. You’ve inspired me to continue my exploration of public interactive works and I hope I’ve inspired you to play whenever the opportunity arises.