Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Brooklyn Museum Debut or Good Art Gone Wrong

As previously mentioned, the Brooklyn Museum invited me to do a massive participatory art event for their monthly First Saturday Party.  Well, here's how it went down!

1) Visitors to the third floor Beaux-Art Court received a rhyming riddle.
(notice that the floor is a grid of glass tiles, this will come into play later) 
2) The answer to riddle could be found on one of the art pieces in the museum, so visitors boldly ventured forth in search of truth and beauty!
3) When visitors found the answer to their riddle they could use it to claim a 20"x20" tile from a docent on each floor. 
4) Back on the Beaux-Art Court, visitors decorated the tile according to the instructions on each one (thanks to all my awesome friends who helped make these tiles!).

Decorating materials consisted of old Brooklyn Academy of Music programs, old Pratt Institute exhibit programs, and art catalogs from the Brooklyn Museum.  The idea being that the art is literally created out of the big three Brooklyn art institutes. 
Some folks started doing three-dimensional decorations

5) Once the tiles were decorated, visitors found out to which coordinates on the floor grid their tile corresponded.
As the individual tiles were placed next to each other, they began to form a giant mosaic in which the artistry of each individual tile was revealed to be part of a much larger artistic design.  And so, as each person labored to make their small mark of beauty, they began to step back and understand that the project as a whole was...
way too popular for what we were prepared for!
Yup. We simply weren't able to handle person-hours of participation involved. Here are my reflections on what went wrong.
A) We under-estimated how involved people would get in decorating their tile.  As a result, we did not have nearly enough scissors and glue sticks, heck, we didn't even have enough table space (we had six party tables).  So people just started tearing paper with their hands and working on the floor.
B) I thought it would be more exciting if people could turn in their clue for a tile on every floor.  As a result most of our staff was spread out in the museum being under utilized, which meant that there weren't enough people at the Beaux-Art court to help explain the project at the beginning and help people place their tiles at the end.
C) We needed people to help folks place their tiles at the end, because I thought it would be super awesome  surprise if the location of the tile that people were decorating was a secret right up until they placed it. Turns out this was no where near the logistical nightmare caused by requiring every person to check in again. 
In the picture below, you can me, Chris Rini, who designed the final grand scale image, and the director for the First Saturday program, all explaining to folks what's going on. Out of camera are probably my various awesome friends who I conscripted to help the project run. 
 As a result, what would have been a 1200 sq ft mosaic, only got about half-way finished--not enough to really get a sense of what the final image is.  However, visitors really enjoyed both the riddle solving and the tile decorating, so the museum was happy.  They held on the tiles that people made and are thinking up how they might use them in future.  
Personally, I always say that my art form is getting people to have fun creating together, and by that metric, the Brooklyn Museum was a success!
Thanks to Ventiko for the great photos! See more on Facebook.

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