Monday, November 30, 2009

Night Owl Lessons

By Maria Mortati

Quasi-confession: I've been tinkering with exhibits in my spare time.

At Gyroscope we excel at long-term planning. By day, I'm involved in researching, development, and advising people. As a result I'm constantly being exposed to new ideas and movements. Sometimes I want to test them out- how easy or hard is it to do this? Is it feasible? Over time I've been developing small exhibits to get instant feedback. I’ve put furniture into an art gallery, prototypes at a fair, and a "museum" into a park (some of these projects were collaborations).

One of the things I have found so far is that the complete lack of context fosters impact. I put exhibits (more or less) in the "visitors" environment, so their natural curiosity gets them to engage. It also means that the "visitors" are more dependent upon graphics to help them make sense of what they are encountering. They are working harder to get the to why is this here? What is the story? Why are these things together? Having an answer that is clear, yet not simple-minded has been effective. Whether that is written by me or in the first-person voice of the “maker” doesn’t matter.

These non-museum museum-goers are happy that these exhibits came to them, they didn't have to pay, or schlep their kids in the strollers and park their cars. They are excited to be given the chance to experience something "cultural" unexpectedly, and let me know.

With good cause, we spend years developing museums & exhibits. However, it’s fun to just build something and try it out. It may or may not "succeed"... but you'll always learn something you can apply in the long haul.

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