Monthly Archives: September 2012

A picnic before the fair…

Audiovisual projects are too often only shared with the audience when they are finished. During interviews, lectures and other presentational channels people get informed about the creation process, but usually only after this process is closed. As a day after the fair it comes with a waste of possibilities while uncovering the process can lead to valuable insights and involvement. Making the creation process public can and will also influence the project itself, generally in a positive way.

To open up the creation of my interactive roadmovie NIVA TO NENETS, I developed a so-called picnic-quiz as a medium for sharing ideas, concerns and other specifics. In this audiovisual project I will drive my beloved Lada Niva from Belgium to the Nenets in the northwest of the Russian Federation, driven by the wish to give this small off-road vehicle to an indigenous reindeer herding family who is struggling with accelerated climate change and their adaption to modernity. Such a gift comes with many side effects, which will be discussed on the road with a changing group of co-drivers. A couple of these paradoxical aspects of bringing help are discussed during three picnic-quizzes, held at Extrapool in Nijmegen, Danish Art Workshops in Copenhagen and the 12th Participatory Design Conference in Roskilde.  The format of a quiz was chosen to pose questions to the audience in a ludic way, combined with fancy snacks and colorful picnic blankets to create a dynamic atmosphere. After each quiz-question, the colors of the picnic blankets symbolized the possible answers the participants could choose from. Hence they were stimulated to move around. Every answer came with different snacks in matching colors. Where food in general has the ability to bond, it stimulates sharing and exchange even more when it comes in multiple bite-sized shapes.

NIVA TO NENETS picnic-quiz at Danish Art Workshops, Copenhagen 2012NIVA TO NENETS picnic-quiz at Danish Art Workshops, and at the Participatory Design Conference 2012

All three picnic-quizzes were pleasurable events. The format turned out to be astonishing strong in turning the audience into participants. Even before the first question was dropped, during an introductive talk about the project and its intentions, people were more open and at ease than at regular presentational talks. I am convinced that the sitting on the ground plays a major role in this, as it removes the imaginary fourth wall between speaker and listeners. I am also convinced that the huge amount of preparation work that precedes a picnic-quiz is a major factor in its success. People see, feel and appreciate the caring, making them care too. Especially when people are asked for their responses, opinions and ideas, they should at least get twice as much in return, I believe. This not only underlines the appreciation of their contribution, but also helps in opening up the otherwise so preserved creation process. Holding these picnic-quizzes on the eve of the fair instead of the day after strengthens not only the project but also its bond with the audience. A picnic-quiz can therefore do more than making a project public: it invites people to become part of the project by turning the audience into participants.