Sunday, March 29, 2009

White Tents Revisited

Conceptually, the original proposal for this project attempted to explore two ideas: uncertainty and precise indeterminacy.

The courtyard between the Chace Center and Metcalf building was chosen as the location for the proposal due to its heavy traffic of both RISD students and the general public. I envisioned this type of transitional space to work best in testing the two ideas I mentioned previously.

The white tents represent mini space makers. I want people to circulate through them as they move through the site. They would move from outside to inside and back to outside. I want them to spark curiosity and ambiguity. I see them as an opportunity to describe circulation. The experiment would explore whether people conform to the circulation path or describe their own.
I plan on revising the original program of the tents. Initially, I envisioned the program to include food stations, work space, social gathering, and circulation. Realistically, many of these are not feasible because of limited resources and finances.

Additionally, my original proposal primarily focused on RISD students and failed to address ways of uniting the general public with campus. After re-reading Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics, I have explored alternate ideas for the program of the white tents. Bourriaud states, “Art is a state of encounter…a work can function as a relational device in which there is a degree of randomness.” I am very much interested in this idea of randomness and uncertainty. Bourriaud also writes, “It can be a machine for provoking and managing individual or collective encounters.” Using the idea of art as a tool for social encounter, I have developed a new proposal. There will be a different art project inside each tent. As people move through the site, they will have the opportunity to add to the piece of art. Multiple tents may be used to house one piece of art. Not only will students and other community members have the opportunity to contribute to the art, but they will be able to decide which piece of art they would like to contribute to. For example, one of the art projects will be a large mural for painting and drawing, another will be adding clay to a large piece of sculpture, adding a chosen word to a large paragraph, and a performance art tent.

This new proposal allows members of the community (who may not be associated with RISD) to become involved with students and the school. It’s a way to promote creativity through social interaction. The artwork begins to define a history of the previous people who passed through the space. It’s uncertain what the end result will be. People may or may not visit the site at other times throughout the day to see how the artwork is changing and developing. Some of the pieces may be much more developed than others due to popularity and interests of the people traveling through the site.
I have diagramed possible formations of the tents.

The first formation describes a linear circulation through the site. The red lines represent possible routes of encounter with the tents and the blue represents a possible route of avoidance. This formation explores how people may react to the tents. Will people use them as circulation and go through them to get across the site? Or will people treat them as furniture in a living room and go around them?

The second formation describes routes that allow people to move in multiple directions of the site. Additionally, this formation describes the tents in both individual and cluster formations. The tents are arranged so that smaller pockets of space are created. Will people use these new activated zones for gathering?

The third formation describes the tents in two linear arrangements. Possible circulation routes allow people to move in the center of the two lines or routes through the tents. This formation explores the typical “flee-market” arrangement.

The fourth formation pushes the tents to one side of the site. This arrangement allows people to freely pass through the site without being confronted with the tents. Interaction with the tents is by choice only. This arrangement explores whether or not the ambiguity of the tents attracts people to see what is going on inside them.

Like I mentioned previously, I am interested in uncertainty. I am uncertain what the projected outcome of the event will be. That being said, I want to receive specific results from the experiment. I see both the failure and success of the space to be extremely valuable. In fact, I hope that I see a mixture of both. My actions during the experiment will have to respond to the failure of the space. Can I re-arrange or change the tents during the experiment to respond to how people are passing through the space. Which formation was receiving better results? The result of the experiment will not be something that I gather at the end of the day but rather continuously throughout the entirety of the intervention. What aspects had to change? What things about the space attracted people to stay and use the tents? How were people interacting with each other? Were students meeting fellow students they had never met before? Was the ambiguity and uncertainty of the space attracting students to stay rather than pass through?

Additionally, I hope that the physical relic of the artwork informs me something about the experiment. How were students reacting to the art compared to the general public? What were students saying to each other and members of the public? Were people interested in seeing what the final piece of art looked like at the end of the day? Were people even interested in contributing to the art?

This project excites me because of its uncertainty. I am unsure if this type of event could habitually occur on campus. However, I am hoping it will begin to show whether the physical location of the site (an in-between space on campus with heavy circulation going through it), and the idea of the space (an amorphous, uncertain, and changing space, with multiple programs), can have positive results on campus.

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