Less Is More

It’s funny how those old sayings, the ones that we know all too well don’t always stick with us in a time of need. Perhaps we second guess ourselves. And so goes the journey of my first art-installation… Coming from a background in film-making, photography and Web/social-media, the same theory applies; no one wants to be bombarded with too much information all at once. We can only absorb so much and a focused point of view, clear argument, or inquiry is always more desirable to an audience.

I had the pleasure of having three talented Prof’s from Ryerson U. (Kathleen, Vid and Alexandra), share their insight about how my installation might translate to an audience this past Wednesday. Aside from aesthetic recommendations, one of the most poignant remarks was:

  • Less is more. Don’t over do it with media and activities for the audience. This will simply divert their attention, confuse and bombard them with material that deviates from the purpose of the installation.

When I set my sights on the classroom/installation-site for the first time, a flood of ideas came to mind. Here was a space ripe with possibilities to impose my “artistic” metaphors about education. So much so, that I was becoming obsessed with ideas and gradually convinced that my artistic impositions would add more possibilities for audience discussion and participation; it would, in short, be more entertaining. Coming from a film-making and photography background, I have much to learn about the psychology and practice of art-installations. Producing media that is not infused with an obvious narrative is new to me. An art-installation can offer so much liberty of  interpretation to an audience, perhaps more than most other forms of art… providing the artist relinquishes control over the medium. Ouch.

I came across a passage in Participation: Documents of Contemporary Art (2006) that got me thinking about the role of the audience and language of art. Editor Claire Bishop distinguishes between the active and passive audience member:

[Artists may have a] desire to create an active subject, one who will be empowered by the experience of physical or symbolic participation…The gesture of ceding some or all authoritarian control is conventionally regarded as more egalitarian and democratic than the creation of a work by a single artist, while shared production is also seen to entail the aesthetic benefits of greater risk and unpredictability… Collaborative creativity is therefore understood both to emerge from and to produce, a more positive and non-hierarchical social model. (12)

Wired To Learn is definitely a point-of-view piece which invites participation by inviting the audience to weigh in on their opinions of education via an on-site interview with me, or via the comments sections of this website. I’d say, the pull I’m feeling is coming from the desire to produce an entertaining, accessible and socially relevant experience that will produce a significant urge, by the audience, to engage with the project and the mystery of how this can be achieved in this format is intense!

This project will certainly evolve after this exhibit (as the Prof’s all pointed out), and especially once I’ve seen how the audience responds this time around. What I also need to shake is the feeling that this work is a competency test–which is a direct result of years in the educational system. How will the value of this art form be judged by the institution?

In photo school, the impact of the image, the feeling it conveys, and its technical efficiency were scrutinized. In film school, the requirements were comparable to photography but with narrative structure being particularly critical. I’ve always understood these requirements (as subjective as they can sometimes be), but an art-installation? I think I’m about to find out!


Front page “Less is more” image by othree

About cayoup

Colleen Ayoup was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. She has been engaged in media creation for nearly twenty years. After attending the Dawson Institute of Photography (Montreal), she worked as a commercial photographer for several years until the craving for different creative pursuits gave way. This desire led to two subsequent degrees in Psychology/Film Studies and Film Production (B.A., B.F.A) at Concordia University in Montreal. Her short fiction films and documentary, Kings (2001), about drag-king culture in Montreal toured festivals internationally. In 2004, she joined the National Film Board of Canada where she coordinated Doc Shop, a program designed to give emerging filmmakers an opportunity to learn trade skills from industry professionals and produce a short documentary for broadcast on CBC. She also contributed to the development and creation of CitizenShift (citizenshift.org), the NFB’s first social-media website that she subsequently coordinated for five years. She is a recent graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program in Documentary Media at Ryerson University (Toronto, ON)