Installation After-math

What a fabulous experience! Last weekend, was my long awaited documentary-media/graduation installation at Inglenook Community High School. Between the Doc Now audience and the audience who came as a result of the Doors Open Toronto that Inglenook was a part of, a large variety of audience members experienced the installation which was set up in the schools’ math class.

It was great to see the project manifest as it did. To track how it came to be would require reading this blog from start to finish but if you haven’t, here’s the short of it: the first iteration of the project was envisioned in a gallery space with an alternative and traditional school setting to navigate through. This was followed by the media in a site-specific, traditional school setting with short podcasts on each desk and one film projected at the front of the class, on the blackboard.

And here is what the final manifestation looked like:

Entrance at far right

At the computer & taking the math test

 

The set-up:

  • 2 (Epson short-throw) wide screen projections on the class blackboards (projected via laptop and Edirol speakers)
  • 3 class computers with this WTL website (including 3 headphone sets)
  • 7th grade math tests and blank note books on most of the desks (with pencils and erasers)

This being my first art-installation, I was curious to know how the audience “read” the space. What did they feel they could touch, where would they position themselves in the room, how long would they spend in the space, and so forth. The assessment seemed to be as follows:

  • Watching the large format films was the first reflex and attraction.
  • Roughly a 50-50 split between those who stood and those who sat at a desk to watch the films.
  • Roughly 70% expressed a fear from seeing the math test and avoided it (did I mention it was a grade 7 test?)
  • Roughly 25% diligently took the test and did quite well, if not perfect.
  • Roughly 5% thought that whatever was on the desk belonged the “real” class students and shouldn’t be touched.

I remained outside the classroom the whole time greeting friends, family and colleagues with an audio recorder in hand should a spontaneous interview moments present itself. I was aching for constructive criticisms and, on the whole, these were some of the common remarks:

  • The installation fit seamlessly into the classroom; the space did not seem to be altered to accommodate the art–giving the experience a sense of authenticity.
  • There was a nostalgic experience felt from being “back in high school” again, which greatly complimented the media work.
  • The space and media conjured up reflections of the audiences own educational experience which, in turn, spurred conversation.
  • There was a strong appeal for the aesthetic of the videos projected on the blackboard (and which created a “glowing” effect).

As an aside, a couple of people with young children determined after being in the school that they wanted to send their kids there when they were older (for more about Inglenook, read this post and note the Inglenook photos within the Flickr widget to the right of the screen)

As for the audio recorder I had in hand, it was a good idea but I  was pretty distracted by the flow of familiar faces to be able to turn the space into a radio show as well! Perhaps this was a leftover ambition I resisted dismissing following my critique day with the Profs a couple of weeks ago. Well… for the record, I’m glad I kept it with me. All it takes is a passionate appeal from one or two participants to make it worth while.

First up, Ms H. who recently retired from the public sector education world. In just over 6min, she whips off her views of what education is (hint:mind control) vs what it should be, how rote learning is not such a bad thing, how Canadian history class is a bust… and a lot more! You’ll notice she makes reference to Rick Salutin’s 5-part series on education in the Toronto Star.

Ms H_what is education

Next, Brianna, who, as a recent Inglenook grad, expresses the qualities of the school that drew her in:

Brianna on Inglenook High

The most distinctive problem that I noticed, about the installation, was the lack of attraction people had to the computer stations. When I asked some of them if they had been to the station they responded that they hadn’t noticed them or didn’t think that they were part of the installation. Perhaps the “seamlessness” of the space worked against some of the intentions I had as this happened with the tests and notebooks on occasion too.

There was so much learned from this experience and much to reflect on from this point forward. The relationship of the space with the audience, how the site-specificity related to the narrative of the project, how the media within a given space compliments and conflicts with one another… the list goes on. It was a bit of a leap to go down this installation road, but I’m extremely happy I did. I’ve learned a new media language, I’ve learned a new mode of participatory engagement, I’ve learned, I’ve learned, I’ve learned…

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)