Following on from the workshop, I’ve started to look at how an app could enhance my current practice and complement my existing drawing installations. In addition to achieving greater flexibility by allowing participants to use their own mobile devices rather than my handsets, there is an opportunity to increase the level of interactively during the walk – possibly by giving instructions to carry out tasks, specifically based on their current GPS location (eg take a photo, record some audio or write a text message. The results of these could then be automatically sent back to my website for inclusion in a digital installation as part of the collaborative project. This would hopefully increase engagement during the walks, as well as give the audience in the gallery space an enhanced experience of this cumulative mapping process. All of this could be achieved by an app, but my challenge with this is going to be how to motivate people to join in, without me being there to interact with them.
Currently, with my installations, I have a physical presence in the gallery – I talk to visitors to explain the process and encourage them to participate; I give out handsets and meet them on their return to download their data; I collect their feedback and enjoy the subsequent discussions I have with them. This is all possible on a small scale, but if I want to be able to reach a larger audience, I need to find other ways of working, so I’m keen to explore whether an app is ever going to come close to simulating that level of contact and whether the lack of interaction between the participants and myself is, on balance, too much of a disadvantage. After all, there is no point developing something that works beautifully in its technical functionality, but nobody wants to use it as it is too cold and clinical and doesn’t instil in them any sense that this will be a fun and enjoyable process to be involved in.
Possible solutions could involve the use of video introductions at the gallery, as well as en route, triggered by GPS position. The results from other participant’s involvement could be shared during the walks, to help highlight the collaborative nature of the process and inspire involvement. A participant could choose to have their own electronic ‘visitor guide’ to accompany them on their walk, to give encouragement and suggestions on participation, or to give technical help for pausing/restarting the process etc.
All of these possibilities are giving me lots to think about – every artist whose practice relies on the interaction and input from audiences will have similar considerations as it’s not always possible to be in situ in the gallery all the time and trying to find ways to compensate for that can be difficult.