Audience and Artisan Influence
Estimated time to read this tip: 2 minutes
I’ve always maintained that when you are in your studio you are in charge, and when you are marketing your audience is in charge.
You decide what to create; the audience decides what to praise, talk up or buy.
Joel Armstrong’s type of art demands that the audience be very much involved right from the beginning in the design phase of his installations.
“I consider all possible access points and how the viewer will see the installation. I am a perfectionist, and when I do installations I think of every detail possible. That’s been the success of what I’ve done. I think of every angle. There’s no stone unturned.
"I have a show called It’s Time to Address'er Drawers. When my mom passed away there was a chest of drawers in which she kept sealed letters that were journals. I took one of those letters and wrote all the words out of wire and put them into drawers.
"The walls of the gallery have chalk lines on them. Viewers can take the words out and pin them on the walls. People can hear the letters being read. The letters are made of silver wire against the rusted chest and there are lights inside the drawers.”
Read the full, interview here.
So not only does he verify the design of the installation from the viewer’s approach, he also allows people reading the letters to become part of the exhibit as other viewers join in.
By coincidence, I was reading a Zen story this morning that illustrates this symbiosis perfectly:
“A long time ago in China there were two friends, one who played the harp skillfully and one who listened skillfully. When the one played or sang about a mountain, the other would say 'I can see the mountain before us.’ … But the listener fell sick and died. The first friend cut the strings of his harp and never played again. Since that time the cutting of harp strings has always been a sign of intimate friendship.” #84. True Friends., Zen Flesh Zen Bones complied by Paul Reps and Myogen Senzaki.
Joel didn’t cut his harp strings. Instead, as the evolution of his signature body of work, he added rust drawings to his installations.
Then his installation art inspired an expansion in Joel’s creations to include stand alone individual pieces. Where his installations involve the viewer in the design, these new pieces involve the artisans who help produce them.
"The uniqueness of my work, and distracted temperament has caused me to fumble. Now that I am doing work that is marketable, it all makes great sense, and I am once again excited with continuing.
"We have worked together several times over the years, and each time I begin with great enthusiasm. You ask many great questions, and have always been thorough with your answers.
"The most gracious thing you have offered me is a belief in what I am doing, and continued encouragement. I thank you for that and will appreciate it forever.” Joel Armstrong