A large screen (5 X 2.5 metres) is mounted at the end wall of the metro station. A zone in which passengers can interact with the screen is marked on the floor in front of the screen. The featured films are rehearsal situations with Malmö Symphony Orchestra, Copenhagen Phil and the Royal Danish Ballet. The films are to give a sense of being backstage and experiencing the performing art live, both visually and aurally. The films run in staggered loops, ensuring that passengers arriving at the same time each day are offered different experiences. Passengers can examine the image in detail by moving into the demarcation area. When three people enter the area, the screen is split into three to feature individual zoom images.
An interactive art experience in a public space
We wanted the installation to offer an investigative approach to using interactive experiences in relation to art and public spaces. The project is intended as a test/pilot case rather than a completed work of art and the retrieved data should therefore be viewed in this light.
We focused the films on two things: backstage experiences and live experiences. Additionally, we opted for a simple mode of interaction to focus on how passengers related to a public installation.
A metro station is a waiting room and our study of how the passengers perceived the installation was organised in a varied manner so that the study itself became subject to study. There are between 4-7 minutes between departures at the metro station. We elected to conduct many different kinds of data collections, e.g. personal interviews, questionnaires and observations at different times and with a variation of the visual space and of the behaviour of the guides. The study should give us a sense of the extent to which one can guide the passengers and which parameters you can adjust when and if you want to guide them.
Four guides were at different times observing, guiding and speaking with the passengers. In addition, there were also anonymous users on the platform. We also chose to test a development in the visual expression of the installation to see whether and how this parameter affected passengers.
A sense of curiosity
Many passengers were passively observing the installation and far from everyone interacted with it. It is therefore important that the installation has an impact no matter whether anyone is interacting with it or not. The airport metro has approximately 100,000 weekly travellers. We registered about 2,300 interacting users, but since most chose to be passive observers the installation was seen by far more people.
The metro company personnel observed a significant change to the way the platform was used. Passengers tended to approach the installation, which resulted in a better passenger distribution on the platform. Generally, passengers crowd the entrance to the platform, but during the test passengers moved further down.
Although the interaction was successful then encouraging passengers to interact was a challenge. We considered the appropriateness of whether guiding the passengers or letting them discover the installation themselves would be best. The approach depends on the broader intention with the installation. Our success criterion was to appeal to a sense of curiosity and that was certainly achieved. It was a very positive experience when a member of the public discovered the zoom-function and when passive bystanders also appreciated this sense of discovery. However, when the installation was left idle, it would have been an advantage if the visual and sound quality of the films had been better. We were very focused on the interactive aspect but next time we will improve the level of experience when no interaction takes place.
The guides experienced that when they used the installation personally, the passengers would pluck up the courage to do so, too. Passengers were more reluctant when there were no guides. The best reaction was when guides were dressed in plain clothes.
The sound was important for the installation. However, the sound experience was restricted by the noise from the motorway running under the station.
Clearly, passengers did not have time or energy for the installation during rush hours in the morning and afternoon. In addition, the time interval for the departure of metro trains varies between 4 and 7 minutes. Four minutes is a bit too short, whereas seven minutes is a really good timeframe in terms of garnering curiosity and the courage to interact.
The passengers were very interested in whether the transmission was live or not. Many thought it was a live performance. They were also very preoccupied with the rehearsal aspect and finding errors in the performances/backstage situations.
There are three groupings: the active users, those passively observing, and those who choose not to observe at all. These are best illustrated by the following photos:
More test cases
We chose a number of clean-cut options for this pilot case and there are many intentions that were not fulfilled. Subsequently, a new pilot action is called for.
It is interesting to see how live art can play a role in the public space, which is otherwise so over-crowded by advertising and news items. Overall, I think that we have gained the input, knowledge and experience we were seeking and sought to investigate. Most importantly, we have appealed to curiosity and have opened up for more test cases.
Things that may be of interest to proceed with:
- The ambiance set-up in relation the installation
- Introduce graphical elements to be superimposed on the films
- Experimenting with the form, history and visuals of the films
- Make more interactions
- More tests in guiding users to interact with the installation
Copenhagen Phil, Malmö Symphony Orchestra, and the Royal Danish Theatre. Other partners: Nordic, Carl Emil, G4S, Clear Channel and Metro.
Text: Rikke Lange, Royal Danish Theatre.
– See p. 35 in ‘How the Lion Learned to Moonwalk’