Interactive installations in public spaces

Interactive installations in public spaces

4 major trends to keep an eye on

For some years now, digital art has become more prominent in public spaces in major cities. Whether their intent is artistic or not, temporary experience-based installations in public spaces bring together technology, storytelling, performance, and place-making in pursuit of wide-ranging objectives, including entertainment, education, and economic development.

Increasingly, interactive installations are replacing statues, frescoes, and fountains or they are grafted onto these more traditional artistic creations in efforts to transform passers-by into participants.

As they’ve done for exhibitions and immersive experiences, Xn Québec and Habo have studied this creative industry’s potential for development and its likely future.

No fewer than 85 companies and 45 experts were consulted; as a result, four key trends have emerged as developments to watch in the years ahead.

Interactive installation POP!

Interactive installation The Globe

A growing desire to animate public spaces

Given the restrictions that were placed on restaurants, bars, cinemas, and theatres due to the pandemic, public spaces in large cities have become very important in recent months. They’ve become meeting places, and their traffic has increased dramatically.

Even before the pandemic, place-making was already a hot topic with respect to public spaces. Discussion centred on transforming these spaces into environments for community life so as to improve residents’ quality of life and enhance the social fabric of cities and communities.

Interactive works in public spaces allow for multiple individual and group experiences depending on circumstances – whether you’re alone or with someone, interacting with one or more strangers, and contingent on your state of mind, the weather, how much time you have, and other variables.

Interactive installations in public spaces produce experiences in two ways:

1- They generate more traffic. More visitors means more potential customers for nearby businesses.

2- Interactive installations encourage curiosity and engagement among the population.

This trend seems even more significant if you consider that there are fewer and fewer accessible shared spaces in urban centres, here and elsewhere. That’s why it’s vital to bring to life spaces that are still available.

Interactive Installation Spectrum

Interactive installation Coaticook

The search for fun and personal experiences

When people think of art as part of a public installation, they usually imagine a statue, a mural or a fountain accompanied by a commemorative plaque. In other words, we tend to think of contemplative – or even decorative – works.

Interactive works upend this archaic view of things. They’re often more playful as well as more family-oriented. They’re more in line with the consumption habits of a generation of people that grew up with screens in their hands and headphones in their ears.Let’s not forget that the success of interactive installations in urban spaces depends on their ease of use. Of course, such creations must be impressive and elicit wonder, but they must also be intuitive and easy to use if they’re to reach the greatest number of people.

Consider Balançoires musicales (“Musical Swings”), a work by Daily tous les jours at the Promenade des Artistes section of Quartier des spectacles à Montréal. There’s no need to read instructions to understand how to generate a melody using this installation – all you need to do is swing. You learn simply by watching and listening.

Interactive installation Mi Casa 2.0

Interactive Installation Musical Swing :
Daily Tous les jours

Developing the interactive installations tour model

Interactive installations in public spaces may travel from one neighbourhood to another or even from one city to another.

Let’s consider the example mentioned above, Balançoires musicales: this installation was deployed in nine other cities following its inauguration in Montréal in 2011. To find out more about the favourable fallouts from deploying such an installation, have a look at this U.S. study conducted during the “Musical Swings” tour in West Palm Beach, Florida, Detroit, Michigan, and San Jose, California.

Les installations temporaires offrent un avantage important:

A key advantage of temporary installations is that they can be adapted to their setting – because they’re more in tune with the times. They can be used to mark a specific event such as a city’s anniversary or deal with a topical theme. They can also adapt to changing seasons.

What’s more, they can easily be “made new” since every launch of an existing installation is a new invitation to visit or revisit a particular site.

Let’s not forget that temporary installations are less expensive and, above all, have a limited lifespan. As a result, there are no costs associated with permanent maintenance.

The desire to establish a link between the work and the site

It’s important to keep in mind that commissioning organizations that want to use public spaces for display purposes are looking for works that are perfectly suited to their exhibition site.

Ainsi, les Consequently, these organizations – most often, government agencies – require installations that are tailored to the particularities of target public spaces or the preferences of local communities. This is true of works that highlight the historical importance, architectural specificity or cultural significance of their host sites.

Accordingly, commissioning organizations often look for local artists who are familiar with their region’s culture.

If, instead, they decide to import a work, they usually ask that it be adapted to the local culture. Naturally, it’s not enough to provide translation into the local language – you also need to adapt all cultural references, starting with the people who are represented in the work.