Blog: An artistic approach to events

Alice Westwood, designer at experiential agency Slice, discusses how the world of art can influence and inspire unique brand experiences.

Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room
Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room

As a designer for events I’m always searching for inspiration. In a city where exhibitions and installations no longer solely exist within the traditional gallery space, creative influence can now be found at every corner. 

It's certainly true that we’re a creative nation, hungry for culture. According to the The Guardian, creative industries have been growing three times as fast as the national economy. Even Netflix has curated its own design documentary series Abstract, so now you can consume culture from the comfort of your sofa.

I first noticed a shift in the public’s view on art in the summer of 2015. In Carsten Hollers’ exhibition Decision, visitors were forced to make choices about their route through the gallery and, once inside, they encountered a range of situations, including the invitation to consume a pill of which the contents were unknown. Decision was not only experimental; it was interactive and playful and in my opinion changed the face of how the public interact with art and exhibitions.

If we translate this technique to a live environment, we have the opportunity to make the guests curators of their own experience, with each one of their decisions leading to an interactive confrontation, revealing hidden aspects of the space or activating content-sharing moments.

For Honor’s first European anniversary of Only for the Brave, Slice created a 360 mirror room that was part of a collection of installations designed to challenge the participants' perceptions. Our creative inspiration came courtesy of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, which few could have missed since it was the backdrop to Adele’s Brit Awards performance in 2016. Although I wasn’t able to attend in real life, I ogled at images of the galaxy like installation, obsessed and mesmerised by its capacity to inspire and challenge participants to look at multiple versions of themselves.

Honor ‘For the Brave’ influencer Palina Pralina invited to the event

Honor ‘For the Brave’ influencer @PalinaPralina was invited to the event.

Art has a funny way of making us feel things, whether we mean to or not and it was capturing this feeling of truly seeing yourself that we wanted to harness within our own mirrored room for Honor.

Our agency was also directly influenced by art when designing the experience for the Evening Standard’s Progress 1000 Awards. The annual event celebrates the top 1000 influential people helping to change and shape the city of London. The venue was the iconic new Cross Rail station in Canary Wharf and the power of light was our inspiration.

Taking advantage of the empty train tunnels we created our own version of the Pulse Room by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. The Pulse Room is an interactive installation of 300 hanging lights. The interface recorded guests’ heart rates and displayed the rhythm of their pulses in the hanging light bulbs above their heads. At any given moment, the installation throbbed and illuminated in time with the heartbeat of its most recent participant. We created an homage to the pulse room in the Cross Rail station by capturing attendees' heart rates and flushing light pulses through the huge six-metre train tunnel. A bespoke viewing platform allowed guests to fully appreciate the expanse of space that lay ahead through a 360-degree immersive experience.

Photo by Slice

For me personally, the clever use of lighting in experiences such as our mirror room and light tunnel instantly make you feel connected to something that seems untouchable by using technology that is accessible and cost effective.

With some extraordinary exhibitions popping up in London this year such as teamLab’s Transcending Boundaries at the Pace Gallery, Do Ho Suh’s Passage/s at the Victoria Miro, or even Hockney at the Tate Modern, I’m genuinely excited about where the inspiration will take us. Whether this manifests itself in the form of attendee interaction, installation or lighting, it would be foolish to ignore the huge variety of beautiful and innovative works we are constantly surrounded by. At the end of the day, it’s this immersion
into the art and design world that hugely influences our ability to create truly unique and memorable brand experiences.

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