To announce the launch of the Walker’s refreshed permanent collection galleries (last November) we created a campaign that highlights the diversity of the Walker’s holdings as well as our multidisciplinary mission. The layout mirrors the salon-style hanging of Benches & Binoculars, creating random juxtapositions between artists, disciplines, subjects, decades, and aesthetics. In the hopes of intimating the social/historical context that produced these artworks, as well as evoking the free flow of ideas of a traditional salon, we mixed in non-art-related imagery such as scientific illustrations and historical photos (ex.: a black hole diagram referring to the show Event Horizon, a pair of binoculars, the sun and moon, an F/A-18 Hornet), as well as tangentially related text blurbs and quotes, resulting in something similar to an encyclopedia that has been flattened out, or a diagram of a drunken late-night conversation.
The blurred distinction between the artwork and the supplemental imagery, and the seemingly non sequitur connections between text and image, made a colorful if somewhat oblique case for the consideration of art in a larger context. The bus shelter posters especially allowed for deeper investigation—one could contemplate an image of Bruce Conner’s CROSSROADS while reading about the Bikini Islands, French salons, Herman Hesse’s Glass Bead Game, civil wars, metamorphosis—all while waiting for the bus. Besides bus shelter posters, the campaign appeared in a variety of media around town—my favorite being a two-part ad on the Star Tribune weather page (top of this page, right). I designed the layout to basically coalesce with (consume?) the newspaper’s meteorological data and even worked in a lightning icon and a Proust quote about the weather. (It’s the simple pleasures in life, I suppose.) Internally we debated at what point the visual chaos began to overwhelm the effectiveness of the message, especially on the outdoor pieces where viewers often only had a few seconds to comprehend the message. We also debated how much the campaign was effectively marketing the new exhibitions vs. branding the Walker in general. And we debated whether the idea worked at all . . . I think the jury is still out on that (!) but if nothing else, it succeeded in reminding people that the Walker is a place practically overflowing with more ideas than we know what to do with.
Speaking of which . . . this project definitely utilized one manifestation of the CULTURAL COMMONS (the theme of this summer’s Open Field experiment): many of our supplemental images came from Wikimedia Commons. But more on that later.
Installation view of Benches & Binoculars (in progress) . . . Photo: Cameron Wittig
T. B. Walker’s salon style art gallery in his home, circa 1904