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Art installations & Visuals on the dance floor: top 10 tips

Reviewed By: Jenny Macke

Recommended by:

Jenny Macke

Recommended Reading Program: Art in Motion

Language availability: English


Jenny Macke is an Open Floor teacher who has created many, many installations over the 15 years of being a movement teacher and producing and crewing workshops. She is a member of the OFI curriculum circle and the owner of Presence Studio in Bellingham Washington, USA. She gives credit to Martha Peobody Walker for inspiring generations of conscious movement teachers to create altars and installations as anchors for dance space.

Walking into many Open Floor classes and workshops you will see art installations or visuals. From a simple candle with a  quote to complex, textured, colourful arrangements, the intention of the installation is to add to the conversation and exploration of the theme.

An art installation can offer so much potential learning. It “speaks” without words, it speaks of things around, underneath, behind and through the theme and this helps us to deepen our learning.  Often the installation is a metaphor that inspires us to pause and reflect or fires up our imagination to move in new or unexpected ways.  The installation can also act as an anchor for embodied learning and offer memories and seeds of growth into the future.

You don’t need to have special skills or a specific role to create an installation for a class or workshop. Anyone can volunteer. There are a million ways to create your own.  Here are my top 10 tips:

  1. Do some research

Speak with the teacher and ask more about the theme.  One of the great benefits of being the creator of an installation is that the workshop or class begins as soon as you start to think about it. Start by choosing something tangible to work with – an object, an image, some words. See what happens, riff from there.  You may not even use it in the end but let yourself follow the threads of connection and trust that they will land with something that will be of service.  Start with what touches you personally about the theme and as you tease things forth, start to see universal themes that might speak to other individuals or the group.

  1. Be open and curious

I collect things…  lots of things… when I start thinking about an installation.  Keep your eyes open when you’re looking for things to add to your installation.  So often the very item that is needed is right next to the one you thought was right.   Let synchronicity have its way with you… and the installation.

  1. Don’t force it

Be willing to let go of attachment with how you WANT to work with the materials you have chosen and shift to how they want to be worked with… don’t force it.  If you are putting too much effort to make something work, I guarantee that’s because it probably wasn’t meant to be and the end result will feel forced.   Shift how you are going about it and see if you can go from fixed to fluid

  1. Don’t focus on “pretty”

Don’t worry about making an installation pretty.   Focusing on “looks” can make the installation trite or stale.  Be willing to take a chance with the unexpected.  Try new materials, ideas and locations if you are getting stuck.  Keep moving. Dance!

  1. Mix it up

Shift your perspective of presentation to stimulate the unpredictable…  put something upside down or back to front. Miniaturise what is usually large and vice versa.

  1. Prepare!

Gift yourself plenty of time to create your installation and be MORE than finished by the time the class or workshop starts.  It can be very distracting and disruptive if people are still messing around with the installation when people are arriving.

  1. Think of lighting

For nighttime or darker spaces you may lose the impact of the installation if it’s not lit accordingly. Shadows and lighting can really impact an installation.

  1. Have a good backdrop

If it is cluttered or empty behind the installation then what you have created might get lost.

  1. Keep it relevant

Art installations are meant to transform an ordinary space (like a gym) into something with more soul or as a prop that helps the teacher create space for deeper learning.   Depending on the venue, you could need a larger installation or an even bolder statement to help with this transformation.   And, take care not to dominate the space with an installation that is too big or has an agenda.   If you’re not sure, ask yourself these questions…  Does my installation offer many meanings for many people?   Does it give space to people to enhance their learning?

  1. Keep it simple

When in doubt, take things away.  Keep it simple.  Go with one colour.  Repeat one object. Distill what you are trying to say… then distill again.   Most artists learn, at some point,  that empty space can be key to bring focus to the thematic intention of what they are trying to say…

Have fun!  It’s a process.



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