Living With Our Time – Mouna Andraos, Melissa Mongiat, Kelsey Snook
Museum of Possibilities
Quartier des spectacles, Montreal, QC, Canada
Museum of Possibilities
The Museum of Possibilities was created for the public to take ownership of a new space in Montréal’s Quartier des spectacles. People were asked to share what they would like to see, do, or who they would like to meet in this space — and together explore all possibilities.
LIVING WITH OUR TIME
Mouna Andraos, Melissa Mongiat, Kelsey Snook
This art “intervention” achieves civic engagement through simplicity and elegance. It takes a familiar object embedded in social connotation – the balloon – and through repetition, creates an entire field that is almost guaranteed to evoke delight and reflection. The scale, the drama, and the accessibility allow the audience (who are a part of the piece) license to enter a mind-frame where they can immerse themselves in visions and desires that may have been previously unexpressed. This experience is at once design expression and a cultural probe. The judges can only makes conjectures about what the real experience might have been like, but the installation is beautiful, delightful and profound.
Museum of Possibilities
1. Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the challenge posed to you? Did it get you excited and why?
The Quartier des spectacles asked for help to inaugurate a public space generating public interest in the vision and future of the area.
In response we created a daylong pop-up installation inviting visitors to share their dreams and visions in a playful yet actionable poll of public opinion, letting people tell the city, directly and tangibly, what they’d like to do with the space.
The ‘Museum of Possibilities’ was created during Montréal’s city-wide open day for Museums. Members of the public could pick up a piece of paper and write down what they would like to have happen in that space in the future. Visitors entered the field of balloons to add an ‘entry’ to the museum of possible things which might happen on site.
We also wanted to inspire people to imagine the possibilities! So we came up with a variety of inspiration mechanisms - juice of possibilities in mystery colors, bingo, and dice to roll that gave extra prompts, like 'at sunset' or 'on my birthday', or 'with my best friend', so people could more easily imagine scenarios there.
People received a set of stickers so they could wander through and add votes of approval, collectively choosing the best visions for their shared space. This voting helped to turn ‘possibilities’ into probabilities and gave the client concrete data on public interest. At the end of the day, 500 balloons were given away and the pop-up museum disbanded.
2. What point of view did you bring to the challenge? Was there anything additional that you wanted to achieve with this project or bring to this project that was not part of the original brief?
The client wanted to generate public interest in an area that had been closed for years. There was no reason for people to necessarily care about or even be aware of the space. We turned the opening around and gave it up to the public. We wanted to enable a fair exchange to happen - that if people were asked to care about the space for a promotional event, then the city should allow for voices to be heard with the potential for ideas to come to life there.
Our approach was to think about how to make it an opportunity for people to participate and have the tools to immediately take ownership over the space. The idea was to facilitate a giant session for public dreaming and imaging of their own ideas for the space with the goal being that people not only contribute but share ideas - by the time people left, they would have at least one exciting idea they would like to come back for in the future.
3. When designing this project, whose interests did you consider? (Discuss various stakeholders, audiences, retailing, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, etc., for example.)
We were careful to create ways for people to engage, knowing that anyone on the street could walk by - kids, adults, groups, individuals, pedestrians, bikers. The installation had to be largely self explanatory but also provide ways to help facilitate focused thinking for thoughtful relevant contributions.
The entire installation needed to be put up and come down in one day, be a safe environment for the general public. The time frame our idea was careful to include a way for the public to be part of how the environment would break down and be taken away - 500 balloons going home with people at the end.
4. Describe the rigor that informed your design. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) If this was a strictly research or strategy project, please provide more detail here.
This is a response to both questions 4 and 5.
We believe the social value was helping the city to engage people in interacting with and in public space. Creating a platform for ideas to happen and making sure they are heard and shared.
Our strategy centres around participation - empowering people to have a place in the stories told around them.
This involves taking the original client aim (make an event people will come to, and for people to be aware of this new space) and turning it into something compelling, making it matter to people in some way.
How do we make the client's goal something people care about? How to make it a fair exchange? With this balance, we know what will make for good participation. The installation invited people to play a role in shaping the outcome.
We then plan for participation – in this case it's broadcasting a clear invitation: Help create a museum of possibilities. This has two main parts:
01. An invitation to contribute – ‘Make your own possibility entry’.
The general balloon set up was visually striking and and offered an approachable way for the curious public. This was key in preparing incentive for participation – visitors felt proud to participate in such an environment. We then made sure there were plenty of aides and inspiration for people to feel comfortable in coming up with an idea. It's intimidating to be creative with a blank slate.
02. An invitation to share – ‘Help vote to turn possibilities into probabilities’.
A set of stickers let visitors vote to nominate favorite ideas, similar to a youtube 'like'. This made sure that people not only contributed an idea but also took time to think about all of the possible ideas for the space.
Both types of contribution were important. The allowed people to start a personal connection to the space. This same sense of engagement also produces something tangible to build on. With the public ideas pre-rated by the public, it was easy for the client to build ideas for events programming in the future.
5. What is the social value of your design? (Gladdening, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, labor-mindful, environmental, cultural, etc.) How does it earn its keep in the world?
Please see response for question 4.
6. If you could have done one thing differently with the project, what would you have changed?
Would like to have had more follow through - as always with forums for public contribution it's important to let people know what's happened as a result of the initial event. Although we weren't commissioned to take part in the phases of public planning, we have been working with the same client to energise other parts of the same area, inspired by the public involvement from the Museum of Possibilities.