Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Talking Statues

As technology improves every day and society develops at an alarmingly rapid pace, artists must learn to quickly adapt to the changes in order to survive. It seems to be getting harder and harder to keep the attention of individuals, especially those in Generation Y and Z. People have developed an addiction to technology and the later generations cannot imagine a world without it. Whether we believe this addiction is unhealthy or not, the world is still going to exist with technology and become more dependent on it as the years progress. If arts organizations are going to survive in the future, they will have to find a way to incorporate technology into their projects. 

Statues are an art form that have lost their value in this technological age. Although everyone sees statues on a daily basis, most of us never stop to examine them. Statues have become a meaningless figure, a piece of furniture in our hectic lives. Statues are filled with a rich historical and artistic context that has long been forgotten. 

Sing London is a non-profit arts organization that started in 2007 and aim to make cities happy by bringing city-wide events that everyone can engage in. Sing London’s latest project is “Talking Statues”, an arts initiative to engage the public with the statues that surround them. 29 statues throughout London and Manchester were given voices, a prerecorded speech about who the statue is and their significance in history. Anyone can scan their smartphone over the bar code on the statue and will receive a call from the prerecorded voice. 

Almost everyone nowadays owns a smartphone and uses it like it’s their job. People like to be connected to the world at all times, so asking someone to turn off their smartphone at an arts event is like a death sentence. However, this event is short, informal, interactive and a creative approach to audience engagement. As emerging arts managers, it is our job to incorporate technology in a way that has never been done before. 

Colette Hiller, the brains behind this whole operation, is American-born and hopes to bring this idea to D.C., Chicago, and New York is 2015. I hope that plans to transfer this to the States follows through. I think this project would be a major breakthrough for U.S. arts appreciation and a great model for existing arts organizations. 



3 comments on “Talking Statues

  1. carolynsupinka18
    September 11, 2014

    “How do you give life to something lifeless?” Is how I imagine Sing London approached the problem. This is a really innovative way of adding an extra element to the beautiful statues of London, by reminding people that the personalities and histories embodied in these statues once had voices too, and are still very present in the city’s future.

    In a city that has such a long, rich history, this is a fascinating endeavor to help modern day citizens engage with the past. Many passersby may think the only way to ‘engage’ with statues is to look at it, and move on. I think this would appeal to both native Londoners who might be curious about that statue they always pass on their way to work, as well as tourists.

    This reminded me of a funny story about my hometown. I grew up in a small coal town in Pennsylvania called Indiana, PA. We have a local university, but in order to attract tourists, Indiana promotes two key facts about its history: we are the ‘Christmas Tree Capital of the World’ (accuracy of this statement is debatable) and we are the birthplace of actor Jimmy Stewart, who starred in movies like It’s a Wonderful Life, Harvey, The Philadelphia Story, and Hitchock classics like North by Northwest and Rope.

    We have a small museum that tells the story of Jimmy Stewart’s life and features artifacts and props from his movies, but we also have his voice.

    Just a few years ago, Indiana redesigned our traffic signals on the main street so that, rather than the familiar ‘beep’ or bird chirping, we have Jimmy Stewart’s voice saying:

    “Ah, this is Jimmy Stewart, and it’s now safe to cross the road.”

  2. Samantha Sobash
    September 12, 2014

    I agree, this is an exciting resurgence of life in sculptural art. It is more likely people would want to listen to the context and significance of a sculpture as they view it, then stop to read a lengthy description of the work; especially with sculptures more abstract by nature. This does bring about the question: How would this model serve to engage audiences with more abstract forms?

    I was at this performing arts installation last year that utilized voice overs and applications in addition to their performance. Aerial artists setup an outdoor rig for silks. Their performance was an exploration of anatomy/kinesiology. The performer would gracefully transition into static poses and at each pause the voice over would tell the audience which muscles were being used to perform the activity. I appreciated the educational aspect, and it engaged audiences in a whole new way. There was also a smart phone app created for their performance. Anyone with a smart phone could scan the bar code provided at their performance station and interact through that as well. I find it very beneficial how technology is now adapting the audience experience of the more visual arts.

  3. dianalfreeberg
    September 12, 2014

    This is so fascinating! Not only does it “bring life to the lifeless” but it really does put the power in the hands of the audience member. We are such creatures of convenience. We like to things to be easily accessible, but also available on our terms. This is a perfect way to highlight the art (in this case, the sculpture) and allow the audience freedom. Very cool!

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