— Cultural Sources of Newness

The next generation of graphic recording: Pop-up art

How can one do justice to the multiplicity of experiences and discussions shared with a diverse mix of participants in a 2-day event to mark the end of a three-year experimental project on artistic interventions in organizations? The German intermediary “Unternehmen! KulturWirtschaft” at the beautiful Nordkolleg Rendsburg chose once again to try a new approach: they brought in Drej, a team of three young designers, to develop a pop-up art exhibition during the event. No-one knew in advance exactly what the artists’ process would be, nor what the outcome of their interaction with the content of the project, the space of the conference, and the participants would look like. It was a risky decision befitting the innovative approach to trusting the process that this intermediary had taken all along.


Drej team at work

2 members of Drej team at work in their in situ atelier

Drej arrived with some wood and other materials, having decided in advance that they would create some kind of structure on-site. The structure would create spaces which they would use to display ideas as they emerged during plenary and workshop sessions. The designers invited the ca 120 participants to interact with their installation throughout the event. By the end of the conference the installation was abuzz with people responding to the diverse elements Drej had created to materialize a provocative mix of insights and questions. They succeeded not only in framing the content of the past days, but also in offering a focus point for the final session of the conference dedicated to outlining the agenda for the future of the field.

Participants interacting with the pop-up art installation

Participants interacting with the pop-up art installation

How did Drej get there? To get a feeling for the content of the conference, they had read the final report* from the project. The report sparked a few questions in their minds that they thought participants might respond to, but that is all they had prepared in advance. Once on location, they started quietly experimenting with possible ways of organizing the space with the wood they had brought, while also listening in on the plenary sessions in the adjoining hall. While participants were off in workshop rooms, the noisier work of sawing and hammering could progress. Drej tried out various constellations with sections of different heights and sizes. The wooden structure was solid but remained flexible so that the artists could continue to adjust it to meet their needs as new ideas arose during discussions that they listened in on, observed and photographed.

During the plenaries participants looked across the room to watch Drej at work and they wandered in curiously during the coffee breaks, talking with the designers and responding to their invitations to interact with emerging pieces, like printing blocks with which to produce words about the state of the art, and colorful tape with which to mark their expectations about future development of the field.

Marking out the future of artistic interventions in organizations

Marking out the future of artistic interventions in organizations


Questions abound

Questions abound

It struck me that I never saw the Drej designers talking together; the three of them worked in parallel in various parts of their in situ atelier, using the various materials that they had brought along. Yet the emerging installation always felt coherent. When I asked them about their process, they explained that they trusted each other’s instinct to realize an idea, and then responded to it, rather than taking time to discuss and decide what each member of the team would do next.

Drej’s pop-up art project for “Unternehmen! KulturWirtschaft” may well be setting the standards for the next generation of graphic recording. The approach they took enabled the visualization of an ongoing sensemaking process by capturing the issues under discussion in a clear way and at the same time stimulating people to keep thinking and responding. The changeable and interactive nature of the display reduced the risk that the graphic recording would get locked in to a particular line of argument.

The final installation is a memorable trace of the exchanges during the conference that the organizer can keep on display for a while and it is retained for future reference in many phones and computers because the participants took pictures of the whole and its multiple components.

for more pictures see: www.facebook.com/drej-design

see also a short interview with drej and people engaging with the process

in the video made about the conferenceby Peter TV, starting at 2:22


* The almost 100 page-long report on the work of “Unternehmen! KulturWirtschaft” contains articles about each of the 8 artistic interventions they conducted from 2012-2015, descriptions of all the artists involved, as well as articles about the intermediary’s  methods and learning process. To obtain copies contact lena.maeusezahl (at) nordkolleg.de

Table of contents from the report "Unternehmen! KulturWirtschaft" (June 2015)

Table of contents from the report “Unternehmen! KulturWirtschaft” (June 2015)