Saturday, May 18, 2013

Behind the Scenes

WELCOME TO LIVE FROM IKEA, the whiteboard outside a small, transformed showroom in IKEA reads.

Live from IKEA? Live in IKEA? When I first step into the cozy, yellow-carpeted corner that John Freyer had made his for three days, I wonder for a moment if the man actually means to sleep in the shop. He assures me that he does not, but after an afternoon with the team, I figure living at IKEA would be an exhausting endeavor indeed.

John welcomes curious visitors into our yellow room. They are either attracted by the same brilliant yellow fuzz I am (see picture), or drawn to the neon pink handkerchief dangling from John's light pastel pink pants. At least I maintain. Nevertheless, John introduces them to the project, which explores the customer's journey through IKEA. 

The vision of the project is never quite clear. Up till now I am still fuzzy over what the project really was expressing. Real time information transfer from an art project in IKEA (hence "Live from IKEA"?) An exploration into the inner (perhaps sinister) workings of IKEA, spoofing their activity of observing customers' walks through their store? A documentation of consumers, and the effect of shopping upon them? Perhaps the project is still in the process of shaping itself. Regardless, in the short time I spend with Live From IKEA, the team I join collects a dizzying amount of information from the participants.

In the picture above, John takes a 5-minute video of a family at the beginning of their walk through IKEA, with their shopping list. At the end of their shopping trip, he takes another 5 minute-video of them with all the items they have purchased. Apparently the before-and-after videos show a very different picture... "they are a different family," John says, and they invariably end up with more items than they and intended to buy. But I shall leave him to share more about that.

What is most fascinating for me was the participants' role in the project as collaborators. Each individual (or family/couple, if they come together) is given an IKEA LACK table that had been turned into a map. They are to trace their journey through the store, marking an O where they stop and look at a sales item, and an X if they actually pick the item up for purchase. At the end of the trip they sign at the end of the 'drawing' they have created. 

Believe it or not, this white IKEA table is called a "LACK" table. How apt for a "lack map" as someone's trek through IKEA. Whose goods and store layout is geared towards pointing out more things that we certainly "need" in our house.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing this project put together in an exhibition. Thanks for an intriguing day of living in IKEA, John!