One of the key methods used in the Lights On! project is innovation. In doing so we have intentionally sought new frontiers but also deliberately exposed ourselves to what might become a colossal failure. What if we will not achieve anything by this process of trial and failure? What will become of the project if all we end up with is a blank canvas?
Innovation as a process has, no doubt, potential. You’ll never know what kind of ideas will turn up when people set their creative minds together. However, a good idea is just a halfway milestone: whether the idea will truly evolve into an innovation will not be known until it is tested with real audience. Creating a new innovation always involves risks and uncertainties. Whereas these may often be perceived as negative factors, they should rather be met with curiosity and seen as a possibility to develop the idea further. In some cases they may even justify discarding the original idea, which is also a good result since it has just saved us from investing on a wrong thing.
It is very typical of innovations that you never know where – or, indeed, if – they will pop up. You can only facilitate the process up to a point but you cannot force it. The emergence of an innovation is often easy to recognize. For some reason it has that inherent quality which instantly grabs your attention but is difficult to describe in exact terms. This factor is usually identified by many. Once an innovation is there, it usually feels both excitingly new and self-evident. It is like saying “wow” and “of course” at the same time.
One of these innovations which ticked all the boxes mentioned above was Kuusisto Paradox. It is a marketing tool / art piece with the intention to increase people’s awareness of Kuusisto Castle ruins and thus help attract more visitors to the site. The innovation was created by five students of cultural management; Olympe Dumoulin (FR), Elif Erkan (TR/FI), Adèle Fourcade (FR), Susanna Ilmonen (FI) and Ada Vakker (FI). The group consisted of different talents, personalities, nationalities and languages. This, of course, is an ideal setting for innovation, which thrives on diversity. Even if innovations often seem to come “out of the blue”, they flourish more in mixed and unusual combinations of people and out-of-the-ordinary settings which is why these should be favored.
Instead of trying to get people’s attention by the obvious way, spreading information about Kuusisto Castle, the group decided to expose people to its sense of place and, in order to ensure the best possible attention, to do it in paradoxal contexts. First they filmed the hustle and bustle of Turku City and recorded it on a somewhat higher speed. Then they filmed the scenes of Kuusisto Castle ruin by walking through it while holding a free hand video camera and recording everything in slightly slow motion. They then swapped places and moods on two locations by projecting the films on “wrong locations” simultaneously. The slow motion landscape was projected on the busiest shopping street in Turku and the busy street view was projected on the castle ruin which stood still in the darkness.
The innovation was tested on a small scale and minimal budget, which is typical of innovations. The main point was to have the idea tested in real surroundings and get feedback from people, so that it could be developed further. Media got quite interested in the idea which further proofs that it has potential. The projection on the shopping street attracted some 20–30 people to watch it for quite some time and many passers-by stopped to ask more about it. The dream-like slow motion film which appeared under your feet quite unexpectedly was exciting for many, especially children, who liked running in and out of the picture. The test also fulfilled its marketing purpose since a lot of people stopped for a while to look at the film and commented that were now considering to visit it.
Whereas the interest of passers-by on a busy shopping district is easy to understand, it was quite astonishing that there were about the same number of local people on the remote castle ruin watching the projection of busy streets of Turku, even though it was a freezing cold and dark February evening. The happenings on both locations were streamed live on Periscope but gained no viewers. It shows that it is, indeed, much about the actual presence on either of the locations and the personal experience of paradox on the spot that is needed for this kind of marketing innovation to have its full effect.
Kuusisto Paradox is an effective tool for marketing since it is very simple. The power of it is that it is intuitively understood and easily associated. All it does is give the viewer a possibility to feel the faraway place and add their personal thoughts, memories and feelings to it. Yet by doing so it is very powerful since it instantly involves the viewer. The effect plays on unexpectedness and paradox which makes it distinguishable even among the competing video and light effects on a shopping district. This little experiment has shown the potential and there are already plans to develop it further. So we will never know when we will find ourselves walking into a paradox of place, time and sense when we least expect it.
MA, Senior Lecturer, Humak UAS