How Participatory Art Is Created From Audience Stories

Phil Hansen is using stories that people tell him to create a symbolic and unique artwork.

Great art involves sharing an experience with an audience, and drawing them in to feel an emotion or to think. It would seem to be common sense that the easiest way to do this is to involve the audience in the creation process – which is precisely what Phil Hansen is doing.

Multimedia artist Phil Hansen, who has gained attention on YouTube for his unique artwork, has taken to soliciting the public for material for his latest project. In yet another iteration of crowdsourcing, Hansen is giving out his phone number in the hope that people will call him to share a story about a limitation they’ve faced in their lives. Hansen will then transform these stories into word-art, right before your eyes.

Hansen was, in part, inspired to undertake this project because of a personal limitation he overcame. Heavily into pointillism as an artist, Hansen developed nerve damage in his arm that led to a tremor. The tremor so greatly affected him that he gave up art for a while. But, to the benefit of the community at large, Hansen persevered and began creating truly unique works.

Photo that's guiding the project
A photo that is guiding the project

Hoping to gain a new perspective and insight into the human spirit, Hansen started the latest project to bring people together. By calling 651-321-4996, people can become a part of the work. Additionally, Hansen is using KickStarter in an attempt to raise money to put together a film crew to create a documentary of the process and story, which he hopes to share online (At the time of writing, Hansen has reached his goal but you can continue to contribute to the project).

Having started working on the project last week, Hansen has already learned a lot about struggle and perseverance.

There are a couple of really interesting elements that have already revealed themselves in this process. Many of the people I’ve talked to often feel completely alone in their experiences — like no one could have possibly gone through what they have. But then I will run into another story that is very similar to theirs. If you boil it down to just the limitation, with all the personal details removed, what you’ll see are all of our core human experiences.

You can watch Hansen create the artwork live on his uStream channel, and check out the project video below.

Phil Hansen

Media and interview from Phil Hansen via TED

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