Venice – Funds were limited. To get Sun & Sea (Marina) over to the Lithuanian pavilion at the Venice Biennale, artists Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė and Lina Lapelytė went for an outstanding but bare-bones execution – they commendably knew where to compromise and where to juggle the logistics in order not to sacrifice their artistic vision. Most notably: they never compromised on having their opera performance feature the full 20 live singers every time; instead, they decided to open the pavilion only one day a week.
With so many retail brands veering into the art performance space – just think of A$AP Rocky’s Lab Rat, featuring Calvin Klein, and Savage X Fenty’s on-stage celebration of the (many versions of the) female body – there is a lot to learn from the Lithuanian trio. But now, riding on the legs of their post-award buzz, Barzdžiukaitė, Grainytė and Lapelytė were able to make some logistical adjustments. We discussed some key takeaways from their experience that can be useful for teams working on brand experience activations.
[+] INSTANT GRATIFICATION? NO – THE WAIT IS PART OF THE EXPERIENCE
The top winner of the previous edition of the Venice Biennale was also a performance piece that was only available for a limited fixed time – in that case, Anne Imhof’s Faust took place every day at 11h, with entrance allowed on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Take notice: in an age of generalized instant gratification, consumers are increasingly willing to have to wait for an exclusive experience. Case in point: as only 76 people can make it inside the venue per performance, to be able to comfortably see the performers from the mezzanine. As each performance lasts one hour, waiting periods can seem infinite – upon my visit to the pavilion, as the queue curved out onto side street, I calculated a four-hour waiting time. Before the announcement, the pavilion got some 30 visitors per day, in total; nowadays, the artists estimate, the wait goes up to two hours. Free time is, indeed, today’s luxury.
The takeaway: Given the newfound attention, the artists are now negotiating expanding the performance to a second day per week, adding Wednesday to the calendar. But most importantly, that is still a limited run – a scarcity-and-mystery strategy has been key to the growth of streetwear brands, and that can also be translated to brand activations.
[+] THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE ODD VENUE
As reported in our coverage of this year’s DesignMarch and some of its impossibly Icelandic venues, artificial inaccessibility showers the lucky few who made it inside with a form of social currency.
Due to a glitch in the Google Maps location spot, many following the directions to the off-site pavilion found themselves facing a dead-end towards the water. And that’s when many of us had to rely on the kindness of strangers: we all became adept at identifying the sore thumbs in smart black clothes that stood out from the groups of Venetians and more mainstream tourists, and in a chain reaction of pay-it-forwards helped each other find our way to the venue. By the time people stood in line, a fellowship of sorts had been moulded. Once again: this is a form of social currency.
The takeaway: The organisers are fixing the glitch – no more heading straight into a small canal. But given the refreshingly positive response to this unintentional interaction, think of ways to build this sense of discovery and kindredness into the arrival stage of your activation.
[+] THERE IS MORE THAN ONE WAY TO CROWDFUND
According to their calculations, every minute of the performance costs €2,65 – that’s not including the venue rental fee and technical assistance. To finance their minimum viable product, the artists complemented funds received from the Lithuanian Council for Culture and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania with an Indiegogo campaign– 1,457 backers pitched in with more than €37,500.
But there is more than one way to crowdfund: time, again, is luxury. The opera uses the figure of sunbathers to segway into the cumulative effect of daily negligence to climate change attrition. Having locals stand in as performers is a double coup: on the one hand it’s a smart way to crowdsource, but on the other, Venice is bound to vanish within a century at the hands of the Mediterranean Sea if global warming continues its current course. Those interested in donning a bathing suit and participating in a performance can sign up on a volunteer list. ‘Locals can experience the piece from inside,’ Barzdžiukaitė explained. ‘Some have registered to stay for three hours, but they enjoy it so much that they end up staying for the whole day. It’s another layer of experience.’
The takeaway: This inclusive element of the performance was part of the reason for the award, and they’re keeping it as is. So, keep in mind: this type of local integration add a second, highly personalized and irreplicable experiential layer to a brand installation.