Incomplete does not equal inadequate. Nor does it equal failure, missed opportunities, or giving up. Incomplete could not be further away from such things. In fact, “incomplete” is on the verge of being the next greatest idea, invention, or new wave of thinking.
That was my takeaway from the exhibit Naked Eyes at the ARTECHOUSE gallery. A staple in the Washington, DC art community, ARTECHOUSE embraces temporary immersive exhibits that have a not-so-temporary impact on those who attend. But what is it about the art that enters the gallery’s doors that is so enticing?
The docent of our tour group said something that I will always remember: The exhibit was left incomplete by the artists. This left me intrigued and wanting to discover what she meant. She went on to explain that every decibel of sound, ray of light, and inch of space was missing one crucial element: our interpretation of what it meant to us.
Exploring the unexplored
As we descended into the gallery, we were met by flashing lights that pulsed to their own rhythm. It became clear that the docent was right — none of us had experienced anything quite like Naked Eyes ever before. Within seconds, attendees dispersed into various exhibits. Some turned corners while others stayed completely still, mesmerized. Strangers sparked conversations about their experiences and couples strayed away mid-conversation. Naked Eyes was truly a conundrum of its own.
I’ve always wondered what it was about temporary exhibits and pop-ups that were so attractive and alluring. At Naked Eyes, the answer was unfolding right in front of me: installations that were left incomplete struck a nerve within us; we had to explore the unexplored. As humans, it is in our nature to discover and submerge ourselves. The mere thought that there is a facet of this world that we have yet to experience will have us halfway out the door regardless of the journey. And with a place like ARTECHOUSE in our backyard, I don’t blame us Washingtonians for doing exactly that.
The marketing fanatic in me couldn’t help but notice many parallels between Naked Eyes and advertising. For one, the name ARTECHOUSE itself is a walking, talking, breathing paradox. The fields of art and technology are two that are not typically brought together under one roof. However, that’s not the case at ARTECHOUSE. This art space’s specialty is bringing together science, technology, and creativity to create an experience that questions the rules of experiential design.
With areas such as experience design and augmented reality on the rise, the need for innovative thinking in advertising is vital. It’s safe to say that the new face of marketing strays away from print ads and is instead exploring territory rich with the nuts and bolts needed to create gadgets and gears.
What does that mean for us marketing professionals? It isn’t necessarily a matter of which side of our brain works better anymore — it’s more about marrying the two together to keep up with constant changes.
It’s the relentless quest for the missing component that makes an idea an idea, a concept a concept, or a campaign a campaign. Ideation falls short just as incomplete does. Perhaps what’s so attractive about the advertising field is that there are so many “corners” still waiting to be discovered.
I experienced such a “Eureka!” moment when I wanted to add a passion project to my portfolio. I reached out to a previous professor for inspiration. He gave me the idea of using Popsicle sticks to demonstrate my writing skills. I left our meeting with more questions than when I arrived, and drove myself crazy with this skeleton of a concept for several weeks. I would wander the aisles of supermarkets and scourge the frozen food shelves for a sliver of inspiration. It wasn’t until I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when I found the last piece of the puzzle. I stumbled across a suggested page that sold clothes with witty, sarcastic one-liners. The equally witty, sarcastic copywriter in me rejoiced, and the loop was closed.
Popsicle stick jokes suck, and not much has been done to change that — until I discovered that Instagram account. I discovered the opportunity to take an otherwise plain item and revamp it into DIY projects with a twist. I chose Outshine fruit bars since this brand currently does not use its sticks as a medium for cringe-worthy jokes. I created simple life hacks: ideas for dual-usage on the exposed part of the stick (think coffee stirrer, garden labels, etc.), with more practical, sassy suggestions on the unexposed part of the stick that challenged the preceding statement. This project is my pride and joy simply because of how rewarding it felt to watch my idea grow into one of my portfolio’s strongest pieces.
This is just the beginning
Although advertising was born just short of 200 years ago on Madison Avenue, there are still decades of ideas, concepts, and campaigns in front of us just waiting to be discovered. This truth alone is what drives us to do the work that we do (and to work the extra hours). We start off with a skeleton of an idea, add layers of pre-existing knowledge to it, and dust it off with one last piece we sought night and day.
The beauty of this ebb and flow is a result that has never been experienced before, and at best previously unfathomable. Our five senses are in a continuous stage of wanting to experience the newest idea, concept, or campaign and to see it for itself with our naked eyes.
Caroline McLoughlin is a communications professional currently living in Richmond, Virginia. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and Co-Chair of Ad 2 DC’s Communications Committee, she loves writing her heart out, spending quality time with her four-legged best friend, and exploring all that Richmond has to offer.