Kodak's first appearance at SXSW highlights the emotional power of analog media.
At South by Southwest 2016, Kodak Alaris has created The Memory Observatory, a physical installation that mimics the self-reflective experience that the brand hopes to create with its new app, Kodak Moments.
This year at South by Southwest, as a cloud of uncertainty hung over the technology industry, a number of brands were pulling clever analog stunts to get attention. Kodak, famed as an analog casualty of the digital revolution, must have sensed an opening for its first appearance at SXSW.
The installation, designed in partnership with artist Marcos Luytens, is a wooden structure with two main rooms. Prior to entering the first room, visitors text a personal photo to a number provided by the organizers. Once inside, they meet a guide who helps them talk through the emotional significance of the photo.
Once ushered into the second room, visitors are surrounded by an audience that has entered through another door. An audio recording from the first room has been edited and paired with music and scents, while the photo itself is projected on a kaleidoscopic overhead surface along with the photos of other visitors. Visitors are suddenly sharing a completely unexpected moment of emotional intimacy with a roomful of strangers.
“Socially in our society, we’re always expected to show the happy, zingy side of ourselves,” said Luytens. “The process here allows us to consider the full range and spectrum of emotions, and to share that in intimate spaces, and people have come away moved by it. It’s kind of the opposite of something like Snapchat or Instagram.”
He continued, “It’s about quality, qualia, the emotional quality of things as opposed to the quantity. If you just have 10 images that represent your life so far with a story behind them, isn’t that more meaningful in a way than having 20,000 pictures in your smartphone?”
The Kodak Moments app, named after the once-common phrase that has nearly disappeared from our collective vocabulary in the age of the selfie, helps organize digital snaps into a more curated package.
With the app, Kodak Alaris is trying to woo a new generation of customers, while also increasing its engagement with core customers who print photos. “That transactional engagement model is about four times a year, and we’re trying to do that every day,” said David Newhoff, vice president of mobile at Kodak Alaris.
Selling millennials on the virtues of printed photography may be an uphill battle, but the emotional authenticity of The Memory Observatory is a step in the right direction.