So far the key theme around all of my work this year has been that of our personal relationships and bonds with the objects in our life. While the object itself may contain little value on it’s own, made perhaps of cheap materials or poor quality, it is what the object comes to represent to us an individual that gives it significance and value to us.
My Field project is a clear development conceptually building upon the research and ideas of my Subject project from Christmas, incorporating my research from my dissertation on the ability for two people to form and maintain a continuing bond through the use of objects. It is a development not only in concept, but also in format, continuing with the use of medals in the tradition of immortalising and memorialising a significant person or event, however with the imagery on the medal depicting the object symbolising this event rather than matter itself. It brings to the foreground the unconscious associations that we make with all objects, and exploits the purpose of medals themselves as objects whose entire purpose is to act as a symbolic talisman, allowing for a trigger or re-engagement with memory. We understand them of being representative of their meaning, rather than evaluating them on their physical qualities, which I aim to show is true of all objects in our lives. These qualities of the medal, combined with the ability of the artist book to express and explore memory through imagery and sequence, makes these books the perfect vehicle for demonstrating these personal object relationships to the viewer.
While the term sentimental value or sentimentality is often one which is used to deride or undermine, suggesting it is something to be humoured or tolerated, I argue that this is not the case. Rather than being a sentimental indulgence, it is in fact a critical part of our ability to form and maintain relationships with one another that allows us to also do this with objects.
In many cases the designed function of the object becomes secondary, whether it be practical or decorative, and the object’s primary function then becomes to act as a symbol representing a person, event or experience. Because of this, not only are we able to surround ourselves with reminders of these relationships, we are then able to use them to actively re engage with and develop them.
In the case of mementos, these may serve a variety of different purposes, depending on the nature of the relationship. For example a gift given by a friend which is kept and used often (practically or as decoration) may serve as a reminder and a maintainer of your friendship bond. Despite perhaps not having seen that friend in some time, through engaging with the objects that are representative of them we are able to feel a sense of security.
However, if the object becomes symbolic of a more traumatic relationship, perhaps a parent, an acrimonious break up, or even a deceased loved one , these objects allow for the vital function of resolution. While the person in question may be absent, leaving you unable to continue a dialogue with them and in a state of emotional turmoil. however by engaging with the objects that are representative of them, it not only allows for the relationship to be continued in their absence but in fact gives the opportunity for growth and development. Rather than our internal image of the person being held fixed in time unchanging, as we each inevitably grow through our own constantly ongoing sets of experiences we may then begin to examine these relationships under a new light with a shifted perspective. The object acts as a grounding point, giving us a tangible focal point onto which we can project our phenomenonological experience of re engaging with personal relationships.
A fundamental part of the object’s nature is the ability to carry many layers of meaning, some of which may be codependent being influenced by one another, and others may run parallel independently. The meanings and?values that objects hold are paradoxically both contained within the object’s form and yet only truly exist within our own mind. Many values are able to be inferred and understood from examining an object in isolation, and so inherently something in the nature of that object must be able to communicate these values non verbally, they exist within the object. However the ability for these values to be read and the way in which they are interpreted depends entirely upon the knowledge , experience and values of the viewer. What to one person may very clearly and indisputably be a drinking vessel, to another from a different culture with a contrasting set of values and experiences may identify it as something else, or find it unidentifiable entirely. It is in this way then that the object’s nature exists only within ourselves.
Because of all this ability to become a focusing point for a multitude of meanings and values, which can be expressed or interpreted wordlessly to an individual, they are fundamental to our formation of self. We define ourselves through the objects we surround ourselves with, and signal to others our values and personalities.
It is then through the examination of a collection of personal objects that we may grow to understand a person in their absence, without words. While we may not necessarily always be able to interpret the precise meanings and symbolisms behind each object, we can as a viewer still understand that it holds some degree of value to the person merely in its presence. While we may come into contact with millions of objects within our lifetime, from gifts to disposables to necessities, it is a select few objects that we choose to keep for extended periods of time. Some objects may be kept for a lifetime, others may be kept for years, months or even weeks. In the case of objects that are kept for long periods of time, this is generally due to a strong sentimental attachment that transcends material value. Even objects that are kept out of necessity or convenience may accrue sentimental value over time, simply for the fact they have played a part in our lives for so long. We fundamentally understand that objects share our experience, and become tangible grounded links to phenomenalogical experience across space and time.
It is this ethos of objects as containers, vehicles and expressors of the self that I explore in my work. The objects I have chosen to immortalise range from the entirely mundane (spoon, memory stick) to the highly sentimental (necklace, pin badges). In the case of the more important items, these are tied to strong bonds between myself and the people they link to, as well as places and experiences. These objects are personally invaluable to me, and are things I often carry with me or interact with frequently. These most important objects are distinguished by the gold thread binding the books, working off the widely associated understanding of gold, silver and bronze as distinguishers for echelons of value.
The silver bound books represent objects which hold a sentimental value to me, but not so much so that the objects themselves are invaluable and could not be discarded or replaced, if not reluctantly. They are triggers for memory and experience, but the relationships they represent have not so wholly and entirely come to have been embodied in the objects as in the case of the gold tier objects.
The bronze range of objects represents items which have no single relationship attached to them, not tied to a significant person or event, but have become significant in my life through their continued presence and use. These objects are linked largely to both routine and place, focused around my university life which understandably has been the focal point of all my routines and actions within the past year. These involve the process of walking, to and around the uni, with my memory stick; an object which I very rarely use in a functional sense but that has become almost like a talisman. A spoon, which has become bent with use attempting to chisel out my solidified instant tea which I rotate between, and often hold the spoon in my mouth absent mindedly. Then finally the origami crane, which was made by a coursemate who had put one on the desk of everyone in our year. These for the most part, remained on everybody’s desk for the next couple of months, and each being displayed and making itself at home in each person’s belongings. To me, these cranes spoke of the place and experience of university, and the community of the course, as well as being reflective of each person’s individual space.
Fundamentally, my work expresses the emotional engagements between the individual and the object, relating to their on personal experience, as well as the object’s ability to then express this and other personal values to others.
In planning my exhibition show, I have always had in mind the idea of my work being presented in a way which encourages the viewer to interact and engage with the pieces. My set of bronze medal are specifically designed in order for them to be handled, and cannot be appreciated fully being displayed on a stand or plinth merely observed. All of my work intrinsically involves an intimate and personal engagement with objects, as extensions and reflections of ourselves, which can only truly be formed in their handling. In order to encourage this, the setting and display is extremely important, as we fundamentally know that the contextual setting of an object dictates our behaviour towards it. If an object is put upon a white plinth, it is clear that it is an object of significance, to be observed and admired, but certainly not touched. Even objects that are usually playful, or mundane, have the ability to be viewed in a completely new light and re-contextualised when placed in a different setting,
For example, Marcel Duchamp’s classic “Fountain” is a perfect example of the setting defining the object.
While the object of the urinal has obviously been taken off the wall and laid on it’s back, it is the setting that defines it as an art piece. If a urinal were simply laid on the floor of a bathroom, one would not regard it as anything other than an obstacle. It would not be examine in terms of it’s form, it’s values, the effect it has on the surrounding space or the motivations of those who placed it there. However, in putting it in a gallery setting the object is suddenly given an entirely new platform and a way in which for people to interact with it. It’s form is now regarded in terms of the sculptural, rather than utility; the exceptional, rather than the mundane.
This is the power that the presentation of an artwork holds, of putting an object on a pedestal to be displayed and observed, taken in with time and consideration rather than being merely a background setting for our lives. In this sense, this is almost something that I am trying to avoid. The fetishism of objects within the art world is something that is rife, with pieces being hailed as priceless, beyond all monetary value and worth, so exceptional that they could never possibly be given a value even within the millions or billions of pounds. It is this worship of artwork that separates the viewer from the artist, the god-like creator of beautiful and outstanding pieces that the laymen could never hope to create or even to understand, and can merely marvel and bask at the artwork’s glory. This worship-like regard of artwork, and by extension the artist, has always felt to me to be a largely self serving and self perpetuated ego boost within the art industry. To validate the whims of an artist as being incredibly important and influential, by making all those underneath them as lesser. The separation of object and viewer creates an atmosphere of value, in which the objects in the room inherently have more value than the people who are viewing them. They are the focus of attention, like celebrities on a red star carpet only able to be viewed at a distance by those lucky enough to be able to attend, those who cannot simply looking at photographs.
My ethos however is entirely opposite to these notions. My work explores the inherent relationships between all people and the objects within their lives. Some may hold a very personal significance tied to a person or event within the mind of the owner, while others may be seemingly mundane parts of a daily ritual such as making tea, with their significance and familiarity physically worn into the object through use. Rather than to separate the person from the object, I aim to embrace and exemplify that relationship, encouraging the viewer to engage with the objects on a personal level in order to examine their meanings, ties and histories. In order to encourage a viewer to interact and handle the objects I set out for them, I feel it is important that the objects themselves are not given too much prestige and are presented in a way where they were easily accessible to handle. Height of the object is very important in display; if a piece is displayed on a piece at chest height it may give the sense of a body, giving it a sense of importance and a need for personal space. However a piece displayed closer to stomach or hip height, which is in the range of most of our hand movements is instinctively more appealing to reach out and touch, to pick up and handle, as this is how we are accustomed to interacting with objects in a domestic setting.
I feel the key for my display will be the idea of a domestic, informal setting, where the viewer does not feel intimidated by the nature of the environment (being in an art gallery) and that they are allowed and encouraged to investigate the objects in front of them.
Rather than a plinth or a shelf, I feel that perhaps a free standing desk would be more suitable for the display of my objects. A desk, rather than a plinth, are inherently more informal forms of display and we are entirely comfortable with interacting with objects left on desks in our daily lives. We as humans have an internal framework for how to behave around certain objects or settings, and as we have established already we have been conditioned to treat plinths in a very particular way with a level of respect and awe. Desks however, are a method of display we are entirely familiar and at ease with, and do not feel intimidated by its contents.
Another advantage of the desk is that it can be very versatile in its display. It can be free standing or against a wall, with a variety of different arrangements upon it. Another key factor of the desk is that they are often accompanied by a seat, but can be approached standing or seated. Having a seat is also a strong idea for my display, given that it both welcomes the viewer into the space and puts them at ease yet without putting them under too much pressure. An empty chair is an open invitation that does not have to be taken, the viewer can still inspect the objects from a distance if they choose to, they are not being forced into a foreign space or given an instruction to behave in a certain manner. If they do choose to then sit down, it hold them in place and immerses the viewer in the display, they are sat with the purpose of investigating the items in front of them. Again, this plays upon the domestic setting putting the viewer at ease, putting them in a position that they feel comfortable and familiar with and that they have chosen to engage with and therefore allows them to interact with the objects in front of them in a more naturalistic manner and explore their meanings in the way that you would when entering another person’s home and investigating the objects that they have chosen to surround themselves with.
Perhaps this is the atmosphere I should aim to emulate, the sensation of entering a new person’s house and taking a friendly curiosity in their surroundings. This would involve making the setting as informal as possible, and give the impression of somebody stepping into my own personal space full of my personal objects which are mid-use.
Considering that my work focuses around the relationships between people and the objects in their lives, it would make sense for the display to then emulate that relationship in its setting. Rather than being put on a plinth and admired as Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” was, they should be understood in the context that they are displayed in naturally. The context in fact for these objects, it almost as important as the objects themselves for the viewer. While each of the objects in my work is a link for me personally in terms of memory or experience, these are not necessarily qualities that are obvious to another person, devoid of context. It is the setting in which they are used and displayed that can offer that suggestion of an object’s sentimental worth and value, and then encourage that person to question further the nature of that value to the owner.
Examples of this manner of display, the sensation of stepping into another person’s personal space in order to investigate the objects and environment they lived or worked in in order to gain a greater understanding of that person’s personality and values, is one that is seen widely in museums dedicated to people of importance throughout history. Their living environment is meticulously reconstructed, from either the real objects themselves and furnishings, or approximate replicas which convey the same meanings, displayed as if the person had simply stepped out of the room.
One example of this suggested to me is the desk of the world famous Sigmund Freud, displayed in the Freud museum in London. Here we can see that the room has been entirely recreated, down to the decor of the carpeting, and even the papers and stationary on his desk are true to as they would have been in his life. From this we get a very clear sense of a man, not only his interests but his meticulous nature in the way in which the objects are displayed in a very orderly and precise fashion, which we can see is true in his life and is not simply a choice by the museum to display the objects in an orderly fashion.
Another classic example of this style of display, but in a more relevant artistic context, is Tracy Emin’s “My Bed”, which is a recreation of her bed which she spent a week in after a traumatic breakup with her partner. The bed is truly an intimate insight into her life, strewn with empty vodka bottles, pregnancy tests and cigarettes, it is almost intrusively personal to the point of the viewer feeling uncomfortable. However, it is undeniably expressive of both her life, her experience, and in this instance her intense pain and turmoil, all of which are expressed wordlessly through a collection of objects in a contextual setting. Through both Freud’s desk, and Emin’s bed, we have a strong and holistic of two completely different sets of people, living entirely separate lives with diverse and differing values, all of which we can interpret entirely from their collection of personal objects and belongings, and the context in which they are arranged. Yet each creates a powerful sense of intrigue as well as understanding in the viewer, and a satisfaction in having made some small degree of connection between themselves and another human being, even if that connection is only ever one sided. It is inherent in our nature that we want to reach out and understand others, and the investigation of personal objects allows us to do this without the pressure of social interaction, and in a manner and pace which is comfortable to us. We are simply allowed to investigate, and to draw our own conclusion without any pressure to qualify or quantify our opinions.
It is this environment that I wish to emulate, a sense of personal space created entirely by personal objects, which hold both meaning for me and serve to facilitate a link between myself and the viewer in order to promote a sense of shared experience.
My first field module was interaction design, with our brief being to design an object with a computing element which you interact with without a screen. I found this to be a really interesting brief, although I was inexperienced with creating anything with computing functions I was looking forward to learning these skills. It quickly became evident that the focus of the exercise was much more focused on the design aspect and making a prototype, rather than a finished functional item. This gave me an interesting insight into the design process in terms of a product designer, looking at the target market, creating a video demonstrating it’s function, and looking at methods that can be used to trick a person into thinking that a prototype is fully functional when in fact it is being controlled manually behind the scenes. The video element especially was something I really enjoyed, and I found it really exciting to be able to go out and film my own video of a product and then sit and edit it together. I felt that I really gained a valuable skill that I wouldn’t have otherwise explored thanks to this project, and I think if I were to film a video again I would be far more confident and have a clearer idea of what I am doing. I also plan to go back and re edit my video, as I feel the original one was far longer than is necessary because I was under the impression the video had to be exactly 2:30 seconds long and so spent a lot of time laboriously making it fit that time, only to find that the time constraint was far looser. For my presentation at the end of the project, I was one of the only people in the group to have any form of physical prototype, let alone working, which it was by means of taking a mechanism out of a toy I already owned but which roughly demonstrated the function I wanted it to have. I feel like this has possibly caused me to have set myself a harder task in carrying the project forward, as most people will have just gone on to make a prototype whereas I now have to develop upon that prototype I have already made. My original plans for the project were quite ambitious, having internet connectivity, touch sensors, heaters, and all manner of things, despite having no experience in the area of arduino or knowing what components I would have to purchase. However, looking at things now and with the time I have left for the project, it is looking like I am going to have to narrow my goals and simplify it to just responding to touch with sound, which I feel is admirable enough in itself if I can achieve it. One of my main issues with this is not having the on hand technical tutoring to support me with my ambitious ideas, and I’ve found arduino a very difficult area to just jump into without first understanding the basics of components and coding.
Internet of things:
My second field project was the internet of things, which I was very much looking forward to as it is one of my tutor’s (Ingrid Murphy) main passions in her work, and I had heard a lot about it’s possibilities and was again interested at learning how to bring more technical computing skills into my work and hoping this subject would teach me them. However, unfortunately Ingrid herself had been booked very little time for tutoring this subject, and the majority of the tutoring was done by two different tutors, and I personally found very little of what they spoke about to be directly related to “The Internet of Things”. At no point during the project were we ever pushed into formulating ideas for an actual project, and instead it was largely us being shown different technologies such as 3D scanning and printing, Augmented Reality etc, all of which I had already been shown as a Maker student. Because of this, it wasn’t really an eye opening experience to a whole new world of possibilities for me, and even so I feel like a process isn’t a very good starting point for a project? In my opinion a process should be decided upon after having an idea, and while having a wide knowledge base affords you a better choice in options to best express your ideas, and may allow you to think in directions you wouldn’t have otherwise, I don’t think it’s good enough to just say “I’m going to do a project on 3D printing”. Because of having no clear end point to work towards, as well as the fact we had been shown little to no examples (other than by Ingrid) of these technologies and ideas being actually integrated into artistic works, I found it extremely difficult to come up with any ideas for this project at all as I simply had no context in which to work within. There was a strong focus on coding by the main tutor, however again having no end point to work towards I struggled to know what I was aiming to achieve with the coding and it all seemed like a difficult and fruitless effort. The Raspberry Pi was also something that was emphasised a lot, which was something I had heard of but had no personal experience with, and again not knowing what I could possibly purpose it for it seemed like a waste of time and money to purchase one, but then much of the teaching became redundant because it was based around programming a Raspberry Pi.
In all, while I think the idea of field is an admirable one and one that has the potential to work well, I feel like the execution on the whole is poor and uneven. There seems to be a great disparity between projects, with some having a very high workload and others having very little, some needing physical outcomes and others resulting only in an idea or a group experience. I think what I found most difficult about the field experience was the fact it was spaced out over many weeks, on a Tuesday and Thursday in the middle of the week. While I understand that we are meant to be simultaneously working on our Subject work over this time, I found that it was really impossible to be putting any real focus into more than one project at once. The modules either left me with no spare time at all as I was having to work on my field work over the rest of the week as I was with the Interaction Design project, or then having the opposite with the Internet of Things where I had no work to be getting on with, but the week was broken up so that I couldn’t get into the flow of focusing on my Subject work. I would much prefer if the project was given a dedicated block of time, say 3-4 weeks of time to be solely focused on the field project at hand with tutors available at least 3 out of 5 week days with work to be getting on with on the days without tutor contact. Not only this but I would like a more balanced standard of field subjects to choose from, each with roughly the same amount of work being asked for it so that everyone is working under the same time constraints and producing the same degree of work. I also struggle with the concept of having to be developing our final presentation for our field subject into an ongoing and improved project, as once you begin working seriously on Subject I then find that there is very little time to be revisiting field, and it is too much to be juggling all at once. If I had the choice, field would be condensed into entirely the first term, with each field module being self contained with a finished item being presented at the end of it. This then allows the ideas and experiences from field flow into the subject work more organically, as currently I’ve found field to be more of an interruption and an obstacle to my Subject work, as by the point you get to seriously start working on your Subject in the second term you have already at least settled on an idea which is then difficult to stray away from and incorporate elements of Field into .
Today we have started our new collaborative field project, my chosen subject being “The Internet of Things”, which looks at the interactivity in the modern world between humans and objects, as well as objects communicating between eachother. While this is widely known as the internet of things, this is evolving to become the “internet of everything” where almost all objects have intelligence and communication with the user and each other. This can have a variety of applications, from novelty and amusement to collection of data which allows companies to refine their services and resources. In terms of artistic application from what I have seen it seems to be leaning towards the direction of novelty, however it is important to remember that novelty has an important place in generating interaction and enjoyment from users with an item that is perceived as exciting and interesting. I think I personally would like to be able to create something which can communicate with the user and possibly other objects in order to create something with a sense of fun and personal connection, much as I have looked at in my previous projects.
Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulos, one of the project leaders for this course showed us a live project that he was involved in by the REACT Knowledge Exchange Hub called the Objects Sandbox, which is a design competition related to the internet of things. One of the artifacts which has come out of this project is the “Breathing Stone”, which greatly interests me.
Unfortunately I cannot embedd the video into this blog, but I highly recommend you click here to watch it
The breathing stone itself is a handheld, screenless object which measures the user’s stress levels with a heartrate and breathing monitor, and responds accordingly with soothing glowing lights and ambient music. The music and lights adjusts dependant on the heart and breath rate, and aims to calm the user and reduce anxiety, which they will then be able to see a representation of with the stone. This very much relates to my previous Field project where I aimed to create an object without a screen, and this along a similar vein of what I aimed to achieve. While this object could very much stand on its own, the ambition is for it to have internet connectivity which allows it to communicate its data to chart levels of stress all around the world. However, I do have to question what exactly that achieves, and what the data is going to be used for. I find it difficult to believe that the makers of the breathing stone will be able to use the data in any productive manner in which they will be able to actively combat stress in a certain area of the world, and the ambition to fit each stone with 4G internet connectivity just seems like it will add complications and added price, without any real benefit to the users.
Another of these projects which is strikingly similar to things I have previously been looking at is “InTouch”
Again, I cannot embedd the video, but I recommend you watch it by clicking here
This also focuses on key ideas and themes which are of great interest to me and which I have been trying to express in my work, including in my previous Field project, especially looking at the use of haptic feedback in order to create an emotional response between people and objects, or in this case between two people through the use of objects. Unfortunately I am struggling to find more information on this project, other than the initial statement on the REACT website and various other sites, as I would like to know a bit more specifically how the object itself works in terms of how you interact with it and how it responds. I can only assume that the paired object produces haptic feedback of varying degrees mimicing the touch that the other person is making. However I would like to know how exactly it was then used, as it strikes me as being possibly quite a limiting tool of communication as it has only a small area to interact with, and how the two people are supposed to know to be using it at the same time without some sort of verbal or text based communication, which I feel might slightly defeat the point. But certainly very interesting nonetheless.
“Curpanion” is another project which I find interesting, although perhaps not quite so directly related to my practice, looking at enhancing the museum experience with added content through the use of RFID tags (radio frequency identification) embedded into physical objects.
If you’re interested in the video, click here to watch it
I think what I like most about this project is the desire to add extra content to museums, but without the use of tablets or smart phones which seems to be an increasing trend with augmented reality. Personally I have always found augmented reality to be slightly cumbersome, and not necessarily rewarding, as well as the problem of your focus being drawn away from the physical object and onto the screen, which begs the question why visit a museum at all? This system allows the user to unlock extra audio and visual content both inside the museum and at home, but with a physical object which is both functional as well as encouraging the user to appreciate the physicality of an object. I also think this system would be very rewarding for children who are interested in learning as they can “unlock rewards” online after a museum visit, giving them added reason to go and interact with the gallery objects.
Our lecturer (Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulos)’s own project is called “The God Article”, looking at the Turkish instrument the “Ney”, which has much significance in the culture. While an important instrument, few can play it as it’s breath control is difficult, and Alexandros was looking to share and encourage learning through the internet of things.
By creating an open source, 3D printable Ney this allows anybody with access to a 3D printer to make their own. This will then be identical to the other Neys which are being played, allowing a fair comparison of data between them and more accurate teaching on how to use that instrument. This is a project I would like to be involved in, as I do have access to 3D printers in university, however my main barrier to entry is having to set up the data recording with arduinos and copper sensors which I wouldn’t know how to do without assistance and I cannot find an article showing me how I would do this. I suppose this might happen later in development, but even so I feel that would be the main barrier stopping most people becoming involved in this project. But perhaps I could talk to Alexandros himself and ask him for some assistance.
The other two projects don’t particularly interest me. “Fans on Foot” focuses on creating a wearable item for a fandom which guides them to significant areas of interest in the real world (such as Torchwood Tower from Doctor Who) and having the item look recognisable to the show. However it wasn’t made particularly clear exactly how this object would guide them to the area, and it strikes me that people who would be interested enough in the fandom to visit site specific areas would already have a good idea of where they are. There is also the question of how this object connects to the internet, and one of the posts from the makers reads “we could create a phone app and send out a pin badge to everyone who downloads the app. Functionally, this is entirely equivalent”, which seems to almost undermine their idea in the first place. Why not just have an app? While I certainly appreciate a physical object and merchandise related to a fandom, I feel like the functionality aspect of it is far more impractical than just having a smart phone app to guide you.
The last project “Reflector” is a learning tool which seems to be aimed primarily at schools in order to educate them further about objects that are on display and give them a wider background of knowledge before their visit to a museum. While I like this idea in principle, there’s something about it that just fails to grab my interest. Thinking about it, I struggle to see where the internet of things really relates, as it seems to come preloaded with the information related to the specific museum visit, and then prints out information in either a set or random order (this is unclear). The internet connectivity was mentioned at a point during the video, in relation to sending out information about ongoing dig sites and discoveries to reflectors all around the world, but that just seems to me to be an overcomplicated twitter stream. This also raises the question of whether these updates would be coming from a central source (one specific dig site or team), or whether everyone with a reflector could send out updates to every other reflector. This would result in a mix of information from lots of different sites, without the choice of what information you wanted to follow or not.
While all interesting projects I think my main issue is that some of them seem to have very little need for the internet or connectivity between objects and can stand on their own as independant items. I think going forward this certain has to be the focus of the artifact I create, rather than something that is shoehorned in as an afterthought.
Our brief for this Field project is to create a prototype and video of an object which is either designed for aliens which have just landed on earth, and therefore have no understanding of the world around them, or to create an object which you interact with without a screen. I have chosen the latter, as I feel like the first brief is too broad and almost impossible, as almost all forms of communication operate within a context and understanding of the world and society we live in. What may seem intuitive to us may be quite literally “alien” to a being that has just landed on earth, and the use of symbols becomes completely void as they would presumably have no understanding of skeuomorphs. Given this, I felt like creating an interface without a screen is a much more manageable challenge.
My immediate response to this challenge was to use haptic feedback. Wikipedia’s definition of this is “Haptic technology, or haptics, is a tactile feedback technology which recreates the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations, or motions to the user.”. I think this is a form of communication that can be very intuitive for humans to interpret, and can be used to express a variety of different responses such as warnings, encouragement or simply just acknowledging an interaction. It is this idea of an object being able to physically acknowledge your presence and interaction with it, and being able to give a fitting response that lead me to the desire to create something which stimulates an emotional bond between the object and user. It is always fascinating to me our human capacity to form bonds and relationships with almost anything, whether that be other humans, animals, or even inanimate objects. This is especially true when we are given the sense of the object having some form of sentience, and our caring behaviour towards it being rewarded with positive feedback.
We are inbuilt with the desire to form relationships and can even project personalities onto unresponsive objects in order to satisfy our desire to nurture and care for other beings. In modern life this can often be a need which is difficult to fulfil for many, especially those without children or pets, and we then search for substitutes such as tamagotchis or soft toys. While this is largely a market which is aimed at and populated by children, I think for a significant (although by large a minority) part of the population where this desire continues on into adulthood, and this is something I know from personal experience. Myself and many other people I know enjoy engaging with these affectionate relationships with inanimate or technology based creatures and find it harmless and rewarding.
Pokemon-amie, a new feature in the new generation of Pokemon games which allows you to interact with, pet and feed your pokemon in order to make them happier. While they are nothing more than pixels on a screen, the pleased response that they give to your affection is almost as rewarding as interacting with a real animal.
Another similar object, a “tribble” from the original series of Star Trek. I have recently purchased one of these tribble toys, and find it’s movement and cries in response to any basic touch or sound extremely endearing even though it is rudimentary. Despite the fact it doesn’t have a face, and it has no discernment between positive or negative interactions, and it’s response is always the same no matter what the interaction it is still enough for us to become attached to it as a seemingly sentient creature.
I am also reminded of MurMurs which are a product that I saw at my visit to Maker Faire Rome in 2012. These are a series of seats with different personalities, which respond with certain noises when being petted or sat on. They come in several different colours, each with different personality types which have their own preferences. For example, some may like being scratched under the ear, while others prefer being rubbed on the head, and respond accordingly with positive or angry noises.
This reminds me of the popular toy Furby. While they contain many of the features I’ve been talking about, for some reason I find them far less appealing than all the previous toys, and they are largely seen as being a “craze”, a passing fashion with no long term appeal. I wonder why this is the case, and why I feel I would quickly get tired of a furby yet still find the MurMurs appealing after two years of discovering them. Perhaps it is because furbies are centered around teaching them things such as tricks and how to say your name, whereas the other objects simply respond positively to affection. It may also be to do with the over engineering of the face? While expression is important, perhaps it is a form of uncanny valley where they look realistic, yet not expressive enough to be believable, and therefore static or lack of faces are more effective.
By creating a more an object which uses a more complex series of imputs and responses such as with the Pokemon-amie, but with real world physical form and feedback as with the tribble or murmrs, I hope to create something which is highly engaging and attachable.
Having thought about it, I’m not going to be able to leave my marbles out covering the floor of an area in town, as they’re going to be a trip hazard. I was very much basing my ideas on the image of Clare Twomey’s “Trophy”, Ai Weiwei’s “Sunflower seeds” and even Twomey’s “Consciousness Conscience” with the objects spread out all over the floor and are so abundant that you can’t ignore them and simply have to navigate around them.
However, these were all in gallery spaces, with willing participants and I’m sure stringent health and safety checks in place, as well as the permission of the gallery. I can’t feasibly go into the centre of town and dump 10,000 marbles (10,000 being a large number off the top of my head, I don’t intend to make 10,000) onto the middle of queen’s street without people becoming angry that I’ve infringed on their public space, as well as me getting in trouble with the counsel or whoever manages public spaces in Cardiff. I could contact someone to try and get permission, but I highly doubt they would give it to me (understandably), and even if I did it in secret at say 5am in the morning, there’s no guarantee it wouldn’t be taken away, and at the very least the university would know that I had done it and I would get in trouble with the ethics committee.
I could try and section off an area of the floor in some manner such as building small fences, but I’m still not sure that would be seen as safe enough so I may as well abandon the idea of them being on the floor. Instead it seems they’re going to have to be contained in some way.
The problem with containers, is that they very much limit people’s likelihood to interact with them. Firstly, if I leave a box of marbles in the middle of the street, people are likely to think that they have somehow been left there by accident and so won’t want to touch or disturb them in any way. Secondly, there’s nothing from stopping someone taking the entire box of marbles and walking off with them, which while it would be interesting kind of defeats the point of the piece of only one person gets to enjoy all of them, it spoils it for everyone else. Also, while I don’t mind lots of individual people stealing my work bit by bit, somebody coming along and up and taking months worth of work would probably be very infuriating. Another problem is that you can’t really see the “abundance” of marbles that I would like there to be, they are very avoidable and unnoticable. Also, as I plan to have the marbles in different colours with different rarities I would like you to be able to see a large range of marbles at one time so that it is apparent that some are more common than others, and you might be able to see the single gold marble. If they are in a box or a tub this might be easy to miss, especially the single gold, and I don’t think people are likely to want to root around through a box if they only think there are a few set colours.
I think a better idea would be a large, flat dish. While it’s still not as appealing or intrusive as the floor, the marbles can at least largely all be on show at one time, and the flat open surface makes it more appealing for people to come over and interact with it. This also gets rid of the problem of people assuming they’ve been left there by mistake, as a dish full of marbles on a stand is not something people accidentally leave around town and is clearly there for the public to interact with.
I don’t want to have to leave a sign or posting of any sort that tells people what the marbles are for or what to do with them, such as “free marbles!”. While they’re not necessarily going to be self explanatory as to what they’re for, and people might not play with them (as I’m not sure most people know how to play marbles) they can investigate them freely without any constraints on their behaviour. If they have more fun throwing the marbles at each other, or making patterns with them on the floor then they are welcome to do that. If I put up any form of signs saying they are there to be played with, people might then think “well I don’t want to play a game of marbles, so I won’t bother going over and looking at them”.
This is also why I want to film the marbles from afar as the day progresses. I would very much like a document of the work, that it existed, and that people’s response to it. But if people are in any way aware that they are being filmed or documented, this is again going to scare them off from interacting with them, or their behaviour will be unnatural as they are self aware of being recorded. This will ruin the chance of any form of spontaneity that I hope might occur, and while I could document people’s behaviour in a notepad by watching from afar that really isn’t a very good visual document of what happened. I have spoken to Ingrid about this, and she said that I’m going to have to apply to the ethics board if I wanted to film people in public, as even though people are filmed in public all the time by CCTV cameras, in the background of photos etc this is is a different context where I am specifically setting out to document somebody’s behaviour without their permission or knowledge. This is a bit of a setback, as I think it is also an important part of the project that it is documented correctly, and I will have to look into applying for ethics permission as I have no idea what that involves. Ingrid also said that I would be allowed to leave the marbles on the floor of the gallery space in the university, but the problem with that is that the response that a bunch of art students have, seeing a piece of art, inside their art university, is going to be very different than the response of a person in the street. For example, I walked through the gallery space the other day and saw maybe 20 bananas hanging from the ceiling, and thought nothing of it. In fact, I assumed the bananas were there to see whether or not people would start taking them (which in fact they did over the week), and I considered replacing the empty banana skins with new fresh bananas, or even something else like a carrot, just in order to baffle the artist. This is certainly not the same reaction it would have had to the general public, and I want to make a piece of work that enriches the experience of “The City”, rather than an exclusive minority of art students.
So the time had come to present the sum of our ideas as a group in front of all the other groups and the tutors, and I think we did reasonably well at doing so. Our powerpoint was a very simple collection of pieces of source material and research we had looked at during the project, as well as a few videos of influential work such as Susan Philipsz “Lowlands” and Alvin Lucier’s “I am sitting in a room”, which were used more as reminders and demonstrations of the kind of ideas we had been thinking about. Myself and Ethan did most of the talking (although Ethan spoke more than me) outlining our general ideas and interests in human interaction and senses, with the other members of the group contributing when their area of contribution came up such as Sam taking recordings of soundscapes in the city and looping them to create a demo of our instillation. Between the audio made by Sam and the visual mock ups made by me and Jadene, as well as sketches on the power point I think we made our proposal very clear and afterwards the feedback I got from other groups was that they had all found ours a very interesting project. It seemed to me that our group and had made the most conceptual piece from all the other groups, and this is something I am very happy with as I was concerned that we were going to end up with something very basic.