This week, we had a collaboration with the students from the course Industrial Design from the TU Eindhoven. The more practical way of working and thinking of the students in Eindhoven differs from ours and it was interesting to see to what this collaboration will lead to. The subject of the exchange programme was ‘Materiality in time and context’. During this week we reflected on the meaning of everyday objects by exploring and analysing the traces of use together. Eventually, this led to an understanding of the connection between material and (perceptual) experiences of value. In this blog, we will discuss our work process and show the benefits of this collaboration.
In ‘Objects and Infrastructures’, Palgrave Macmillan shows how different dimensions and scales might be necessary in order to generate a more complete understanding of culture as it is today. ‘Thinking in terms of objects, infrastructures and assemblages enables a material encounter with these different cultural dimensions and opens up an analysis of the intersections between popular culture and new media.’
With his text as a starting point, we all had to take pictures of traces in our daily lives. It was interesting to see how everyone had different kind of pictures and after two lectures that already showed to how there are multiple ways to look at something, we started analysing our pictures. We used the idea of ‘haptic visuality’, a concept Laura Marks introduced to change our way of looking at objects. According to her, we focus too much on concepts and she wants to move to a different way of studying objects. We started by just looking at the pictures and tried to write down our first reactions, our raw response. We noticed that it was hard to come up with firstness and writing this down already makes it complicated, because most of the time you already link it to a concept, that’s why we came with reactions as: ‘ahw’ and ‘ieeeel’ and tried to express the firstness and the affect in this way. Through secondness, which is an (unconscious) reflection on the first impression, the analysis end with thirdness, the interpretation or understanding through abstract concepts or symbols. We ended this first session by looking for concepts that we saw coming back quite often in our analysis, one of them be ‘transitoriness’ for example.
The next day, the girls of the TU looked at our analysis once again and we helped to came up with concepts that fitted their ideas about certain pictures. In the end, the concept ‘concealed sincerity’ became the main concept for the project, sincere meaning pureness and authenticity. It’s about private things, in this case, in relation to the body. TU Eindhoven explored this concept and came with the idea to work with breasts. Most of the time, you show them differently than how they really are (photoshop, and bra’s than conceal the real shape of your breasts). The subject is very present now, with Keira Knightley who let herself being photographed with only her jeans on and without photoshop for the September issue of Interview magazine. We see that we adapt our body to certain expectations, but at the same time, it seems that we are aware of these adaptations.
The girls from Eindhoven worked on their project. They wanted to work with different layers and different materials and go to the sincerity step by step, their final product would be a re-designed bra. We discussed the meaning of certain materials and how they could be related to each other. From our side, we tried to contribute with different theoretical frameworks and came up with the following ideas.
Obviously, gender is very present in this work and the discussion of our bodies being presented in a way that influences the view on what is perfect and what isn’t, is still very huge these days. In such a culture, the vulnerability of a real, authentic body is maybe even stronger. We tried to relate this idea to the way the product was created: namely out of different layers.
This idea of layers is very present in multiple theories. For example the theory of palimpsest, which Andreas Huyssen describes in his text ‘Present Pastst: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory’. The roots of palimpsest lay within the literature studies. It’s about how literature, a book or a story, can have different layers. One layer makes room for, or opens up, another layer, which results in new meanings. A narrative or a structure of a book can have all these different layers, but still every layer is as important as another one. This theory has been transported to other disciplines, for example the analysis of cities. Concealed sincerity is already showing all these layers in the concept and makes it visible in the final product.
Huyssen has also written a lot about ruins. We have a desire to the past, and ruins are a materialized form of this. Due to ruins, this past is still present in our everyday live. We see the traces of something that happened, but at the same time, the past keeps being inaccessible. In the text ‘Nostalgia for ruins’, Huyssen is talking about ‘the imagined present of a past that can now only be grasped in its decay’. The ruins are a representation of nostalgia: a desire for the past or somewhere else. Ruins of different kinds functions as projective screens for modernity’s articulation of temporalities and for its fear and obsessions with the passing of time.
Due to this (as one of the causes), we create a kind of simulacrum, where our constructed ideas became more real than the actual reality (if you can say there is one). Enlarged breasts filled with silicones have almost become more real to us than, for example, the breasts of Keira Knightley. We want to keep up with this new standards, and not only when it comes to women’s breasts. We think this work and concept of ‘concealed sincerity’ combines all these ideas in a really interesting way. It shows this struggle we have with our bodies and it shows the traces this struggle can cause.
Here you can see two movies the students from Eindhoven made about the final product. The first one is to present the final project, the second one is a movie that shows the process.
By combining our techniques and ways of thinking, we can come up with new, and better, ideas. We noticed in our own group, but also in other groups, that we were really impressed of each others way of working. We both could see another approach for once, which was very enlightening and brought new insights for both of us. To us, it was a really interesting and successful collaboration.
Sjoerd, Laurie, Anouk & Sascha