individual agency / jane androski Designing Spaces for Exchange
A writer once told me that on an overseas trip, she decided to record her experience entirely in haiku—an ancient Japanese form in which the poet is limited to just three lines and seventeen syllables. Though she had an abundance of words at her disposal, she knew they would only serve to distract. She simply needed to quiet the buzzing and to listen, to be present to the rhythms emanating from within that place. In this way, she would find the words she needed to capture her experience; in this way, there was a chance she might be surprised by what she found. The poet, Naomi Shihab Nye, talks about a process of listening in her own writing. “Poems hide”, she says, “In the bottom of our shoes they are sleeping. They are the shadows drifting across our ceilings the moment before we wake up. What we have to do, is to live in a way that lets us find them.” There is a poetry to listening, when it unfolds in relation to something outside ourselves; when the possibility exists in the very act of listening, for something new to emerge. Listening is not the province of writers alone. It is, in fact, central to my practice as a designer—a way to be present to the questions and conditions that surround me. I listen through my ears, my eyes and through my hands. I listen for what is present and to the silences that exist between. It is a process of witnessing and storytelling, of facilitation and of dialogue. As a designer, I create spaces for exchange—for storytelling and for creative action that are rooted in my immediate community. It is a conscious effort to dismantle my authoritative voice as a designer; to move away from pronouncement and towards design that is relational, recombinant and participatory.