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LEE WOODMAN FINAL THESIS CCDN 231 EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN IDEAS


EXTENSION B. BODY Experimental design must start at the beginning, the re-experiencing of the everyday, observing the mundane, noticing the thousands of unnoticed actions and reactions to everyday occurrences. This leads one to scratch the surface of a vast collection of sets upon sets of information. Some of these sets reveal how the body works in relation to an object or action. Observing and experiencing are the tools of inquiry, but through fresh eyes, and with brand new hands and feet. The first observation is the law of opposites. Compression and tension work in harmony when the leg ascends a stairway. Pressure is only apparent when there is an opposing force in the form of a thumb or finger to hold the pen in place. The eye perceives things upside down through the operation of a lens and the brain re-orientates the image for us. Robert Grudin (2010) writes; ‘In its enormous variety and incessant bursts of genius, nature has inspired countless human designers. Nature, moreover, tests our designs and

often files a boisterous complaint when they are not up to speed.’(p.7). It is true, design takes many cues from nature and our bodies can tell us many things. Mechanical dynamics and opposing forces were constantly reoccurring themes in observing the previously taken for granted actions revealed in Extension B. Representing an explored action through an open 2D media almost boggled the brain, the first clear paradox; when there is little restriction, the task to be creative is much harder. •

Ankle. Ascending stairs. Pencil and ink pen on paper

Hand. While drawing. Pencil and ink pen on paper

Eye. Straining while drawing. Pencil and ink pen on paper


Eye Strain detail. Pencil and ink pen on paper


Reciept roll. Running notebook.


EXTENSION S. SENSORY Senses are our interface with the world. For extension S, aspects of the previous exploration were identified and explored. Words became experiences in their own right and required translating into sensory representations. Pressure came from the action of drawing with the hand. The eye in its constant change of focus led to the concept of Hierarchy, and the ankle most strongly represented the Mechanical aspect of the body. Spending time playing with objects, ideas and concepts was the only way to get past the obvious in order to taste, smell, and hear what the aspect could be, or at least how the aspect could best be represented. Creative imagination is essential. Trial and error became the mode of exploration which brings us to the second paradox; we only learn when we fail. In Success through Failure; the Paradox of Design, Henry Petroski (2006) writes that failure is essential to design;

‘Anticipating how a design can fail, or even just be perceived to fail, is the first step in making it a success. Successful tests are unremarkable. Failures are remarkable. The failures always teach us more than the successes about the design of things.’ (p.49,50) Representing these explorations and creative imaginings in ways inherent with the aspect was the challenge here. To make sensory ‘experiments’ aesthetically pleasing is not straightforward. This is because sensory experiments involve embodying and representing the ‘invisible’ (Viola, 1995, p.182). Brief: Identify 3 aspects from the previous project and show 3 senses for each. • Ankle aspect; Mechanical. • Hand aspect; Pressure. • Eye aspect; Heirarchy. Pressure. Sound, touch, smell


Mechanical Aspect. Altered found object.

Hierarchy aspect. Created object.

Pressure Aspect. Altered found object.


EXTENSION M. MIND Create an experience. A daunting and yet wholly liberating thought. This project builds on one aspect from the previous project, Extension S. In this case the aspect of Hierarchy. The decision was made to follow an idea of visual hierarchy imposed artificially by selected light travelling across a page. The inspiration came from travelling, with light coming in the window and moving down the page, creating a focus on different parts in turn. A poem was perfect for this, with certain lines or phrases able to stand on their own, ambiguous enough to have meaning ascribed to them, without needing more information to provide context.The viewers’ interpretation is the context.


As with any project, external critique is vital. The class feedback was often clear and decisive, and always unanimous. Often for this paper, I have been inspired to use and recycle found objects, but as time wore on, it became clear that finding the right case or box was not happening; a build from scratch was the only option. This had certain advantages; Hierarchy could be built in at every level, as intent is vital throughout the project. This concept resonates strongly in writings of aesthetic critique. Analogies are made with contemporary physics to describe how each particle of matter in space contains information regarding the state of the entire universe. The concept of mirrored relationships between the micro and the macro; the higher orders of the object as a whole are contained in the order and intent invested in the lower orders (Viola, 1995,p.42).

Poem box detail 1.


The concept of hierarchy through authority was the expression conceived in Poem Box. War and censorship were represented by way of cut outs reticent of censoring of letters sent home from those serving abroad during World War Two. Light, sound and smell provided a sensory mood of nostalgia while the subject turned the handle to revolve the paper roll, allowing only small, moving segments to be read from the poem beneath. An experience must evoke emotion. This is achieved through the combination of aesthetic qualities. Each individual quality is unified through intent. The experience is not a sum of its parts; these are lost within it as inherent traits. Ultimately, a single quality pervades the entire experience. We can say they are understood intellectually, but in their actual occurrence they are emotional (Dewey, 1934, p.37).

Poem box detail 2.

Paradox 3; Do we only properly see the whole when the individual parts are ‘lost’ within it?


EXTENSION T. TIME Regardless of intent from the creator, what did participants actually experience in extension M? For this to be properly understood, one must observe and listen to feedback from participants in an unbiased and impartial position (as much as humanly possible). No specific experience of ‘Hierarchy’ were recorded. However, responses expressed the experience of nostalgia, of being drawn in and getting lost in Poem Box. This then became the focus for the video exploration. Video is a medium that can be overwhelming; too many factors, the learning and integration of editing programs, and the limits that one’s ability to use those programs has on the initial concept. Rumi, a Persian Sufi mystic from 1273 wrote; “New organs of perception come into being as a result of necessity- therefore, increase your necessity so that you may increase your perception.”(as cited in Viola, 1995, p.71). Increasing necessity is exactly what this project did.


The concept of time was a stabilizing concept for this project and the exploration of this was enlightening. Bill Viola (1995) was also enlightening; Freeze a video in time and you are left with a single static frame, isolated from context, an abandoned image, like a butterfly under glass with a pin through it. Yet, during its normal presentation, viewers can only physically experience one frame at a time. One can never witness the whole at once; by necessity it exists only as a function of individual memory. This paradox gives video its living dynamic nature as part of the stream of human consciousness. If light is the basic material of the painter or photographer, then duration is the materia prima of the time-based arts of cinema and video. Duration is to consciousness as light is to the eye (p.173). There is no substitute for time, and this was never truer for learning the programs. Necessity prevailed, and the video conveyed pulling into the box; a layered drifting from details to other abstract movements of light. A feeling of closure but with lingering memory was the intent for the ending, to convey the feeling of nostalgia. Sound was intentionally minimal and came from the music machine within Poem Box.

Poem Box detail, music box


CONCLUSION When this paper began, we were asked to present a personal design statement. My response went something like this; Design should be as simple and beautiful as possible. Design should be for a purpose, a response to a need or desire. Design however, should not be simply for its own sake. Design should be Art. One individual immediately responded; ‘Isn’t that a contradiction?’ It certainly looked like it was. If Art is for Art’s sake, and if design must fulfil a purpose, then how can design be art?

It seemed that ‘paradox’ was an issue from the outset. Questions arose from every angle; is Art the only discipline exempt from needing any specific purpose attached? And that leads to one purpose at least, to be admired, understood, questioned or loathed. Théophile Gautier wrote in 1835 that the useless alone is truly beautiful... everything useful is ugly, since the expression of a need, and man’s needs are, like his pitiful, infirm nature, ignoble and disgusting.(as cited in Luxford, 2010,p.89). Clearly there is tension between art and design, and yet the boundaries are increasingly unclear. It is my firm belief that Design should be aesthetically pleasing. Is it always required to respond to a need?


REFERENCE LIST. Dewey, J. (1934). Art as experience. New York: Balch & Co. Grudin, R., (2010). Design and Truth. Michigan: Sheridan Books. Luxford, J. M. (2010). Art for Art’s sake: Was it ever Thus? A historical perspective. In B. Townley & N. Beech (Eds.), Managing Creativity; Exploring the Paradox. (pp.87-106). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Petroski, H., (2006). Success through Failure; The paradox of Design. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Viola, B. (1995). Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House. Cambridge: The MIT Press.


Lee Woodman Final Thesis