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PRACTISING RELATIONAL DESIGN a concept in practise by Timothy Holloway 1


Timothy Holloway 2012 timoholloway@gmail.com timoholloway.wordpress.com

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INTRODUCTION This book chronicles my experiments into producing work that fits, at least in part, to my definition of Relational Design. This post-rationalisation of the body of work analyses the effectiveness of each piece of work conceptually, how it fits within the criteria I have described in my theory of Relational Design and how successful each piece was in communicating those ideas.

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DEFINITION I define Relational Design in terms of Levels of Engagement. There are 3 forms窶ィof design:

FIXED We engage with our eyes

INTERACTIVE We engage with our eyes and ourselves

RELATIONAL We engage with our senses, ourselves, and others. For a piece to be classed as Relational it must fit within these criteria:

1窶サHE DESIGN ONLY FUNCTIONS AS A DIRECT RESULT OF THE AUDIENCES ENGAGEMENT. 2窶サHE AUDIENCES ENGAGEMENT IS NOT PRESCRIBED BY THE DESIGNER, ITS INSTEAD ENVISAGED AS AN OPEN ENDED DIALOGUE. 3窶サHE ACTIONS OF THE AUDIENCE FORM THE PROCESS THAT DEFINES THE OUTPUT OF THE DESIGN.

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THE DESIGN CREATES A SOCIAL
 ENVIRO­ NMENT

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IN BETWEEN EXHIBITION The purpose of the In-Between exhibition was foremost to give a social capacity to a transient non-place using the gallery structure as a vehicle; transforming dead space into a showcase. The concept was to put student work into the in-between space that separates the studios of various disciplines, allowing people the opportunity to linger in these spaces and hopefully encourage dialogue between students from different courses, students who rarely have the opportunity to meet each other. With an emphasis on time-based works — video, soundbased, performance, and live streaming — in the context of a private-view set up with free beer, passers by were encouraged to stop in a space they would normally pass through indifferently. 7


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COMMUNI足 CATION IS OPEN, NOT TOP DOWN

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CHAOS LECTURE Asked to give a lecture on the future pathways of design, myself and Wong Wang Yui focussed on the possibilities of utilising chaos in systems, and designing unpredictability. The lecture focused on using the inherent unpredictability present in all systems where a group of people are involved, and then building that into the design to enhance it, rather designing out the unpredictability and attempting to wholly control the situation. To explain these ideas, we chose the concept of liveaction gameplay. So that the audience was encouraged to physically engage with the idea. Because the game was played out by the group, the one-to-many role of the speaker was removed from the lecture, with conversations between everyone allowed to take primary focus. The nature of the game was unpredictable on a basic level (the role of a dice) but more importantly the situation itself; nobody was expecting it, and we did not know how it would play out, or how people would respond. By challenging conventions we produced a more memorable, experiential lecture with a focus on many-to-many relationships, rather than a top-down approach. 11


THE DESIGN IS CONTEXT­ UALLY SENSITIVE


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CHAOS LECTURE Furthermore, the Chaos Lecture was designed to respond to the context it was placed; a seminar room. The lecture made use of the furniture in the space, turning the tables and chairs into a life-size game board, as well as the presence of the audience. The effectiveness of the lecture was due to its subversion of common lecture practice. By playing with the audience's expectations of a specific situation and rethinking the everyday objects in the room. 13


DISTINC­ TIONS OF PRODUC­ TION
AND CONSUMP­ TION
 BECOME BLURRED

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NARRATIVE LISTENING WALL This piece currently exists only in the form of a proposal whilst I research how to harness the technology necessary to actualise it. The piece would consist of a microphone connected to voice recognition software, capable of transcribing speech as text in real time, this resultant text would be then be projected into the room in which the microphone was listening. The voices of the people in the room would be picked up by the system and projected into the space. The inaccuracies generated by the software due to numerous people talking at once and accents incomprehensible to the machine would create a new narrative; one that is not a direct transcription of the conversations but instead a response to them. By using a projector, the text will be large enough in the room to act as a talking point in itself, its inaccuracies being questioned by those in the room and being reinterpreted by the machine in a continuous cycle. This feedback loop in a small ways blurs the point at which the text is produced, by the machine or by the audience, and to where it is consumed, by the readers or by the microphone. It is relational so far as the content is derived from the people and conversation had in the presence of the machine. Content is created by the audience in the form of a feedback loop. The final text would then be a document of the people and conversations in a specific space and time 15


IT IS GENER足 ATIVE IN THE FORM OF A FEEDBACK LOOP, NOT SIMPLY ADDITIVE

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RELATIONAL CONVERSATIONS This ongoing project involves me instigating conversations around the starting point of Relational Design. The purpose of the activity is to firstly explore the ideas I have been developing by discussing them with fellow designers and also key thinkers on the subject. Secondly to expose the holes in the theory and discuss them, looking critically at the ideas. Thirdly to push these ideas forward and broaden the contemporary definition of Relational Design. It was logical to open up my research into conversations, which are inherently Relational and Generative. As conversations can be described as the most elemental piece of Relational Aesthetics, as they are solely inter-human systems. The conversations are then recorded, transcribed, and will become a publication and blog, allowing others to access and join the conversation. 17


CONTENT IS
DEFINED AND CREATED THROUGH
 AUDIENCE
 ENGAGE­ MENT

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IN — INTERACTIVE INSTALLATION IN, a live interactive installation in the CSM Street, proj­ ected a video wall of youtube videos into a public space. Here I designed a system that facilitated audience engagement. I then allowed the entire body of content to be decided by the audiences engagement; videos were submitted by around 200 people into an open Facebook page. This digital content was then taken into the physical world using projectors. By having the work in the space, along with live feeds, both textual from Twitter, and visual from webcams, the presence of those in the space directly affected the aesthetic of the piece. Because content was not set by me, it was allowed to follow its own trajectory as a result of the engagement with the audience; either passively by walking through the projections, or actively by submitting videos. 19


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CONTENT IS CREATED COLLEC足 TIVELY 1.

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IN — INTERACTIVE INSTALLATION The public visibility of all videos prior to the IN event allowed people to respond over time to what had been posted before, this then carried through into the physical manifestation of the piece. The audience were encouraged to respond to the videos they were seeing projected, and reply in follow up videos. This makes use of the natural reaction of responding to shared content with more content; this is another example of a generative system. 23


CONTENT IS CREATED COLLEC足 TIVELY 2.

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CURATED BOOKS This mini project invited a selection of people to suggest a book around a theme I decided. These books were then placed in the library as an installation, which encouraged passers by to look at what had been presented and add to it. This is another example of designer as facilitator, I have not created the content, but the structure that allows people to interact and engage with a piece and each other. It is also another example of contextually sensitive design, a piece that makes use of social structures and objects that are commonplace, but interpreting them in a new way. Books are often left on tables in the Library, and when presented with an open book people will often stop and look, when they probably wouldn't have selected it from the shelves when presented with hundreds of choices. Incorporating a narrative structure to this activity (by using a theme) turns an empty space and everyday situation into an exhibition space by subtle intervention. 25


CONTENT IS CONTEXT SPECIFIC

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CSM X ÉCOLE DES BEAUX-ARTS This performance piece, created in collaboration with Elizabeth Ophelia Alice Rose, was part of the In-Between exhibition discussed earlier. Performed in a non-place in Paris, and streamed into a similar space in London, this performance responded directly to the context it was in. Again I facilitated the set up, and devised the idea, whilst leaving the content up to the Artist in Paris, and to the reaction of the audience present in the London space. The piece explored a number of similar ideas to my IN piece, giving physical substance to a digital medium with an emphasis on audience engagement and social interaction. 27


Post-event conversation between

ELIZABETH ALICE ROSE & TIMOTHY HOLLOWAY via email; 11:52, 2 april 2012. Timothy Describe the performance you gave.

Elizabeth  Using the term 'performance' for the piece is perhaps misleading. It was not a definitive act but more of an experiment. It was not overly thought out but some planning did go into it. The actions were spontaneous but the words were recited from a pre written (but unedited and spontaneous—by myself) text that could be loosely described as a monologue. The words were my direct response to the idea of Non-Place referring to the physical and the imaginary level of space or place. I think the performance was awkward and broken. I think the sense of discomfort was important and a feeling of disconnection from reality apparent. For me the words and the act of reciting them touches on the personal but as an artist I do not expect the viewer to relate with my subconscious feelings. I want the viewer to question the work and visually connect to what they are seeing. Timothy Describe the place you chose to perform, why did you interpret it as a Non-Place?

Elizabeth  I chose to place the 'performance' or work in the caves of The Beaux Arts. I think I struggled to interpret the Non-Place—or at least effectively. But for me the caves represented a space where I felt isolated and where I was separated from the rest of the school. The cave is not a studio or a common room—perhaps more a storage room— inside the cave I feel like I loose track of the place I am in. I am away from Paris. Away from people. Perhaps away from reality. The sense of the eeriness is prevalent. A cave is like a labyrinth. Somewhere to get lost and perhaps loose existence.

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Timothy How did you respond to the set up, performing in Paris to a live audience in CSM , London via a one-way screen, how did that affect the work you chose to deliver?

Elizabeth  Communicating via a screen I was disconnected from the reactions of the audience. I felt like I was alone and unreachable—perhaps even lonely—and a need to know that someone was there. The idea that one is communicating though non-place and to a different space is a vast one. It gives a sense of smallness but also made me feel like I was bouncing through time. Loosing matter. I was aware that my piece was awkward and perhaps didn't want it to be. In the end, the art work was the art work. I could not re-do the speech. The idea of creating art has to be in the instant. What could have changed it— I do not know. 29


RELATIONAL DESIGN SHOULD BE SEEN AS A METHOD OF APPROACH

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TABLE TYPE This piece loosely played with the idea of Relational Design as a method of approach, another subtle intervention in a defined space. Using the studio as a starting point, I rearranged the furniture to spell LOOK UP. No body in the studio was aware of the hidden message in the set up, as it was only viewable from above, on the balcony on the opposite side of the CSM Street. Did rearranging the furniture into unexpected forms create new relations by changing where people could sit? Did anyone read the message from above and respond? The relations created by this piece are unmeasureable, but provide a humorous way of playing with the concept of relational design; physical interventions to encourage human relations. Pieces like this aptly fit into style of work that Bourriaud described in Relational Aesthetics (1998) however it is of the genre that attracted the most criticism, yes new relations are potentially created, by do they hold any value? 31


I define Relational Design in terms of Levels of Engagement. There are 3 forms
of design:

FIXED We engage with our eyes

INTERACTIVE We engage with our eyes and ourselves

RELATIONAL We engage with our senses, ourselves, and others.

Timothy Holloway 2012

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Practising Relational Design by Tim Holloway  

A practical analysis of Relational Design: looking at the origins of the term, and its various uses and definitions, I have set about consol...

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