Friday, March 14, 2008

Reimagining the everyday

I love getting email about new research, art and design projects that address theories and critiques of everyday life!

Alexis Lloyd's paper Performing the Mundane: Interventions in Everyday Life (pdf) "explores the ways in which artists are utilizing design objects, performance, and interventionist practices to create spaces for play, ritual, and poetry in the midst of everyday experience. Specifically, the paper examines these issues through an analysis of the works of Andrea Zittel, Improv Everywhere, and Tim Etchells."

The Concrete JungleWhile Alexis' locative media projects are also interesting, it was actually The Concrete Jungle street art installation that made me smile the most. Maybe it's my love of miniatures and animals, but there is something simply joyous about this kind of interaction design. Sure some critics could dismiss it as cloying, but consider these two points. First, unlike most work in ID, it doesn't cater just to the technological elite. In fact, I imagine all sorts of gadget-less people quite delighted by small gorillas swinging from fences, and rhinos storming over parking meters. Secondly, it does not require any direct interaction. While walking down a busy urban street, to simply catch a glimpse of a tiny lion stalking a tiny herd of antelope is enough to change one's frame of mind without demanding immediate action. In other words, the intervention is subtle and open-ended. Very, dare I say, everyday life.

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I love carnivalesque moments or events precisely because they disrupt time and space, and force me to acknowledge things that I might otherwise miss or avoid. But I also like to remember that Walter Benjamin characterised boredom as "the apogee of mental relaxation," the "dream bird that hatches the egg of experience," the "threshold to great deeds." In places that constantly seek to move faster, to stimulate further, the ability to actually be bored is a triumph of sorts. It means we haven't been captivated by the spectacular, that we've managed to resist the logic of efficiency.

In their Open 11 essay, Mindful Disconnection: Counterpowering The Panopticon from the Inside (pdf), Howard Rheingold and Eric Kluitenberg remind us that when we design for urban computing the important question is "whether we can develop procedures, methods, possibilities, spaces for 'selective connectivity', which make it practical to choose to extract ourselves from the electronic control grid from time to time and place to place." At the end of the article they list a bunch of interesting projects that offer the possibility to disconnect--note how some are illegal.

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Returning to the notion of wild versus domesticated spaces, Robert Willim wrote to tell me about an interesting project he's done with Anders Weberg, Domestic Safari: Home as a Wild Place. They asked "What if we started to see the material worlds of domestic settings as wild places? Is there a potential for the exotic and uncanny in the inconspicuously mundane?" and eventually came up with a ten minute film that takes the viewer through three different homes in Finland, Italy and Sweden. As they explain: "This audiovisual excursion aims to call forth imaginaries and a profane illumination that disorient and estrange the materialities of everyday reality."

Domestic SafariPersonally, I did find it disorienting. There are bits that appear to take place underwater or on the forest floor, rather than in a house--and the music can be more than a bit discomforting. This is no home I'd want to live in! But I'm intrigued by the idea, and I hope they put up some more documentation. I'd like to know what they think we can learn from repositioning the domestic as the wild...

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4 Comments:

Blogger A.S. Galvan said...

In Portland, Oregon I've noticed that someone(body?) is tying toy horses to the antique horse rings all over the city. In Googling to get you some more information, I found a whole Flickr pool!

http://www.flickr.com/groups/allthetinyhorses/pool/

20:56  
Anonymous Greg said...

Sweet! Thanks Anne.

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