Reflection on Constellation at Level 5

In term 1, I chose a study group with a slightly different theme to those that I chose in first year. I was very lucky and got my top choice all three times! I chose Postanthropocentric Practices because I wanted to do something slightly different, to see if I would enjoy it. I did enjoy the study groups, but I did find the concepts more difficult than those of the groups in first year (Ashley Morgan and Cath Davies’ groups), I think because it was more conceptual than what I was used to! I just had to spend a little longer getting my head around the theories and ideas. My formative essay did use some of the theories we studied, so overall I would say trying something new was a success! I was also able to use the theories to relate back to my subject, textiles. My essay was about how the environment is affected by the processes of printing and dying, and made myself more aware of how the techniques that I use affect the environment. I want to be more environmentally friendly in the future, in both my practice and in my home life, because it is important to me that everyone tries their best to be more environmentally friendly. I feel that every small change, even if it’s just putting one more tin in the recycling, makes a difference. I hope that in my next project, I can find ways to be more responsible for what I make and that I know where all or the majority of my materials come from and whether they are recycled or not.

When we returned in term 2, it was decision time on what I wanted to write my dissertation about. Having spent three of the four weeks we had to fill in the form in India during the field module, I felt like I didn’t really have time to figure it out, as it wasn’t at the top of my priorities whilst on the other side of the world! Originally I decided to look at comparing the interior design of palaces in the UK and palaces in India. This was because we had seen a few palaces whilst on the trip to India, and the decoration is vastly different to that of similar places I had been to in the UK. Different rooms often had entirely different colour schemes and themes, and in one palace there was even a mirror room! Every surface was covered in reflective pieces, the floor, the walls and the ceiling as well as all the furniture! I soon realised, after doing some research on palaces, that palaces, however impressive and pretty, didn’t really interest me enough to write about them. I’m more intrigued by the average household, and all the different styles and tastes within interior design. In my subject, designing for interiors is always the area I head towards when we are given a brief. I’m longing for the day when I can decorate a whole house however I like!

For my dissertation, I have decided to research why we buy objects – material culture and consumerism within interior design. Having previously studied sociology, looking at how other people influence the decisions people make and why people do things interests me. From what I have already researched, I have discovered that there can be so many different meanings for the same object, depending on who owns the object. If an object is an heirloom for example, it has memories of the previous owner attached to it. But if there is an identical copy which someone else owns, it could just be something that the owner likes the look of. Social class or gender could affect what an object’s meaning is too, and this is one of the things I hope to learn more about as I continue to read and research further. How we decorate our homes also represents our personalities, just like what we choose to wear and how we do our hair and make up. What someone wears tells others things about that person’s personality or views, sometimes subtly or sometimes very obviously. The same basic principle applies in the home, even with tidiness for example. A messy, cluttered house tends to give off the impression that whoever lives there is unorganised, and that they hang on to things, be it physical or figuratively. Whereas a tidy house would imply that they are organised and perhaps more of a professional than those in the untidy house. Aesthetics of objects also have an influence on what someone buys, and in my proposal, I used the example of an Apple Watch. As the watch was designed to go alongside the iPhone, it needed to be designed in the same way, using the same materials, other wise it would probably not have sold as well. In the home, it may be even more precise, as the object needs to fit in with the theme that has been chosen within a room and unlike fashion, interior design isn’t as interchangeable, as most people only decorate every few years at the most!

At first, I found getting into the research difficult to start and get into, and because I changed my subject, I had a bit less time to find resources; but as time went on I knew I had to get on with it, and once I got into reading and writing, I found it easier than I thought I would. However, I think I should have started earlier as I found myself getting quite stressed – it was a lesson learnt! I am excited to research more into my dissertation subject and I will definitely start writing in plenty of time next time around!

Postanthropocentric Practices – Materials or Materiality?

In this session, we discussed materials – how they are wild and how we control them. An example of this is water: it becomes domesticated in the home, controlled by us via taps. It becomes wild again when we make a mistake, e.g if the tap is left on slightly, or if a glass of water gets knocked over.

“Material things, like people, are processes, and that their real agency lies precisely in the fact that ‘they cannot always be captured and contained” (Ingold, 2010, p. 8)

We always think of making as a project that we use materials for our own purposes, rather than working alongside them, which is known as hylomorphism. However when you consider the making process, most practices involve input from the material itself; not just the person who decided what to do with the materials. For example, in my own subject area (Textiles), I cannot think of a process that only involves the material itself. In stitch, a sewing machine is used most of the time, and even when it isn’t, a needle is still used. In dye and print, some sort of machine/apparatus is used in every process.

“I want to think of making, instead, as a process of growth. This is to place the maker from the outset as a participant in amongst a world of active materials. These materials are what he has to work with, and in the process of making he ‘joins forces’ with them, bringing them together or splitting them apart, synthesising and distilling, in anticipation of what might emerge. […] Far from standing aloof, imposing his designs on a world that is ready and waiting to receive them, the most he can do is to intervene in worldly processes that are already going on, and which give rise to the forms of the living world that we see all around us – in plants and animals, in waves of water, snow and sand, in rocks and clouds – adding his own impetus to the forces and energies in play.” (Ingold, 2010, p.21)

I think this quote relates to my practice a lot, as I said previously; it relies on a lot of machinery to achieve the outcomes intended. I have to work with a sewing machine to create patterns on materials, which would not be possible without the machine and threads I co-operate with while making. Any form of printing involves another material, even if it is just basic potato prints made by children. They join forces with the potato, using it’s structure to hold the shape they want to print with.

Postanthropocentric Practices – Air, Wind and Dust

The first session of this study group introduced us to the concept that we live in a ‘more than human’ world and gave us a initial understanding of the word ‘Postanthropocentric’. Anthropocentrism means that as humans, we are selfish and only focus on ourselves, ignoring the other creatures and the planet we live on. This is apparently particularly true of ‘Generation Me’, those born after 1992. However I think that this a huge generalisation, as not every single person born after that date can be completely self obsessed and not care about everything going on around them.

We looked at three texts, each respectively looking at the human concepts of air, wind and dust. The first was Abram’s ‘Remembering’ (1996) where he says “the air has indeed become the most-taken-for granted of phenomena” which is very true, because until you make yourself think about it, we just breathe the air without taking any notice of it. The second text was Hippocrates’ ‘Breaths’ (370 BC), where he states that without wind, we could not live. We wouldn’t be able to breath, which is the one thing we cannot live without. We can go without food or drink for a few days, but as soon as we are deprived of the air our lungs need, we die.  The third text we read was Wallace’s ‘The Importance of Dust’ (1898). The two main points from this text are that without dust, there would be much more darkness in the world, as dust reflects light. It also gives us things we don’t necessarily like, but are essential to us, such as “dirt, discomfort and even disease”.

Towards the end of the session, we got into groups and wrote a piece focussing on one of the three elements we studied, and applied it to an object. Our object was a lighthouse and we focussed on dust, here is the outcome:

I’m not saying I want to feel special, but without me, you are nothing. You may have colour, you may have stripes, but without me, you’re basically a pointy block of concrete.

You’re so naive, you think it’s you that guides all the ships in. You take all the credit, when in fact it’s me. Dust.

So what if you’ve got a big flashing light, it’s my particles that make it visible.

You started as dust, you’re now a lighthouse, but soon you’ll rejoin me. But that’s besides the point. I’m sick of all the respect you get for saving all those lives. Did you not know your light has to pass through me?

You think it’s just you and those sailors out here? I hold back the torrent of the tide, if it weren’t for my presence in the atmosphere, the rains would be murderous.

Ok, so fair enough, you’re a pretty handsome lighthouse. But if it weren’t for my particles trapping the sun’s sassy rays, you would be invisible, like me, and I would probably abandon you.

You know, there are other houses, houses that would have little light if it weren’t for me, if I was not here, the sun would shine directly into them but then every spot out of its direct rays would be completely dark. Except for the light reflecting off the walls.

You think the sun is great? I disperse it’s light to make you sexy by day and a hero by night. You think that stupid spinning light on your head has all the power? I HAVE ALL THE POWER.

I give you the pure blue of the sky, the glories of the sunset and the sunrise, the dusk and the dawn of your heroics. It’s not all about you, half the beauty of the world would vanish without me. You self centred prick.

You should be called the dust house.