[W2PDaP] Assignment


Davis explores the subject of social practice art in this article. Historically, it has ties to the revulsion associated with the traditional conception of art: of commodification, elitism and meaningless aesthetic. Rather than reflecting the problem, it is contended, art should solve it instead. This, however, compromises the definition of art. After all, such a conception blurs the lines between art and things like social activism, or everyday happenings.

As found on projectrowhouses.org. An example of an artwork stated in the article.

What was striking to me was the distinction between living as form and forms of living. Admittedly, I understand that it highlights a difference in the order of derivation, but not what that precise difference is meant to be. Let me nevertheless make an attempt.

The connection of living and form is championed in Living as Form, a collection of essays by art critics and theorists. Of particular interest is that by Nato Thompson, a curator who celebrates the idea of Living as Form. He associates almost any “vague aesthetics of social uplift” with this, including even un-choreographed responses to Obama’s election. In the book, specifically, he identifies life as something which is

  • Anti-representational, in being the subject itself than having intentionality towards it,
  • Participatory, in allowing for interaction with participants,
  • Situated in the “real” world, in having a spatial component than intangibility, and
  • Operating in the political world, in having subjects and making impacts related to potentially political issues.

Form is further identified with the sensible qualities of an artwork, where this can include mediums like clay, or gatherings of people. We see, however, that form loses meaning in relation to its concept, where an absolute form can be “criticized, disintegrated, assembled”. Even forms of living, then, can be treated in such a manner.

The distinction, then, is that forms of living refers to styles which emphasise the sensible qualities of their artworks. Living then becomes something artificial, designed only for the sake of aesthetic and commodification. Living as form, on the other hand, emphasises a sort of sincerity. Where it directly relates to life, it is the concept which precedes, and naturally manifests a suitable form.

The article is meant to praise living as form, and of course has good reason to do so. After all, we are rapidly shifting away from a world which appreciates form, into one which appreciates concept more. Nevertheless, it may perhaps still be too hasty to reject form altogether. As stated in the article, form will nevertheless be necessary for even social practice artworks to survive in a capitalist world: the Bank of America likely doesn’t care about the concept behind Project Row Houses, as opposed to how good it looks for their reputation.

Another crucial point is that any regular person’s first contact with an artwork will likely center around the form, than the concept. This is because artworks which are mean to be “real” are situated in environments where they can have a proper impact, than places like museums (which emphasise their visual quality). The typical bystander, however, is unlikely to have awareness of the meaning of an artwork, or even if it is an artwork. It will be solely judged based on its form. On one hand, this could be good in that the artwork attains a sort of anonymity, in blending so well with its environment that it fulfills its objectives of meaningfulness without emphasis on aesthetic quality. On the other hand, it further complicates what it means to be art. Wouldn’t the bucket in my house then be art, in a way not unlike Morrison & Fukasawa’s conception of Super Normal? It’s anti-representational, it’s participatory, situated in the real world, and allows me to draw water, a very political issue. As implied in the article, is it really alright to distinguish art and not-art based on the initiator’s self-imposed status as an artist or not-artist?

Personally, I don’t believe there’s an answer, nor that it is particularly important. It’s a matter of semantic, and I highly doubt that any conceptual error here on the meaning of art would majorly impact the subsequent implications. Or it might. I’m uncertain.


Design, as claimed here by Goodwin, is a craft. He further acknowledges the capacity for design to be an all-encompassing term, but nevertheless limits it to the “visualisation of concrete solutions”. Additionally, such design is limited by real world constraints, such as time and money.

In an attempt to further narrow the scope, he focuses specifically on digital design, and its aspects. Goal-directed design is championed here, where the concept is the starting point, and what drives the entire design. It is further supported by components:

  • Principles, referring to general rules (which apply in most cases) for the design,
  • Patterns, referring to repeated rules on what works (and doesn’t) in specific conditions,
  • Process, referring to how the design is generated through things like research and modelling, and
  • Practices, referring to how the project is efficiently managed.

Processes, as the book’s main focus, is elaborated on in great detail. In simple terms, the design must be justified by research into what people need and want, and how that translates into a particular form. This can include the use of personas and scenarios to test the design, or even actual usability testing. In any case, the design, as something to be used by others, cannot exist in isolation, based solely on the designer’s whims.

Personally, I’m fascinated by the implication of design as something universal. Obviously, analog design is comprehensible enough, but everything as design? It’s not impossible; plenty of people celebrate the bucket as a simple yet modest design. But what kind of implication would that have? Would that mean that Aristotle is right to say that everything has an innate purpose towards which it strives? And, if we accept this teleological stance, what does that mean for us, as beings which are designed? (This is probably the realm of Value Theory, and so I stop here.)

There’s something fascinating about the idea of principles and patterns as well. This is because they can change over time, depending on the norms of each era. It was once normal, for example, to type with a number pad. Now, hardly anyone is expected to press 44 444 8443377733. It became a principle that mobile phones use a keyboard, out of nothing but convention (and convenience, maybe?). This might mean that a kind of dictionary and/or archive must be held, to track present trends in what is acceptable and not.


The separation of design and art in the second article is also somewhat concerning for people like us. What does it mean to major in Design Art, when the two don’t necessarily coincide?

This is also related to the first article, where most professors emphasise concept, and can accept an incomplete form. While on exchange, I discovered that 100%-design clusters often take design to mean that even the problem to be solved is raised by users, through interviews and surveys.

My take-home exam for a user experience principles course. Note the different terminologies, which follows the Nielsen Norman Group style.


User Flow, as introduced in Interactive I.

Here, however, much of our creative liberty is retained. Most projects are based off “what I want to do”. which sometimes (but not always) includes “what I think people need”. Note that it is about “what I think”, than “what I have ascertained”, too. Even so, most project presentations turn out fairly well, with no major obstructions to user experience.

Something that Shah said before also stands out here, where he suggested that we are not necessarily inferior to computer science students: while they have a better understanding of software and how to actualise a concept, we have a better understanding of the concept itself. In other words, we’re more likely to think of ideas, but less likely to be able to execute form. (Many exceptions exist, like Angela He. Either way, this is why collaborations between artists and engineers exist.)

Does this mean that the aspect of the artist, in fact, supports the aspect of the designer, in allowing us to ideate something relevant to the user? Or does this mean that we still have more that we can be doing, as designers, to eliminate even minor obstructions?

As always, I have no answers.

The readings, and their links:

  • Davis, B. (2013). A Critique of Social Practice Art. In International Socialist Review, Issue #90. As found at https://isreview.org/issue/90/critique-social-practice-art
  • Goodwin, K. (2009). Chapter 1: Goal-Directed Product and Service Design. In Goodwin, K. Designing for the Digital Age, pp. 2-13. As found at https://oss.adm.ntu.edu.sg/19s2-dm3010-tut-g01/wp-content/uploads/sites/9263/2020/01/CH01_Digital_Age_Goodwin-1.pdf
  • Thompson, N. (2012). Living as Form. In Thompson, N. (ed). Socially Engaged Art From 1991-2011, pp. 16-33. As found at http://cp.art.cmu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/living-as-form.pdf
  • Featured image from New Museum Store
  • Sorry I submit late I overslept 🙁

[IfD] W1&2 Activity Recaps


The exercise involved 1) marking a few random points on the paper, and 2) joining the points with any desired lines. Part 3) involved handing the paper to someone else to interpret, as represented by the pink lines on mine.

During the exercise, I chose to use a continuous line. Interestingly, too, mine turned out quite… Excessive, compared to others’ more modest pieces which weren’t so overdrawn. Another interesting point is that whoever drew over mine had similar interpretations of “flowers” at the same places. (It’s also very adorable.)

It’s similarly intriguing that my interpretation for Part 3 tried to retain the original form of the piece by filling spaces in a similar style, than drawing over it. I didn’t expect everyone to work over, than with the piece. Perhaps that’s something to consider when doing Assignment 1, seeing as I can’t always try to preserve the original truth.


The first exercise involved playing with shapes, in a manner reminiscent of the Bauhaus style. It seems that the exercise becomes easier if you use a circle as your primary shape, versus other angular forms.

My solution to everything was to increase the Stroke thickness, to the extent that it covers up the original form (or at least, tries to). I did try other solutions, such as re-identifying the circle as a culmination of triangles, not unlike low-poly 3D, or marking the circle as “c’est triangle”.

Again, it is almost unfortunate how messy and heavy my piece is, compared to everyone else. Perhaps I’m missing a memo?

The second exercise involved depicting each other on paper, of which I only had a marker. Since I lack confidence in my ability to capture shapes accurately, I started from the hair, using it to frame the other shapes through negative space. Everyone else’s feels much more well-structured, as a result.

On another note, I’m very happy with how the rendition of me turned out, which feels oddly apt:

[PP] W1 Biography et al

1. Two Biographies

There is person named En Cui and she is an avid learner in design softwares. There are so many things that has learned throughout her time in school of ADM. She teaches herself all the things that she thinks is necessary to learn which makes her someone who is an independant, self-initiated learner. Despite her struggle with 3D modelling initially, one would usually abandon the software and not come back to it until neccessary. But for Avel, she takes the initiative to rework on improving her level of understanding in Blender, Rhino, Maya as much as she can, in order to keep herself competent design world. Avel has an interest producing  works which are relatively functional, not so much artistic/especially, that engages with the human touch. For example, some of her works include using pressure sensor, sounds and on one ocassion, for Wearable Art & Technology, she produced a customepiece with an added interactive elements such as music and colour, to fascinate the viewers. She also has in interest in Philosophy, a major she is also pursuing. Aside from her love for design, she feels that learning about the theories of human nature and how the world works, would make her a more self-aware and improved version of herself.

All works begin from the concept. That is a guiding principle of En Cui, a designer who prioritises the objective above all. While her primary major is in interactive media, she is an insatiable learner with a strong desire for self-improvement. Functionality is also a key principle for Avel, who is interested in works directed towards the client and user. As such, she pursues any knowledge which may be helpful to self-betterment, and the needs of the client. This, for example, is reflected in her self-initiated study of 3D modelling, which she persevered to learn despite her struggles. It has also paid off, where she has used such knowledge for freelance jobs in 3D production for games. Her strong principles are also reflected in her second major of Philosophy, which develops her as a critical thinker, and as a person curious about the world around us. This has also proved useful in her interactive works, where code and logic often intersect. Hear/Here, for example, combines her interest in one’s ability to connect with surrounding sounds, with mathematical programming. Such works also show a penchant for the human touch, in an effort to fulfill the artistic function of evoking emotion.

2. Sample Work

Hear/Here ~Colours of the Wind~ by Avel Chee & Elizabeth Quek

There are always gaps in noises and sounds. This project revolves around a portable device which samples the overall surrounding sound and, in response, lights up in corresponding colours. The user is thus provided easy access to information regarding the noise in their surroundings. These colours also vary with time. The colours are based on a calculation where ‘red’ is volume , ‘green’ is octave-irrespective pitch and ‘blue’ is octave-relative pitch; the numerical frequencies of sounds are converted into RGB values for the device. An array is also used to convey the movement in sound across time, where the information in the array is eventually overwritten in time.

3. Resume, which is very outdated, at this link: http://ecxiya.sessya.net/en/cvresume.html

4. Inspiring Work

xxxHolic by CLAMP

By all rights, this should just be another useless Japanese comic, made only for entertainment and nothing more. I initially picked it up only because the art style was beautiful, and I desired to emulate it. When I read it, however, I resonated with many of its themes, and cried at certain points. It was thanks to this manga that I realised art could have meaning without tangible practicality, especially in relation to emotions and sense of self.