Project Development — Body Storming (Body Dysmorphic Disorder)

1. Set Up


2. Interaction

3. Reflections

1. What did you learn from the process?


I have learnt that our work might not have the same effect in the two different genders and might be inefficient when conveying our messages.


Initially when we told to make a cardboard prototype for the body storming process I was honestly a little sceptical of its necessity. I didn’t see the need to do so till I went through the process of it and understood its importance for our final piece. It was a test run that allowed us to pick up on any potential weak links or loopholes in our object that could affect our interaction on the actual day itself. I learnt that it was crucial to take into account all 5 senses when making our work because as humans we are not trained to isolate them from one another. As such, when approaching our work all 5 senses of our tester were engaged and simultaneously too. If our main form of interaction was to be through hearing or sight then we had to provide a kind of sensory hierarchy within our work itself so as not to confuse our audience. In our instructions we wrote to smell and feel the ‘wig’ before putting it on. However during the interaction we learned that the touching element was unnecessary and confusing. Sometimes it is better to target specific senses that relate to our topic of design noir than to try to engage all senses with the same intensity. We learned that we had to reign our concepts in and distill them down to make it more focused and targetted. I also learned that during the actual interaction itself we would have zero control over our audience and as such the work had to be as self explanatory as possible. We also learned that the impact of our uncomfortable wig may differ according to the gender/sexual orientation of the person wearing it. Though initially I felt like this may be something we had to address, I personally feel that each person has their own ways of feeling discomfort and we do not necessarily have to try to make everyone feel the same thing. In some sense an object that could self adapt itself and be versatile enough to incite discomfort in all kinds of people is stronger than one that only works on certain type of people.

2. What surprised you while going through the process?


I was surprised that the tester actually able to kinda know what to do and know our intentions of the work.


What surprised me most was the level of discomfort and intrigue displayed by our tester from the moment she interacted with our object. I did not think we were going to get that much of a reaction from our prototype. She was visibly intrigued from the start when she could not stop sniffing the object. And also shocked when the male moaning sounds were emitted when the wig was put on. However she also said she felt confused. Surprisingly she more or less also managed to figure out on her own what he main intent of our work was – body dysphoria and to make people feel uncomfortable in their own skin. Another surprising reaction was her reluctance to disengage with the object completely despite her shock and discomfort. She kept wanting to sniff the pleasant and flowery scent of the YSL fragrance we had doused the wig in. This to me was a potential area we could work on to further strengthen our final interactive piece.

3. How can your apply what you have discovered to the designing of your installation?


I think we can make our work more catered to the two genders like separately: eg. instead of wig it can be female and male underwear.


After the interaction, during the critique from our peers we understood that the effect may not be constant throughout all orientations. Someone mentioned that if it was a gay person and they heard the moaning sounds, it may be more pleasant as opposed to our initial concept that if a male person wore it, it would question their masculinity. We failed to take into account the diversity of the demographics that exist within our audience and that is something we had to adjust. Though someone suggested designing two separate objects for the Two different genders, I personally feel that making one object that would affect the two separate genders equally would be more effective and powerful. For our final interaction we will be using a full frontal mirror with a modified and maybe more androgynous wig with the focus on the sound and smell. We also understood that the shock element of the moaning was too abrupt and resulted in an ambiguous state for the tester, after it was played. We will have to create a proper and gradual arc – start, a moment of breath before the sound, gradual increase in intensity/discomfort of the sound, and ending of interaction. I would want to incorporate the reluctance our tester displayed in leaving our interaction, into our final piece. However we had to make the journey of the interactivity itself smooth first.

Research Critique — Suicide Box/Design Noir

Design Noir according to Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, is part of a contemporary yet forward approach towards Design. It is ‘avant grade’ and controversial in the way it challenges the mass production mindset that the industry has etched in the minds of many designers. However it is not just ‘weird’ for the sake of wanting to be recognised as a sub cultural movement – it rides on familiar objects that mass people have a pre existing relation to and harnesses the advancement of technology, to produce relevant objects that critique the current state of society or design. It provides an alternate space for a paradigm of multi realities to exist by rejecting the idea of one physical reality. They argue for the push of this sort of art as it is important for the sustainability and credibility of the creative power we possess as designers. When one has the avenue to mass audience and hence the chance to ‘mass produce’ subversion, they should utilise it to destabilise capitalist mindsets instead of falling back into designing within the restrictions and motivations of the ‘marketplace’. Many creative agencies only employ provocative or controversial projects as a ‘testament’ to their creativity in the form of prototype objects. However within their modus operandi, these ideas are never seriously entertained or tackled. They become a far fetched imagined reality.

In line with this, Natalie created Bureau of Inverse Technology (BIT) — a self made fictional corporation run by essentially herself. It acted as a front to legitimately conceptualise experimental products that would be taken seriously – not just as explorations by an individual artist. According to Dunne and Raby, it is ‘more sinister’ when an organisation engages in a set of subversive works. Suicide Box is one key ‘product’ that was conceptualised in its time as a critical design work. It involved placing a motion detector and video camera near  the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to track vertical movements in its frames – its aim to capture the moment every time someone tried to jump down from the bridge. A ‘engineering report’ was post produced to suggest how Suicide Box could be harnessed to ‘calculate a robust and and market responsive value of life’. This slightly invasive and desensitised approaches towards documenting suicide as an empirical factor (rate of suicide) (see Image 1.), makes it a ‘box’ that measures the rate of suicide over time. It takes the guise of a mass produced form of high technology (motion sensor camera) with underlying dark undertones. It’s function does not change. It works the same way an industry based motion sensor might be used to calculate the number of rain drops falling per hour. However it explores an uncharted and alternate reality that before this was not seen as a viable medium for this particular technology.

This hence falls under critical design to show the industry that technology and everyday products can be employed to greater and deeper use if one were to view it not just as a money making piece of hardware but as some sort of archetypal object. It relates back to how Dunne and Raby in their article argue that it is necessary to pursue and ‘realise’ unpopular design due to the implications popular design have for both us as designers and society in the future. Unpopular Design, unlike Popular Design, rejects the idea of a fixed reality and proposes the blurring of the conceptual and real. It is capable making the conceptual more ‘real’ to consumers while at the same time pushing for the ideology of multi realities that should be explored and reflected through design.

Image 1.