Faculty: Ankita Trivedi

TA: Niyati Shah - VF

Narrative Objects

Objects underscore our lived experience. They are interfaces that expand our bodies to engage with the world, functioning as prostheses of the mind. The ‘material culture’ of our lives is a mix of both functional and meaningful objects. This studio explored these issues by closely studying everyday objects as representations and extensions of personal and cultural identity that create, what the historian Jennifer A. Gonzalez called, an ‘Autotopography’ or the use of objects to map the “self.” The studio engaged students in the study of objects, selected from their immediate environments, through drawing, systematic analysis, bricolage and storytelling. The interrogation sought to discover how the expressive qualities of objects operated and additionally served as material biographies of individual, family, community and cultural memories. Students then deployed multiple design and visualization tools to create mixed media dioramas of objects and narratives in the form of their own ‘Cabinets of Curiosities’ or ‘Museums of the Self’. Through this studio, students had the opportunity to engage with and reflect on major themes of consumption, aesthetics, value and obsolescence and come to understand the fundamental role of design in creating a meaningful material culture for contemporary society at every scale.

Studio Unit

The studio undertook 4 siloed investigations into objects, identity and material culture. All four investigations followed common conceptualisation methods and were supported by a series of critical readings on Objects. Each investigation included two assignments which led to different visual outputs.

Investigation 1 focused on instilling core skills of abstraction, concept building and analytical thinking. In ‘Narrative Portraits’, students abstracted out their peer’s identity and dominant characteristics to conceptualise a spatial experience. In ‘Object Biographies’, students emptied out the contents of their bag and reflected on why they chose each object and what that says about their consumption patterns. They went on to study one object from the bag in detail to create a series of infographics on their evolution, making, production process, uses & misuses.

Investigation 2 focused on studying the interdependent relationships between bodies, objects and spaces. Students were presented with the question – What would their bodies look like if they were to absorb the characteristics, functions or materiality of their chosen object? This led to a series of non-normative bodies for which students were then asked to re-imagine immediate objects and spaces. The ‘Scenographic experiments’ then brought together the normative and non-normative object-body-space relationship side by side through dioramas.

Investigation 3 encouraged students to go analog with the ‘Found Project’. Students were given a series of prompts that included bringing back objects, fragments and found items from their explorations. Having collated a material pallete from this ethnographic exercise, we focused on creating three strange objects / furniture had to be assemblaged.

Investigation 4 asked students to map 100 objects from their memory to produce a material memory inventory - an autotopography. Students analysed the 100 objects through multiple parameters like form, material, interactions, uses etc. Aspects like valuation, obsolescence, fetishizing – ideas borrowed and reflected upon from their readings also made their way into the inventory. Students then summarised their journey and reflections via a sequential narrative representation.