Constellation Session #2Posted: October 23, 2015
Content with last week’s work and ready to start this whole process again I arrived at my Constellation study group ‘thing’ this afternoon, and only 7 minutes late this time.
Another day, another long academic text to read. Luckily this one was written by a stuck up, closed minded, business and science man from the 1930s trying to impose male dominated Western culture on the Middle East, so it wasn’t too difficult. It was a piece on the importance of a single international language, something to merge all cultures together, make teaching easier and more accessible and to completely diminish all diversity, cultural differences and world views.
We also read a poem called The Blind Men and the Elephant written in 1865 by John Godfrey Saxe. The poem is based on a Hindu fable about a group of blind men who are each presented with a different area of an elephant to touch and render an image of. These images were then combined to create a collage of what the elephant looks like to the men, together. All men then proceed to argue over the appearance of the elephant, claiming that it is like a wall, spear, snake, tree, fan and rope, when in reality, while all having a small grasp on the truth, were all ultimately in the wrong. The moral of the poem is that it is ignorant to talk about something you know very little about without acknowledging the views of others or a ‘bigger picture’. It is impossible to fully know how anyone else experiences the world and there is no universal truth.
This is something I have been interested in for a while, often pondering the idea of colour in particular and how, in theory, people could and almost certainly do, see colour differently and there is very little we can do in order to understand or imagine this. Similarly with how we see generally, all organisms have different ways of experiencing the senses, including sight, be this through a larger amount of eyes, infrared, heat sensitive or night time vision etc.
This is something I imagine, and hope, will be explained and discussed further on in this course and something which is encouraging me to stay focused and interested in this course instead of continuing my attempts at changing to Jayne’s group.
In the second half of the session, and after an always well needed Caffè Mocha to wake me up, we analysed an extract of text about creation as destruction. The text explains how by designing something, something else must be destroyed. For instance, to make a wooden table you might have to cut down a 100 year old tree for materials. This then impacting on a whole ecosystem of animals, fungi, organisms all relying on and interacting with the tree in some way. Similarly some products require concentration, meaning the use of factories, which could result in the damage of human health by working under dangerous and compromising conditions. The argument here is whether or not the designed product is, or should be, worth the destruction of the tree, or human health, and further, if the table should therefore be used for 100 years in order to ‘counter’ the destruction.
I think there are a multitude of messages Tonkinwise is trying to communicate to his audience, albeit in a dramatic and quite harsh, exagerated way for effect, as a manifesto for change. Firstly, and the main point I have taken from this session is that, as artists and designers, we have to be responsible for our work. Our design work is somethibg that will ‘keep going’, it is a means rather than an end. The production of design is not the end of its journey; it has the potential to be used, to contribute to society and even to change the world, however slight. we have to be considerate of the concequences of design; how it will affect the people involved in its production and how the destruction of resources will affect the environment.
What I think Tonkinwise is proposing is that we, as designers, concentrate more on the ‘undesigning’ of design, to focus on quality over quantity and to “prune” down the amount of design that is being conducted in exchange for design that is ‘worth’ the destruction it causes.
There is also the suggestion that the preservation of our environment by being considerate does have an underlying human centred approach. We, as humans’ cannot survive without the planet (the planet can, and will, survive without us).