There is an apocryphal story about a (German) employment hiring test. Candidates are presented with a sphere, a cube, and a pyramid and asked to attempt to balance them into a tower. Any candidate who even touches them is immediately disqualified as it is deemed impossible.
This week’s workshop challenge is more a lesson in scoping than podcasting; there is no way to address a BAHG/wicked problem, find a dynamically (whatever that means) opposing collaborator, brainstorm solutions and boil it down to a ten-minute podcast, thus attempting it must be a form of hubris, which is a good thing – the Greeks taught us that. perhaps attempting it is a sign of
In addition, here in the former colonies, it is not the ideal time either. This is partly George III’s fault, and the French Navy, as well as a printer putting dating on his work. It’s the Fourth of July here, that date, 243 years ago when a printer dated the reproduction of a proposed constitution, which started an annual celebration of a collaboration that is currently showing mixed results. All of which is to say, it is the time of year when a lot of people are not readily available.
I initially was focused on contacting gallery owners or curators as this seemed germane to my project, but apart from the aforementioned issues, I found it a bit too obvious. I thought that perhaps looking at how art and design work (or do not), in creating community cohesion – where their strengths and weaknesses lie could be more interesting and a bit muddier.
The person, I chose to interview, or have a discussion with, is not fundamentally, or dynamically (still don’t know what that means,) opposed to me, but she does have an artist’s approach, as opposed to a designer’s. I am hoping to look at a variety of things through her (artist’s) eyes and focus the conversation on a project that she was a part of aimed at fostering discourse, communication, on the US/Mexico border, which has always been a place of tension and, sadly, has only grown in its tragedies.
Gran Baker’s teeth
When my grandmother was still alive and in her early 70s she started to have a mysterious shrinking of her front teeth. She went to a dentist who was so flummoxed by this condition he actually took photographs. He asked her all the questions he could think of, and no, my grandmother replied to all of them, she was doing anything unusual. Months, or maybe years later, upon returning from shopping with one of her grandchildren, she was observed opening her front door. With her arms full of bags and being just 4’10”, she would have to use three different keys (my grandfather was all about safety) to open her front door, she negotiated this by using her mouth to hold one key while finding the next one on the keyring. For years, she had been grinding down her teeth with a combination of Chubb and Yale lock keys. Asking individuals questions is good, but observation is better. many of us don’t – or no longer – see the inconveniences or problems that we deal with on a daily basis. In fact, the more frequent the problem, the more likely we might be using a workaround – a life-hack, the kids call it – that any problem seems perfectly normal and unmentionable.
Questions can be leading, or too vague, or too demanding and I suppose it is not about arguing or getting convincing someone else of your opinion, although, this does finally feel dynamically opposed. I am hoping to have a free-flowing conversation and let Diana take into the areas that she wants to talk about. having said that, Diana also really likes talking about dogs, so a plan of some sort to start her out, and being cognizant of when the conversation is veering off in a direction that is less related to the topic is probably important. I also sent her the question prior to the recording, not for her to do homework, but to be prepared, consider her options, thoughts, etc, and also allow her to make suggestions about the topics as well. She has not yet.
There is something extraordinarily valuable in talking to either an expert in a field or one immersed in an area that one is not; it can be a short cut and open new lines of investigation, new connections, books, articles. In many ways, it can be considered a momentary collaboration but is it also ‘simply’ primary research, unless it grows into a joint effort, or shared resources, it is not really a collaborative effort. In part, this is why I want to speak to an artist, – and one with a design education background – because while I am certainly interested in the factual experience of her projects, there are both anecdotal and also mere statements of things that happened, problems that were faced; I am more interested in a different approach or methodology. I don’t just want to learn about conditions on the border, or growing up as a minority, I want to learn a little and even incorporate a methodology that differs from mine.
‘If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.‘*
Just a word of warning, sometimes following experts’ advice can lead to iterative designs or legacy designs, talking to experts is imperative, following them not necessarily so.
It also bears considering the benefits of entertaining the thoughts and opinions of someone dynamically or diametrically opposed to oneself; or perhaps, defining what opposing means. Opposing does not have to mean holding opposite opinions or beliefs or agenda. However, listening to a view that is either contrary to yours, or an opinion on a subject with which one is not familiar can be beneficial. Arguing with an evangelical Christian about Darwin is maybe not a good use of one’s time. Arguing can also work as a crucible, it can help define your shaky beliefs and opinions and forge them into a better communicated or more clearly defined steely mission and manifesto. The problem with diametrically opposed views,
This exercise has a slight whiff of, a faint scent of Eau de Teoriya Resheniya Izobretatelskikh Zadatch, “Theory of the resolution of invention-related tasks” commonly known as TRIZ, one of the models within it is to apply processes used in vastly differing business sectors or areas, One example is the use of metal detectors in sawmills implemented in Airport security after the realisation that the growing number of flyers would actually have to move through faster and with better security. After looking at screening methods in other sectors, the use of metal detectors to screen logs for metal to protect blades and workers was adapted for airports.
The glue that keeps the gears together
As mentioned, I wanted to speak to an artist to get a sense of her approach and what I might learn from it, how it might differ from a designer’s process, but the idea of community and cohesion is also interesting to me. I am still not sure how to define a community, and in certain instances, be it segregation in the United States or the attempts to integrate Mirpuris in Britain, it seems poetically counter-intuitive in that to create greater cohesion one must mix more…I suppose it is not that counter-intuitive, to anyone who has baked a cake or mixed a cocktail – but does cohesion benefit from homogenisation? A salad is better before being blended. My guess would be that it will be a complex issue with no simple one-size-fits-all solution. The late Jonathan Gold refers to – in this case – Los Angeles as a great mosaic, and in one of the final poignant moments, he seems to both cherish the differences in, and separations between the cultures and yet yearn for more inclusion. there is something on a macro level about community and collaboration, collaboration is not about a herd following a leader, or mob-rules, there is independence, diversity, and individualism in a successful collaboration, this seems to have parallels to a successful community
Similarly, post-war new towns were initially seen as a great success of socialism, (they might still be were it not for the Milksnatcher -in-chief) lifting many poor Eastenders out of their squalor. I am not an expert, but it would appear that decades on, a sense of individualism took hold, and in the case of Essex, they have literally become a joke.
Questions for/sent to Diana
Why is community important?
Where is its value?
What role does culture play and what would you include in the definition of culture?
Where does cultural appropriation fit in all of this, e.g. can you teach crafts of one group to another?
You worked with Tanya Aguiniga on some of her projects, AMBOS being the most recent and most well-known, what were some of – or your main – takeaways from working with different groups and a multi-disciplinary team
In your opinion is community being eroded and if so how and why?
Is this only or mainly happening in urban centres?
Does the internet play a role in this erosion?
Can you foster community cohesion online?
What role does economic opportunity play in community cohesion
cohesion vs ghettoisation
Can arts and/or design play a role in fostering community cohesion?
Here is the link to the ‘final’ podcast.
I did dread this task, mostly because of the required format and the need to work with someone else, plan, ask for favours, intrude upon their life, and hear ones voice over and over again for hours at a time. It took an almost unbelievable amount of time to edit and put together the final piece. All of which, I assume, were part of the learning outcomes.
I still don’t know if I am dynamically opposed to Diana’s views, I don’t know if I would consider it a collaboration, and I am not sure if it was the best format. I do know though that Diana and I continue to communicate about the subject.
I think one can hear how both of us either get more comfortable towards the end or forget that we are being recorded, learning that the more I – or indeed – we were to do this, the more natural(better) it will sound and become. I do understand community cohesion a little more, though, really not that much more.
I also know there is probably easier to stack a cube, sphere, and pyramid than to edit this down into ten minutes.
Also – in an ironic twist, all the images that I used have not been cleared and are a stunning violation of copyrights.
It should also be noted that while ‘Dinner For One’ is played on a loop every New Year’s Eve, it isn’t so much popular as it is a strange cultural tradition.
*Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice