Tag Archives: play

LORE :: Androgyny

Over the course of a few years, I’ll tie different strands that I research together. I use LORE as a term for this package of research; LORE in the sense of “folklore” but also as “body of traditions” or (in)visible cultural norms we abide by. First, because everything I do places itself in storytelling. Also, because I live and die for a good faerytale. And lastly, because I was invited by an indigenous elder to learn with her. In Wirradjirri, the indigenous Australian Dreaming is referred to as LAW/LORE, which opened up a whole new way of thinking about culture and ethics as a way to “law”. The different strands that I collect under LORE are emerging as I evolve. The first theme that came to me was Androgyny, or generally everything that’s in-between.

To get my ethnography going I started a facebook group to start a conversation about the “in between” across many domains: sex (on being both masc/fem as male/female), politics (on binaries and unity), creativity (on being ambidextrous), mind (on reasoning and sensing), culture (on science and art), philosophy (on spirituality and logic). It’s about integration and remix and what it means when it gets jumbled in a body; how it (re)presents itself in the world; and about our agency. Something important is shifting globally and here’s a forum to move beyond binaries.

Soon after I had about 300 group members, I invited those based in Sydney to a local workshop, a playground to explore and make-do. We were about 20, meeting for 3h at Join the Dots, a workshop space in Marrickville. We had queers, cis, mums, dads, singles, Europeans, Australians, freelancers, artists, consultants, yoga teachers, designers, employees, entrepreneurs, writers, musicians, academics, artists, oh dear so many, all between the age of 5 to 50.

The main questions we asked when designing this playground were:
– How can we soften current labels around gender, queerness or heteronormativity?
– How can we soften ubiquitous divisive/competitive language (i.e in Business and Science) to a more androgynous/integrative one?
– How can we play in between binaries and make people comfortable with that fuzziness?

We started with a little identity change. We gave each participant a small tag. On the one side they first estimated their percentage of feminine and masculine traits. For example,  today I feel 70% feminine and 30% masculine in a female body. Then, we turned the tag around and wrote on the other side. This time, we would choose the opposite or a variation that is very alien to me. For example, I would now have a male body and feel 90% and 10% feminine. The idea was to tap into empathy. Once we had our characters, we all pledged to stay in character throughout the workshop. When we did this, Baran played the hang for us. The atmosphere was so joyful, chilled and energised. Loved it. 

Before the workshop we had asked everyone to bring three objects, ne that is masculine, one feminine and one neutral. We laid out a large butcher paper and everyone traced their object and took it away again. Just looking at the outlines, the group walked around and wrote adjectives next to the traces. This way, we collected impressions about shapes and outlines that hint on masculine and feminine, but we also gathered counterintuitive statements. Overall, we figured that objects were divided into fem, neutral or masc according to their function and/or shape. Very interesting was the 5-year-old, who couldn’t identify specific female objects, everything was male or neutral. Overall, we saw that everyone started from a different idea of what Androgyny is.

To go into the next exercise we asked everyone to choose an object and form groups around a certain object. The task was to create a story that incorporates the object and the gender swapped characters we were playing. For the next hour, groups drew story boards, build small objects and wrote various versions of character development. All this work was done on butchers paper.

To share their ideas, each group improvised a 5-minute performance with everyone on stage performing their character in drag. Giving everyone a counterintuitive role, our idea was to help people get into other people’s shoes. But what happened instead was that all our stories poised  at the edge of stereotyping. It was remarkable to see how we all exposed ourselves freely to how little we actually knew about what it really felt like for others. 

While listening to the stories, the audience would make notes on “Triggers and Thresholds”. Whenever they were triggered emotionally by something pleasing they would write down one word. And whenever they felt a reaction to a threshold, or a liminal space, that is threatening to them, they wrote down a keyword that popped up in that moment. All these keyword were noted on post-its.

On the wall we had created a matrix, on which we collected these statements to get an overview about feminine  and masculine gender ideas in the room. After each performance the whole group would run at the wall and place their triggers and thresholds along a horizontal line that ran from feminine to masculine, and a vertical line that ran from trigger to threshold. 

With such a short timeframe there was no more time to drill deeper into areas, such as the “in between”, transgender, orgasms, sexuality, politics, business, language, emancipation of gender, evolution, etc. We left knowing that there was great interest in a series of playgrounds around the topic.
More photos and details are here.

Group size:
Expected size of the group is 15 to 35.

Materials:
Index Cards (6 x 9)
Post-it Notes
Butcher Paper
Masking Tape
Markers (3 different colours)

Room setup
3 tables
2 benches
couches
chairs
floor space and cushions
three walls, one used for projection

Pan. Puck. Beet. Love.

PanPuckBeetLove2This small hand drawn mystical creature is based on the Greek nymph God, Pan and the Midsummer Night’s Dream elf, Puck. It’s the center piece for an interactive bricolage. It’s a work about lust and mischief; and about the suffering it involves. The temptation is represented by a beet, a melancholic vegetable in Tom Robbins’ magical realism.

The wall hanging is next to a deformable figure, a material that visitors can shape and fold into itself, changing its very nature without changing its original mass. The figure is an experiential, yet abstract topology put in context with the viewers’ archetypal imaginaries elicited by the drawing. The associations that occur at the intersection of erotic mythology and mathematical constraint render love as a topological assemblage; a Möbius strip that gifts us the illusion of progress while keeping us firmly grounded in its endless loops.

Here is a more nuanced interpretation:

The red beet – heart shaped – is temptation. Pan pruriently sniffs the beet while Puck nears it with playful curiosity. Yet the beet’s dryness reminds of melancholy. Its brittle leaves recur in the lover’s hair, a wild growth symbolising the seeker’s pandemonium: impulsive insatiable desire, time and again mistaken for love. Flies surround the frazzled head – they are the totem of rapid change. The androgynous figure has a goatee and small breasts, a comment on confusions that come with gender bending lifestyles. Leaning out of shallow waters, the emaciated body seems both anchored and confined. The lake is bleeding. Unnoticed withers the lover’s foundation. Without it, the erotic traveller is exposed to both liberation and uprootedness.

topologyI drew the image without any meaning in mind. I just drew. Gradually I recognised the symbolism of my drawing. How Jungian. My revelations were deeply connected to my PhD research. I had used a mathematical theory to describe bricolage lifestyles: topology (see image).

The basic principle behind the topology is that a space can change its form without changing its mass. That means, the figure is at once changing and remaining the same. Thinking about society (or lovers) in terms of topology evokes interesting analogies. Imagine a spatial figure consisting of nodes and lines. There is no hierarchy, and no central control. All nodes have equal influence. And any movement of one node changes all other nodes. That means, everything happens in between. The focus lies on the path – think of these as relationships. Their ever-changing nature defies stabilization of the form. The figure is movement. Transferring the model to people means that we’re in movement. Inevitable is the surrender of the individual to the collective. Inevitable is embracing the unknown that rests in such emergence.

2015-11-25 15.40.05Pan/Puck’s torment is topological. Its heterogenous space offers liberation, because agency is granted. But its constant movement uproots the actor. With shifting external foundations, the actor needs a solid foundation within. It is hidden, like the Second Foundation in Asimov’s sci-fi novel. This hidden foundation is key to evolution.

In my bricolage, the plasticine is a topology. I wanted to connect the vast mythology of the drawing with the mathematical constraint, because together they render love and life as a topological assemblage; like a Möbius strip that gifts us the illusion of progress while keeping us firmly grounded in its endless loops.

This little installation can be observed and experienced at Art After Dark on November 13 (Melbourne) and November 20 (Sydney).

PhD Creativity Unbound

TITLE
Creativity Unbound – An Analysis of Open Collaboration between Experience Design and Poietic Practice

ABSTRACT
This thesis concerns social engagement at the intersection of open design and media technology. The study reflects on the practice of a group of creative entrepreneurs, who seek new methods and contexts for collaboration both online and offline. My case is an international collective called Reboot. They co-produce games, narratives, and workshops that aim at engaging others to become activists for social innovation through experiential learning and applied creativity. I investigate what drives them, what they desire, how they learn, and how they co-create. The core problem is: how does a focus on innovating process shape the way individuals approach work and life? Ethnography forms the central research method. It tracks the exchange and performance values expressed by members of the Reboot collective. I use an experimental enactive research design, which enriches current academic practices in media and design ethnography.

As a theoretical framework, I draw on cultural topology. More specifically, I focus on three characteristics of topology – contiguity, continuity, and poiesis. Headed by these three pillars, my chapters include theories on performativity, affect, and free labour. My data substantiates the workings of these three topological characteristics individually and across chapters. Firstly, in terms of contiguity, I investigate performativity as a theoretical possibility within a topological framework. Reboot offers physical spaces for collaborators to connect. Here, I argue, the group facilitates productive contiguity. I scrutinise their experience of interaction enabled by design in order to make an assessment about performative agency. Secondly, with respect to continuity, I examine affect as a driver of relationships and activity. Reboot facilitates remote collaboration through digital online technology. I show that affective interaction helps to re-establish connection and build relationships to foster further engagement, and that these practices corroborate continuity. Lastly, regarding poiesis, I discuss the notion of free labour against the backdrop of commons-based peer production. I show that collaborators frame their free labour in an emancipatory fashion that reflects high hopes for virtuous behaviour among collaborators and ignores worries of exploitation. I identify this practice as poiesis.

This matters, because these collaborative producers are found to act upon their hopes that they can co-create long term systemic change in society; they experiment with new tools to do so; and they spread their techniques by engaging others. This thesis thus locates itself amongst – and adds insights to – current debates on human passion that drives socio-technical innovation.

CONTENT

1. INTRODUCTION
1.1. A QUESTION OF DEVIANCE AND PASSION?
1.2. CASE OVERVIEW
1.3. APPROACH
1.4. CHAPTER OUTLINES

2. METHODOLOGY: EMERGENT ENACTIVE RESEARCH
2.1. INTRODUCTION
2.1.1. GAINING ACCESS
2.1.2. FROM STUDYING PRACTICE TO STUDYING DESIGN PRACTICE
2.2. ENACTIVE MULTI-SITED RESEARCH
2.2.1. MEETING THE TEAM ONLINE AND IN PERSON – WHAT CHANGED
2.2.2. IN(TER)VENTION AS DATA: LEARN DO SHARE BOOKSPRINTS
2.2.3. DESIGN AS DATA: WISH FOR THE FUTURE OPEN DESIGN GAME
2.2.4. USAGE OF DIGITAL PLATFORMS
2.3. EMERGENT RESEARCH FROM FIELD TO THESIS
2.4. TOPOLOGY: CONNECTING DATA, RESEARCH, AND OUTCOME

3. CONTIGUITY: PERFORMATIVITY IN NARRATIVE CO-DESIGN
3.1. INTRODUCTION
3.2. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
3.2.1. PERFORMANCE AND PERFORMATIVITY
3.2.2. NARRATIVE DESIGN AS PERFORMATIVE AGENT
3.3. EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION
3.3.1. IMPERFECTION: INCOMPLETE BY DESIGN
3.3.2. INTERVENTION: HACKING AS METHOD
3.3.3. APPROPRIATION: CONTIGUITY AS CATALYST
3.4. DISPERSED PERFORMATIVITY: WHAT DRIVES TOPOLOGICAL CULTURE?
3.5. CONCLUSION

4. CONTINUITY: AFFECTIVE ENGAGEMENT
4.1. INTRODUCTION
4.2. METHOD: AUTO-ETHNOGRAPHIC ENACTIVE RESEARCH
4.3. THEORETICAL PLACEMENT
4.3.1. AFFECT AND EMOTIONS
4.3.2. REASONED AND EMOTIONAL VALUES
4.4. EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION
4.4.1. PRINCIPLE 1 – HOW AFFECT ENGAGES: APPRECIATION
4.4.2. PRINCIPLE 2 – HOW AFFECT ENGAGES: PASSION
4.4.3. PRINCIPLE 3 – HOW AFFECT ENGAGES: PROMISE
4.5. DEEP, FLEETING, AND ALLURING AFFECT
4.6. CONCLUSION

5. POIESIS: FREE LABOUR AS EMANCIPATORY ACTUALISATION
5.1. INTRODUCTION
5.2. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
5.2.1. CAPITALISM CRITIQUE
5.2.2. COMMONS-BASED PEER PRODUCTION
5.2.3. CONSIDERING POIESIS
5.3. EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION
5.3.1. FREE LABOUR AS ENTREPRENEURIAL AGENCY
5.3.2. FREE LABOUR AS ALTRUISM
5.3.3. FREE LABOUR TO BUILD SOMETHING BIGGER
5.3.4. FREE LABOUR AS ENTREPRENEURIAL TRAINING
5.4. A POIETIC NON-LABOUR SYSTEM?
5.4.1. BELONGING TO SOMETHING LARGER THAN YOURSELF – REVOLUTION
5.4.2. KINDNESS AND ALTRUISM – SELF-EXPLOITATION
5.4.3. GIVING LEARNING EXPERIENCES – VIRTUE
5.4.4. EMANCIPATORY AGENCY – ENTREPRENEURSHIP
5.5. THE DO GOODERS
5.5.1. GAINS
5.5.2. LOSSES
5.5.3. TOPOLOGICAL ACTIVATION
5.6. CONCLUSION

6. CONCLUSION
7. BIBLIOGRAPHY

#Monsterproud
Download a copy here
And see a rawer wilder transdisciplinary version here.