Objects & Things

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Experimental Objects Workshop

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Yet another example of the growing attention to objects at the intersection of design and science and technology studies.

Experimental Objects Workshop at the Institute for Advances Studies at Lancaster University.

Subject to experimenters’ manipulations, objects can seem to be exposed to human curiosity and imagination; controlled through experimental systems (Rheinberger 1997) and design (Latour 2008). But the purpose in both contexts is often to ‘tickle’ objects, to make matter ‘speak’ (Latour 2004). Experiments can reveal that, far from being mere things ‘out there’, indifferent to human attention until addressed, neatly bounded, predictable and knowable, objects are secretly lively, elusive, recalcitrant, responsive and changeable (Barad 2007).

I’d be curious to know if, and if so how, OOO figured into the workshop. While Latour provides a point of connection between OOO and design and science and technology studies, within those fields, use and users still take center stage. Its not clear to me if, or how, STS and design studies can (or should) divorce themselves entirely from the issues of use and users. Nonetheless, workshops such as this signal a change in perspective towards the object, if not placing it center stage, then at least giving it more of starring role. If any videos or proceedings from the workshop are put online, I’ll be sure to post links to them on this blog.


Written by cdisalvo

February 28, 2010 at 2:39 am

Posted in art, design, sts

Eames Films as Meditations on Objects

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Charles and Ray Eames are among the most renowned 20th Century designers. Their influence on the field of design in immeasurable, and their furniture is iconic.

In addition to designing furniture, the Eames were also prodigious film makers. For them, these films were not separate from, but very much an integral part of, their design oeuvre. They are perhaps most well known for their film Powers of 10, which begins with a view of a couple picnicking in Chicago, and then zooms outward and then inward by orders of magnitude, presenting us with perspectives ranging from the outermost galaxies to the innermost regions of human cells.

What stands out about their films is their treatment of objects. Indeed, many of the films focus on a single object or a collection of objects. For example “Blacktop: A Story of the Washing of a School Play Yard” (1952) is a short film that is nothing more than the camera following soapy water as it moves across an asphalt surface, encountering various bits of debris along the way. “Tops” (1969) is a 17 minute poetic documentary on the wide variety of tops and their spinning motions.

These films are delightful meditations on objects. To be sure, these meditations are highly structured and mediated by editing, soundtracks, and in some cases narration.

Unfortunately, few of these films are available to view online. (They can, however, be purchased.)

One of the few Eames films available on line is “Lounge Chair Assembly” (1956), shown below.

Written by cdisalvo

February 13, 2010 at 1:41 am

Posted in design, film