thing[s] is an eight-month-long commitment to active making through object-led spontaneity, research through design, and introspection through personal displacement. i think of it as a point of fracture in my processes and methods — the conception of a multidisciplinary design practice through an entanglement with a myriad of found objects, each representing and distributing themselves through various visual, textual, and material avenues.
the constraining philosophy that informs this collection of work is the intellectual movement of object-oriented ontology. it is not an effort to centre objects above all else; rather, it is about revisiting how objects exist, employing them to ground the intangible, and removing the idea of a centre altogether. this project is a rigorous, self-directed endeavour in engaging strangely with familiar objects in my locality through a juxtaposition of conventional communication design formats and unconventional mundane materials.
it can be seen as an entity of entities that float among all others, in dialogue with the mesh of objects it coexists with, at times accessible, at times elusive. it exists in a multitude of physical forms through object-centric making, scattered around my immediacy. it exists on a website as a mode of containment and communication. it exists in the theory, in the research, in the writing, in the documentation, in the introspection, in the discourse, in the rigour, in the tangled webs of uncertainty and contradiction throughout the process. they may not exist equally, but they all equally exist.
i began with a 500-word manifesto, a thread of thoughts handwritten messily in marker within an hour in the middle of a sketchbook. i wrote for all things to be seen as autonomous, nonhierarchical, and irreducible, building off existing precedent in the field. that one hour, at the time unknowingly, provided the direction for the ensuing hundreds of hours throughout the course of this project. there was something about making quickly in an analog fashion, imbued with the physicality of the body’s engagement with material, without lingering nor polishing, to see abstraction emerge into tangible form. from there, i decided to continue the practice of active making. i decided then that this would be my output — this collection of collections of collections of individual things. my ambition was to make, in all different directions as well as over and over, every week of the final year of my undergraduate education.
every week, i documented objects around my vicinity and frequented spaces. i collected them, photographed them, wrote about them, recorded them, watched them, listened to them, perceived them, left them be. every week, i made something about them and with them. i started with one output a week. then two. then three. then five. then i stopped keeping count. i just made. and i made sure not to prescribe expectations on these outcomes; the process was simultaneously the output, and i didn’t seek to refine any specific one further nor to discard it out of misalignment with an idealised projection of its final state. the aspect of volume became significant as it grew throughout this project, something that i later accepted is not mutually exclusive with quality. there is a quality specifically in the quantity.
in that vein, this project was also largely about challenging my own processes, comfort zones, assumptions, perceived limitations, and invisible guidelines that i had enveloped myself in in pursuit of an idea of design i now continually revisit and relearn. i wasn’t looking to reproduce the same personal or institutional conventions. i wasn’t looking to produce “good design.” there was no such crutch for much of the process. at the conception of this body of work, i asked myself: at the end of the year, at the culmination of the last four years, what would make me proud to have made?
several series emerged organically out of this project. collections of object books, writing, photographic prints, mark making, and posters, with a plethora of overlaps and blurry lines in between. ultimately, these categorisations are arbitrary. each making activity is hinged on object-centric ontological research and consideration as a channel for visual and material experimentation.
the object book, in particular, was the series explored at the greatest volume. its success was in being a conventional design object that functioned both as a channel of communication and as a material object in itself, which had enough constraint in its structure that it gave me limitations to work within, but allowed for room to experiment with materials which were simultaneously ordinary and unusual.
the majority of materials involved in these making activities are found, recycled, discarded, or scrap objects from my local areas. as much as possible, i tried not to go out of my way to seek, but instead, let myself bump into these materials organically throughout my day-to-day motions. i repurposed what i found and had, marrying what was atypical as design objects with what was norm. thus, the outputs were largely dependent on each object’s material being and quantity rather than being dictated by a predetermined form.
spending an abundance of time with hybrid methods of both analog and digital making, as well as engaging with things unconventionally and “incorrectly,” resulted in a plurality of experiences with object behaviours. there was value in the spontaneity, the lack of reproducibility, the material recalcitrance and disobedience, the vitality of each thing. each irreducible inner object after it has been exhausted of its intended use already, after it is out of sight, after it has been manipulated into a different form. the object at the bottom of the bin, the object on the side of the road, the object in the periphery, the object that is fragments of what it used to be, all still wholly alive in their thingness.
the process of each is deeply imbued and visible in the output, in the material. yet, there’s a large part of this project that’s not, which lies in everything i grappled with in regards to a project that collides with my previous understandings of both my practice space and ontological lens. the non-visible and non-accessible exist for me to simply have done it, to evidence how i’ve worked through repeatedly understanding and re-understanding this mesh of things and its relation to myself as we have both fluctuated.
this was the first time i’ve settled with a personal project, uninterrupted, for this long as of yet. it was daunting, frustrating, and above all, immensely gratifying. there was too much time at the beginning, and too little by the end. what is shown here rests above additional hours of applied work that was not showcased, but certainly still informed this project’s trajectory, which rests above many more unseen hours of being all-consumed by this collection of mundane objects that lived with me. there is no language for me to accurately encapsulate everything that has gone into what is one of the most rewarding things i’ve done.
how i’ve understood this entity has shifted numerous times throughout the duration i’ve coincided with it. how i’ll understand it in retrospect, a year or ten years later, will surely shift again. this is as close as i’ll get for now to articulating this living body of entangled explorations that are converging and diverging all at once. each unique entity stands on its own, exists as its own, while all together forming a malleable web-like unit that traces the collaborations between these objects and i, and our involvements in one another’s lives, over this period of time.