Category Archives: [7] Wellcome Wednesday

One A5 Card with printed Words

The In/Visible

Sight – How much do we rely on our eyes?

Explorations into the role of vision and its potential hierarchy over our other senses, including the possibility of Braille being a three- dimensional representation of the spoken and written voice.

If we walk into a room we have been present in before, we recognise, we store, we categorise and we re/connect.
If we walk into a room we have been living in, we recognise, we store, we categorise and we re/connect.
If we walk into a room we have never been in before, we recognise, we store, we categorise and we re/connect.

I enter the room through a wooden door, after climbing a flight of stairs and see the space in front of me – grey, like a rainy day in November; the interior of the space is dark grey – just grey. After a few seconds, I can see shadows developing; I begin to find myself again. I confirm my place through my vision. Ah, yes, I can “see” where I am now, I can distinguish between objects, I can see the space between the objects – a grey galaxy filled with grey artefacts and shadows. I step further into the room and stop again to settle my experience. I have now fully arrived in “the Shadows”. Without them, the sea of grey’ness would just flood me, swallow me whole, but the grounding shadows hold each artefact, each being in its place and help me, the reader and explorer, to engage. I look down and see my own shadow on the floor. Without it, I would be absorbed – I would not be “seen” as individual being, but part of the greater grey background of existence. After co-ordinating my thoughts with my visual input, I proceed further into the room and stop at the dinner table near the windows. Almost peaceful, the table is set and is waiting for interaction. Every single object on the table top is the same grey as rest of the interior, every single surface is grey. I pick up a grey apple from the bowl. Can I be sure it is apple?
I recognise the “image” of an apple – it is round’ish, bears the signs of growing on tree, out of a flower, the weight feel about right for an apple, I would say it is an apple. Except for the fact that it is grey, and not the otherwise welcomed green’, red’ or yellow’ish appearance of an apple – even though, with the missing visual colour information, I can still assume it is an apple. I have learned that apples look like this years ago, I know how they taste, how they fell in my hand, how they grow, how they look on the insight, what happens to them if you heat them up, cook or bake them, mix them with other ingredients, I am aware of historical, religious and everyday connections– I have a working knowledge of an apple. I can draw an apple from observation as much as I could draw one form memory. However, this understanding is largely based on visual engagement – I see it, I touch it. How would the world have been, if I had explored with without vision, if I had learned to read through touch first, if I had developed a tactile exploration over my visual engagement with the world?

If I walk into a room I have been present in before, I recognise, I store, I categorise and I re/connect.
If I walk into a room I have been living in, I recognise, I store, I categorise and I re/connect.
If I walk into a room I have never been in before, I recognise, I store, I categorise and I re/connect.

I close my eyes and just feel the fruit in my hand. Still feels the same “apple’ish’ness” to me. The surface feels warm and I begin to engage with the object to a different level – I become aware of the small raised dots on the surface. I haven’t paid much attention to them before, possible due to the way I recognised categories, stored and re/connected the visual information, but now, I am aware. With both hands, I begin to “read” the object and realise that the little dots actually spell out “apple” in Braille, something that had almost gone unnoticed to me before – information in/visible.

I am a visual person, I cannot deny that. I like pictures. I like my world full of colours and moving images, I am intrigued by cameras and how they record the world, I like being able to “see” – to explore the world through my eyes. It is impossible for me to understand how the world is without vision having such a high priority in my life, I can only assume, but never fully understand – until I stop relying on my vision. However, I do believe that through all the visual noise surrounding us, it is important to close one’s eyes from time to time. The noise that surrounds us is not only acoustic or visual noise, our world is flooded with objects and their stories, our interactions and rewritten stories, our surrounding environment is over saturated with being. And even without vision, we can gain an insight into this. Should one consider Braille to be the three-dimensional representation of the written and spoken voices surrounding us?
I have recently used my Valentine typewriter to record some hi/stories. The surface of the paper becomes three-dimensional once the keys hit it. I am physically engaging with the information to be recorded, the keys become extensions of my own being, my arms, my fingers. My laptop represents a diluted version of this engagement – I am less aware of the happenings of writing, I am less involved in the making.
A result of the fast-paced life and environment in today’s world, one wonders?
I can almost make out the mark the typewriter created on the surface; I am almost able to “read” the information – almost. I recognise the letter on the paper as I have learned how they look like. Back in primary school, I have drawn each letter of the alphabet in wax crayon large scale on wallpaper rolled out on the floor, every time I trace over the round curves of the “s” or the straight and lines and harsh corners of the “k”, the letter became more and more solid, more and more recognisable, more and more me.

Should one consider Braille to be the three-dimensional representation of the written and spoken voices surrounding us?

Small round dots, universally recognisable, perfect to tell the stories of everyday happenings. Just round dots, raised from the surface they sit on, be it paper, metal, concrete or wood. Small round dots. Once learned, they offer a great vastness of informational input – they tell the world’s tales in three- dimensions, with or without a reliance on sight and visual participation.
Eternally round –  do they have a beginning? A middle? An ending?  Are they just part of a phase or phases we go through? Is it a question of beginning – middle – beginning?

They are .
Design is.  
I am.


Objects of Desire: Your favourite glass

Your favourite glass – when I was a child, there was always the one glass that one just needed to hold in one’s hands to enjoy cold drinks.  I had several of those favourite glasses, depending on where I was or how I felt. After all, a child’s world is full of new and important adventures and stories, and I’m sure if we think about it, we all know how much that teddy bear or pillow case helped us through those rough and scary times, as well as making hose special days just a bit brighter.  And once grown-up, we still built these relationships with objects, not necessarily to the same extent as we once loved (and possibly still love) “Muuh” , “Landrover Ted” or “Muschel”, but we form a bond with every day-things. My grandparents lived on a small farm in the same village I grew up in and when I visited them, my grandmother would cut an extra thick piece of the most beautifully baked German bread and make the best snack in my entire child world (although I couldn’t possibly eat it now…kind of freaky combination….anyhoo, I’m digressing…) and serve it on one of those small wooden chopping boards, the kind that becomes more and more attractive as an object the more use it has seen it its life.  And I would get a glass of lemonade with it (and again, I’m not sure how I actually managed to consume so many things I don’t actually like (anymore)…), but the point is, I had a special glass. It lived on the shelf, next to my sister’s and cousins’ ones, and would only be used when I was there – at least that’s what I told myself back then , and I still kind of believe it. It was a chunky tumbler with white lines and hearts printed on. The lines formed a sort of net or grid-like textures on the otherwise smooth surface and there was a small red heart printed on every other square. I loved this glass, and the lemonade or even water used to taste so much better when drunk out of this glass. My other grandmother lived a 30 minute car journey away, which took twenty minutes if my dad was driving (which, as a kid seems like magic) in a completely different world. Until you learn how distance and time works, being somewhere different to where you wake up every morning, is special and just different, even if it’s just down the road and you could be home in less than five minutes. And because my gran lived in what seemed to be a different world, I had a completely different glass when I was visiting: a small glass tankard and instead of lemonade, I would always drink apple juice with cinnamon. And once again, I loved the glass. Just seeing it meant being there, away from home, playing with fabric swatches and hearing stories. The glass symbolised a different part of me, compared to the much loved tumbler back at the farm, which was just another personality-trade I was developing.  Both objects were equally as important to me and back then I connected each glass with an individual scenario or visit – I created a token symbol for an activity in my life. To be very honest, I didn’t really have a special glass at home, I had several not-so-special ones – I just used any one of them. To me, being away from home was being somewhere almost out of my control, so having a reminder and emergency-comforter that I knew belonged to me, helped getting over those first anxiety-ridden but important journeys into the world. Once again, I used an object to help me cope and feel happy – a glassy  base camp for explorations, something I could return to when I needed it the most, although back then, I wasn’t conscious of why I needed the lead crystal helper, I might not even be fully aware  now – Analyse this Sigmund…
As much as the objects signified  a place and a situation, a feeling and different activities, the glasses had their personality, fed with notions and curiosities, tactile experiences, well, actually many sensorial information and personal , well, Lisa’ness. They were part of me; as much as I was part of them – they are characters in my story and without me, they wouldn’t exist to the same extent in terms of their own being as they do now.  Fast-forward a few years and we’re on one of our family holidays in a small wooden cottage in the forest, sitting on one of the large tables in living room, which was covered in sketchbooks, pencils, glasses and plates with half eaten biscuits. And guess what, jep, I did have a favourite glass there. The cottages became more like second residence for my family. We went there at least twice a year and usually with the same people – another family who had children around about the same ages as my sister and me. And all of us had a special glass when we were there – and you wouldn’t want to be the one using one of them while we were there, it wasn’t pretty, but again that’s is a different story. Take any self-catering family holiday and there was a special glass to connect the memories, and even now, when I open the corner cabinet to get a glass out, I favour some over others, just not quite to the same extent.
We choose objects to express ourselves and our personality; our houses and flats are filled with belongings that either we or others close to us choose, often for reasons that are not easily pinned down. After all, as a design student I am not going to write “I chose this because it’s nice or beautiful” or “I like it!” (Please bear with me here), but we often have this feeling of connection with something. As much as we unconsciously decide whether or not we like a person when meeting them for the first time, we do the same for objects. We want to play with objects as much as objects want to be played with – take a common ballpoint pen for example. I’m sure, if you haven’t done it yourself, you witnessed it at least once in your lifetime: the often very annoying clicking sounds of a pen top being presses repeatedly for no obvious reason whatsoever – just like an urge – “The top must be pushed recurrently – I cannot stop myself” [please read with a low toned in voice for maximum effect!] And the same applies to any other common objects that surround us. We use them to express our own personality, they help us cope in stressful, scary or boring times, and they are part of us as much as we are part of them.  Our story would be less interesting if they didn’t contain our favourite mug that we got given as a birthday present by an old school friend, or the old and rusty nail that holds an old picture frame together, or the almost ugly green plastic train that we used to play with, the squeaky chair in the corner of the garage that has a broken leg… there are millions of objects and stories surrounding us every day. Take a look around, I’m sure you’ll find one object you haven’t paid much attention to recently, but deep down you know you would miss it if it wasn’t there anymore. Or think of the second hand shop in the next village, how many great stories are sold there every day? Objects that meant a lot to someone getting another chance to impress a new owner, dining room chairs become kitchen chairs, an old radio become an ornament, the mismatched set of knives and forks become the latest addition to the hip café around the corner, old books hand out stories to a new generation. Old objects and old stories become new objects and new stories – and somewhere amongst all those things are my childhood heroes:  my tumbler and tankard. I wonder which chapter they are on…