Flowing with Polynesian Stick Charts in South Meldon
Rocio von Jungenfeld (Canterbury, UK) and Vincent Van Uffelen (Berlin, Germany).
Dolton Village Hall and http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/reserves/halsdon
North west Devon, near the village of Dolton
Nr Great Torrington
SS 553 131
09.00 am Minibus pick-up at Plymouth University
11.00 am Workshop starts (location Dalton Village Hall)
11.30 am Guided walk along (location River Torridge)
13.30 pm Lunch break
14.00 pm Co-working (stick-chart making)
16.00 pm Presentation & discussion
15.00 pm Minibus returns to Plymouth University
What to Bring:
Pens / pencils
Coat / jumper (in case)
Minibus transport provided.
A workshop that explores making as a means to understand the flows, relationships and resonances between things in an environment by adapting a century old technique.
For millennia the Polynesian seafarers steered their small boats over the vast open Micronesian Pacific ocean reaching their goal with astonishing precision. To navigate they made use of a few simple, albeit over time refined, techniques one of which we will take as starting point for an exploration into another sea. One of flows, relationships, and resonances that constitute our multi-layered techno-natural-cultural environment.
Using the stick charts – a mapping technique that uses simple materials such as sticks, threads, and shells – the Polynesians did not represent the geospatial surrounding but the phenomena which can only be perceived by the trained eye: the complex interactions of wind, waves, and islands. Each map was unique, representing the personal perceptions of the maker, the frictions between materials and what was to be represented, and was often closely guarded by the owner to protect the knowledge.
In the workshop we will explore how the making of adapted versions of the stick charts could be used to learn more about our surrounding, how we could represent its elusive relationships, flows, or processes, and how we could use the making of humble objects to communicate our personal experiences, creating a shared understanding of our environments.
Our workshop will explore how low-tech mapping techniques can reveal the complexity of flows that constitute our environment and make these flows accessible to interested parties. In this context, we do not aim to focus on the (visual) representation of quantifiable data (e.g. traffic, rain, geo-location) but on the often invisible and highly subjective representation of existing flows, relationships, or processes that constitute the environment.
Based on one exemplary technique, we will discuss and test how simple technologies can be used in the pre-design phase to gain tacit knowledge of the flows in the environment. It is our assumption that once brought to the surface, by means of our workshop methodology, the knowledge about the flows of humans, objects/matter, energy, or information will enable participants to make informed decisions about how these flows are used and how they can be re-channelled, altered or reinforced to design flows in a way in which they, the involved, want them to flow.
In our one day workshop, which we would like to hold in nature (possibly at Beaford Arts Centre), we will introduce an ancient mapping technique, the Marshall Islands stick charts (Micronesia, Pacific Ocean), as a potential means of personal investigation into the underlying flows and their interrelations. These simple charts made of sticks, stones, shells, and thread, are humble in appearance, but represent a complex knowledge of waves, wind, islands and orientation that have instructed the initiated how to navigate between remote islands for centuries.
During the workshop we aim not only to teach a mapping technology but also to discuss underlying motivations, such as that in an increasingly complex world of design and designers we might need novel approaches to gain, not only quantitative but also qualitative understandings of the environments we inhabit. Furthermore, we would like to discuss aspects of making physical objects, its advantages and disadvantages, and how the manipulation of matter, with its physical properties and constraints, can actually aid the process of learning about an environment. Here, we especially would like to discuss the necessity and advantages of gaining a visceral non-lingual/symbolic understanding of the interrelations constituting the context in which design processes take place. Lastly, we would like to discuss how, the co-creation and presentation of such physical maps aid the development of mutual understanding and the connections between a group and its participants.
As artists and designers we feel that our environment as a whole is more than quantifiable data, it is a techno-natural-cultural entanglement in constant flux, a sea of flows and interrelations, navigated by its inhabitants and based on decisions coming from subjective experiences. One of the prerequisites of being able to design for the future is to be able to understand this environment in its complexity, and this might mean simplifying by abstraction in order to unpack the different levels of complexity.
In late March 2017 we will hold a second workshop at the Research Through Design Conference (RTD 2017) in Edinburgh that will explore our topic of interest and the means of physical low-tech representations of flows and relationships further. We are confident that we will gain further understanding of the topic and can further the concept of the workshop that we would like to hold at Balance-Unbalance 2017.
Rocio von Jungenfeld is a creative practitioner, media researcher and Lecturer in Digital Media at the University of Kent. She studied arts, media and design in the UK, Germany and Spain, and her research interests are collaborative media production, contemporary and interdisciplinary art, hybrid environments, outdoor and mobile projections, and interaction design. She has presented her artistic, collaborative and research work in the UK, Europe, USA and China.
Vincent Van Uffelen uses code, low-tech materials and custom electronics as medium for his artistic enquiry into process, complexity, systems, and the fleeting moments of experience. Driven by his interest in change and the entanglement of human, technology, and nature, he his practice focusses on collaborative learning and performative aspects. He has presented his work and given workshops in UK, Europe, and Asia.
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