NiP 2013 PUBLICATION
Now available for download
Publication cost £5
Featuring talk summaries and insights from our 2013 symposium
Narrative in Practice 2013 took place on Saturday 2 November at St. Luke's Community Centre, 90 Central Street, London, EC1V 8AJ. Our speakers were asked to map out how their relationship with narrative has developed over time and answer the following questions: 'How and when did you meet narrative?' and 'How has your practice changed since then?’. Speakers represented a diverse range of design disciplines and offered the audience a variety of views and examples of projects related to the symposium's theme.
Owner and Ceramicist - Parasite Ceramics
"When working in the craft industry, makers are often defined by a technique or process. For me, working predominantly in clay, it's important to start each project anew, with no expectations of what is to come. All projects have different starting points, different participants, different agendas & conclusions. The one constant throughout my process, is a narrative framework to understand and communicate my ideas."
Simeon summarises his talk for NiP 2013 as follows: ‘Ceramics is a risky business. Pieces can blow up in the kiln at any time. The material itself is hazardous if left to turn to dust. There is a preciousness about the material that is shared by all who work with it. As an artist working in the public realm, I develop projects with different community groups and different types of audience. This also carries an element of risk and preciousness. For me, every project is different; my artworks and installations might begin with a story about a place, or a particular person, or about a time. Often, I’m not sure how the project will unfold.
Narrative helps me to make sense of these conditions, and also helps me understand the people I’m working for, or making for. Just like working with clay, I shape the narrative by contracting or expanding time, telling more than one story at once, changing my tone of voice, or removing myself from the storytelling altogether. Eventually it all has to be brought back together, as clay takes time to shape, dry, fire and display. This gives me an opportunity to reflect on the story, how to unfold the events and characters, and how to display this to a new audience.
In the end, we are still left with a precious material. But the material is enriched by the efforts of everyone involved and there is a real sense of achievement in working with the hands, and the telling of many stories along the way.’
Simeon Featherstone develops and produces a range of projects through Parasite Ceramics, a shared practice that looks to shape new narratives on existing social infrastructures using craft & design. He does this by encouraging people to engage with clay and use it as a medium to think about their environment. Through this, he aims to inspire members of the public, local stakeholders and clients that ceramics is a rich, multifaceted and transformative material that has helped to tell the stories of our lives, from the beginning of civilisation right up to the present day.
Concept Developer and xdesigner
"The smoking habits of my best friend, when I put my grandma's clothes on to remember her, the construction work next to our building, the story of my father, talking to public furniture that I am passing by..., drawing with the air I breathe… so in general telling and creating stories is simply part of my everyday life… I have this need to reflect on these issues. I think somehow through these narratives I am trying to make sense of the world around me and demonstrate the complexity behind everything I see… which I hope sometimes helps other people to understand their own ones as well..."
Gyorgyi summarises her talk for NiP 2013 as follows: ‘It is indeed very hard to answer the question: how and when did I first meet Narrative? For me narrative is about telling stories. So there was not one specific moment when I met narrative because it’s always been part of my life and later on a part of my art and design practice. I could say... there was a moment when I met video as a medium that helped me to share my thoughts with a broader audience... and the last 9 years through my videos, installation and text-based works I have been trying to find my own ‘language’.
In my PhD studies, my aim is to develop prototypes and structures of participation in projects that address the ‘crisis of agency’, in other words: how does any one of us address the complex environmental and societal challenges we face? There are popular ideas that are changing our relationship to the natural systems for example tax incentives for solar panels, cookie-cutter initiatives like ‘change light bulbs, buy organic...’, but these are sometimes not very interesting and do not draw on the creative imagination and autonomy that each one of us has to design our own lives.
Two years ago I started to write a book about my father after he died; a kind of ‘diary from heaven’ on behalf of him. I tried to explore the borders of self-therapy, intimacy and the state or quality of being. In showing our family life through simplicity and total sincerity, my aim was to explore the question of whether I could give a broader human value to a very intimate story. (http://gyorgyigalik.com/doc/Ecce_Homo_Meeting_my_father_once_again.pdf).
After I published my book I received many emails from people who shared similar experiences. At that moment I realised again that we learn through stories… and I believe that particularly technical and scientific information has to be put into personal stories: what this information means to me. Stories that most of us will not only understand but can also contribute to: here is the problem, and here is what an individual can do… and here is how individual actions can aggregate… So I think my question is how can we make environmental health-improving projects, which are relevant to our own very particular lifestyles, fun and desirable rather than dutiful or moralistic.'
Gyorgyi Galik is a London-based concept developer, xdesigner (aka experimental design) and researcher. Her practice focuses on voluntary social change, and more specifically how we can transform socio-ecological systems and our collective relationship towards the environmental commons to address and respond to contemporary social and environmental challenges.
She has worked frequently in collaboration and in cross-disciplinary teams in labs and design studios including: Baltan Laboratories (Eindhoven), Kin Design & Research (London), Sackler Centre, Victoria & Albert Museum (London), PAN Studio (London), Natalie Jeremijenko and the Environmental Health Clinic (New York), Hexagram Research Lab - Concordia (Montreal), Kitchen Budapest Art & Tech Lab (Budapest).
Gyorgyi recently started her PhD in Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London. She graduated with honours in 2010 from the Maholy-Nagy University of Art in Budapest and holds a Master’s degree in Design Management. She earned in parallel a Master’s degree as a Designer in Visual Communication Arts in June 2009 with a specialization in Video Art.
Curator and Writer
“Curating architecture is a task of generating, communicating and representing contemporary architectural conditions, but also discovering and inventing ways - through delicately imagined histories or searingly real futures, to give form and space to the myriad complex ways in which architecture is consumed and understood."
Beatrice summarises her talk for NiP 2013 as follows: 'From within their discipline, architects strive to expand their practice through political, social theory, literature and philosophy. From without, architecture is opaque, physical. Bricks and mortar. It is the gap between the two discourses that we should seek to close. By publicly interrogating the terminology, practicalities, inspirations, inventions and their influences on the city, we should open spatial practice, one part of which is architecture, to be closer to vital new audiences and new publics.
We should aim to provide a platform for debate and to put forward a proposal for an alternative narrative of spatial practice. We should place architecture before a prism and accept all its facets, divisions, conflicts and neuroses. We are approaching a new understanding of our city, of an architecture whose craft and qualities are less tangible than before this leads to user experiences with high narrativity, which will be more prone to being experienced, interpreted and remembered.'
Beatrice Galilee is a London-based curator, writer, critic, consultant and lecturer of contemporary architecture and design. Trained in BSc Architecture at Bath University, and an MSc History of Architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, Beatrice specialises in the dissemination of architectural practice.
Beatrice is the Chief Curator of the 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale. She is the co-founder and director of The Gopher Hole, an exhibition and event space in London, architectural consultant and writer at DomusWeb, and associate lecturer at Central St Martins. She was a curator at the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale in Korea, directed by Ai Wei Wei and Seung H-Sang, and a freelance contributor to a number of international publications on architecture and design.
Researcher and Course Leader BA (Hons) Spatial Design, UAL
“Narrative plays a central role in the way we interpret and communicate our experience of the world and our interactions with it. Narratives help us organise events and make sense of time, empathise with others and move us on an emotional level. Because of this, using an object is not only an experience, it is an interaction and it is narrative in nature.”
Silvia summarises her talk for NiP 2013 as follows: ‘I met Narrative through Surprise. I was working on a project for my master’s thesis, looking at how surprise could be used within product design on a level that went deeper than novelty, to create interesting or meaningful experiences through the objects. While working on the project and writing about it after I realised that creating surprises within the user’s experience of the object inherently creates a temporal aspect, a before and after. There is a state of expectation before the surprise, and by definition the surprise needs to change this state to a different one.
This led me to be more interested in ideas around interpretation of objects over time, and designing the experience of an object as opposed to the object itself. Narrative seemed like a useful tool in order to help organise these experiences over time as well as give meaning and richness to these object experiences.
My PhD Designing Narrative Product Interactions looks at how narratives can be used to enhance both the design process and the user experience of object. In particular it takes films as a starting point and analyses which elements from the film, such as characters, structure, meaning, emotional reactions, etc., could be used by designers within product experiences. The final aim of my PhD is to come up with a series of 5 guidelines to help designers think of the product experience in a narrative way and to design tools for designers to use within the design process which can help to create highly tellable objects. Highly tellable objects should lead to user experiences with high narrativity, which will be more prone to being experienced, interpreted, remembered and retold with gusto.’
Silvia was born and grew up in Rome, then moved to the USA for undergraduate and to London for postgraduate studies. She works as a designer, researcher and academic. Her research focuses on product experience, narratives and emotional design. She is Course Leader for BA (Hons) Spatial Design at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London.
Senior Design Consultant – Seren Design Ltd.
"Narrative is a vehicle that a brand can use to connect to people; an engaging thread that links the nodes of interaction. It flows both through and over brand experience trying to deliver a consistent captivating story, but narrative is like a rainbow – it is never the same – everyone sees it differently depending on where they stand and how they look at it.”
According to Anish, ‘Narrative can be interpreted in many different ways dependent on how and where it is applied.’
Anish’s talk will examine narrative when it is practiced and utilised for branding, and in particular for luxury brands. This may seem like a peculiar niche of design and industry to analyse, but it is luxury’s special nuances that make narrative use in this sector particularly twisting, fascinating and at times contradictory.
The talk will look at the components of luxury branding and how multiple touch-points through a user’s experience journey are used to tell a desired story (or multiple stories); and in the end how that user’s interpretation of these stories ends up defining narrative as subjective, bespoke and fluid.
Backed with references to a variety of luxury brand’s strategies and a more in-depth case study into a luxury travel brand, the rationale of narrative is exhibited as a real world, and real business performance.
Anish is a creative specializing in design and brand who possesses a real breadth of education and experience to draw from such as product & architectural design, digital, strategy and advertising - he enjoys cross-pollinating ideas across these genres to generate original solutions.
Architects and Founders of WHAT IF: Projects
"What if: projects start with a question (as the practice name might suggest) followed by a plot that outlines possibilities for vacant and neglected spaces in the city. The stories we tell are up-beat and aimed at capturing an audience into imagining a different, greener and better world. Through highlighting and expanding on positive aspects within the context of a place we aim to shift the perception from an emphasis on the problems towards its potential."
What if: projects will give an account of their working practice and the ways in which narrative forms an essential part of developing and communicating proposals for change. The talk will explore narrative tools and ways of making the story become reality.
What if: projects Ltd is an architecture practice based in Shoreditch, founded by Ulrike Steven and Gareth Morris in 2005. Our work is focused in inner city areas and we develop ideas and strategies for more sustainable urban environments. We investigate neglected, forgotten and unloved spaces and develop opportunities these places can offer to communities and the city. Proposals for change are based on a detailed understanding of an environment and the people that inhabit it. Essential to the development and delivery of our projects is the engagement with local communities.
Creative Director - Event Communications Ltd
"Narrative is a promise and a structure, but it can also be a trap"
Katherine summarises her talk for NiP 2013 as follows: ‘Prisoners of a heuristic? Is narrative overused in museum design? As a museum designer, it’s an everyday event to be in discussions where designers or curators talk in terms of narrative. I have used it myself but not until being involved with the CSM Narrative Environments course did I really start to look at what narrative means to me. But I have to confess to a feeling of uneasiness with it, and a sense that, while the term no doubt has its place, it may be used too frequently. It may appear deceptively simple when in fact it is quite a complex and confused term, and that (and it’s this I fear most) it may cause us to restrict our thinking and become blind to other ways of designing museum experiences.
In my talk I want to spend some time looking at the multiple ways narrative is used and look at other ways of approaching museum design that I think might be occluded by dwelling on narrative too much. I also want to consider narrative through the sequencing of a museum and consider the potential for non-narrative sequences as a means to structuring museum content, and look at the visitor’s journey within this context.’
With over 20 years of experience within the UK and international exhibition design industry Katherine Skellon is Creative director with Event Communications. Having trained in Interior design at Kingston University, Katherine moved into the world of museum and exhibition design working for Land Design Studio and Ralph Appelbaum Associates where she completed a number of significant projects including the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Oculus at St Paul’s and more recently, the refurbishment of the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London.
Katherine has also a wide range of teaching experience both in the UK and abroad (Kingston University, Chelsea School of Art, Royal College of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, USA). Based on both her industry and teaching experience, Katherine was co-founder of the MA Narrative Environments course at Central St Martins, London where she taught for the first two years and today remains involved.
Researcher - Odds and Ends
"Democracy doesn't work without stories, though it's a double edged sword. Stories can be a great way of sharing power, but they can also conceal and reinforce it. It isn't always a straightforward task to prize the two apart."
Charlie summarises his talk for NiP 2013 as follows: ‘I’ve worked for 10 years as a researcher - five in a think tank called Demos, a further five independently. I’m going to talk about the role of narrative in conducting and communicating research, where I’ve found it useful and where it’s got in the way. Narrative is incredibly important to communicating research to a broad audience, but if it embellishes rather than animates the factual basis of your research, the whole thing starts to fall apart. I’m going to talk about Glasgow 2020 - a project I helped run at Demos which tried to imagine the future of Glasgow through a mass-participatory storytelling initiative. The project, the first of its kind I think, blurred the line between research, participation and symbolic-acts - sometimes it was hard to be clear about which was which. I also want to talk a bit about how the political pamphlet has come to reflect shifts in our political culture - arguably the more technocratic politics has become, the less narrative has been necessary. On this theme, I’ll try and finish off by sharing some of my incomplete attempts at re-imagining the political pamphlet as something a bit more like a narrative environment.’
Charlie Tims is a London based independent researcher with interests in creativity, public spaces and learning. He's an associate of the think tank Demos, the advocacy group Mission Models Money and works with A.N.D, an arts education organisation based in Stratford, East London. He is the author of many pamphlets and reports including 'People Make Places - growing the public life of cities' published by Demos and 'The Invisible Hand - art in the transition to another economy' for the IETM network . He edits a small social affairs magazine called Useful and runs Hometaping - an annual effort to encourage as many people as possible to record an album of music in November.
Visual Communicator - Container
"Narrative is how we lay out the cherries we choose to pick."
Luise is going to discuss her approach to working with narrative via a project she is currently working on. ‘Our Heritage’ is a commission for the Oxfordshire NHS trust and the stated aim of the client is for the work to embed a newly built hospital in Bicester into the local community. She will examine how the business of ‘heritage’ combines rumour, legend, tradition and fact to create a narrative of the past that serves our needs in the present.
Container is a multidisciplinary art and design studio founded in London in 2002 by Luise Vormittag. She trained as an illustrator, graphic designer, photographer, fine artist and theorist and her creative practice reflects this eclectic education. While maintaining a commercial output of design and illustration commissions she is developing her practice towards a more research-lead investigation, considering notions of conversation, exchange and participation. Luise also teaches at Central Saint Martins and Camberwell College of Arts, where she runs a cross-disciplinary contextual unit called 'The Expanded Designer'.
Recent work has seen a development towards creating environments that facilitate dialogue and interaction. Examples of this type of work include Throw Caution to the Wind (St Barts and Royal London Hospital, 2011) and The Most Powerful Cabinet in Whitechapel (Royal London Hospital, 2012).
"People are more interesting than objects. However, it is possible to create narratives about people using existing or imagined objects as a visual language. Each object that surrounds us has its own associations, histories and uses that we all have a shared knowledge of. I try to use these embedded values within objects to create narratives based on my observations about people and their behaviour.
This talk is a short journey through Dominic’s attempts to communicate stories, situations and moments in life in a visual form, from drawings to objects and installations.
Dominic Wilcox is a British artist and designer who creates innovative objects, drawings and installations. In 2002 he graduated from architect Ron Arad’s Design Products course at the Royal College of Art and has gone on to develop an international reputation for his diverse range of original and creative work.
Through his inquisitive drawings and objects he aims to place a spotlight on the banal; adding a new, surprising perspective on the everyday. Recent projects include the design of a pair of shoes with inbuilt GPS to guide the wearer home, a race against a 3D Printer at the V&A and a 10″ vinyl record called Sounds of Making in East London.
Thank you to OffCanvas for hosting and managing our site.
We are truly grateful to Patricia Austin for her guidance and mentorship. We would like to say a very special thank you to Lucy Carruthers for all her help, support and patience along the way. We would like to thank Jona Piehl for the stimulating conversations at the very beginning of our two-year curatorial journey.
We would also like to thank Nadine Spencer (Camden Collective) for providing the venue for the Speakers’ Brunch and for her willingness to spread the word about NiP 2013.
Catherine Ann Fean
Hera Lei Chin Kio (Q)
Proofreading & Copywriting
This day would not be possible without the help of the following individuals: Soumya Basnet, Chirag Dewan, Freya Healey, Luca Ponticelli, Katie Russell and Tracey Taylor.
Finally, we would like to sincerely thank all of our speakers for their willingness to participate in this event, for challenging our views on, and widening our knowledge of, narrative and its applications, and for their patience with our curatorial style: Simeon Featherstone, Georgyi Galik, Beatrice Galilee, Silvia Grimaldi, Anish Joshi, Gareth Morris & Ulrike Stevens (What if: projects), Katherine Skellon, Charlie Tims, Luise Vormittag, Dominic Wilcox.