NiP 2013 PUBLICATION
Now available for download
Publication cost £5
Featuring talk summaries and insights from our 2013 symposium
Narrative in Practice 2016 explored the dynamic relationships that develop between author(s) and audience(s) in a narrative and narrative environments context. Each speaker was invited to explore questions such as: What type of author are you? How does your role as an author change during different projects? On which level of co-authorship do you operate with your audience: non-existent, partial, co-everything? What qualities, challenges and/or values does shared authorship add to your work?
The event took place on Saturday 5 November 2016 at St. Luke's Community Centre, 90 Central Street, London, EC1V 8AJ.
"Narrative for me above all means survival. And hope. When the stories through which you know yourself, on which you have built a sense of your place in the world, are discounted or destroyed, this is debilitating, for individuals and for groups. It leaves you feeling untethered, that you have “lost the plot”. Reasserting your story, or imagining and articulating a new one, then becomes a way to resist, and to reclaim order and meaning. At the same time, we should always be suspicious of stories, particularly the inherited ones, or those we think we need the most. Order is inevitably illusory, and can stop new or different meaning being produced, and thus new or different lives being lived."
The most convenient label for what I do for a living – ensuring the involvement of those affected by architectural and strategic spatial projects in the decision-making about them - tends to be ‘community engagement’. I use that shorthand on a daily basis.
However, I understand this activity, above all, as a form of politics: of “who gets what, when, how”, to use Harold Lasswell’s classic definition. And storytelling lies at the heart of politics. (It lies at the heart of ‘community’ too, in terms of the stories that we tell about ourselves and about others, and you can’t ‘engage’ with communities without understanding the fabricated nature of that concept, while simultaneously acknowledging its usefulness.)
‘Community engagement’ is also often understood as PR. PR is also a form of storytelling. But whereas engagement as PR tends to either play to existing stories, or work to narrate a seductive new one, engagement as politics aims, where possible, to make the constructed nature of all stories visible. And to create a platform for the past and the present (in the form of things like assumptions, traditions, habits, rituals and memories) to be critically explored, possible futures to be collectively deliberated, and the foundations for new stories to be put in place.
This talk looked at (i) some of the different types of story that are deployed within the politics of spatial production, from mythology to ideology to ‘imagined communities’ (ii) a couple of project examples of attempts to positively engage and/or play with these storytelling processes, and (iii) those theories of the collaborative ‘authorship’ of space and place that I find particularly helpful in terms of working out how to practise. (Not necessarily that neatly, or indeed in that order.)
Daisy Froud is a strategist who specialises in devising tools and processes that enable diverse voices to meaningfully contribute to design decision-making, and that make this decision-making more deliberative and transparent. For 11 years she was a co-founding director of architecture practice AOC, during which time she was shortlisted for the AJ's Emerging Woman Architect of the Year award, and now runs her own agency offering brief development and participatory design services to architects, clients and local communities.
She has a degree in languages from Cambridge, an MA in Cultural Memory from University of London, and in 2011 completed a visiting professorship at Yale School of Architecture. She regularly advises government on community built environment issues, which currently includes sitting on the Design Panel for High Speed 2, and is a Built Environment Expert for Design Council CABE and a member of the 'Future of Planning' Sounding Board for the Future Cities Catapult. Daisy has been a History & Theory Teaching Fellow at The Bartlett School of Architecture since 2007, focusing on spatial politics and participatory practice, and also teaches Urban Studies at the London School of Architecture.
"Every story we ever tell, every creative idea we have, is influenced by the people we have met, the places we have been, the experiences we have. So then aren't we all authors? Maybe the question is, ‘who curates the narrative and who decides which version we tell?’"
The question of authorship in our work is a murky one. At make:good we co-design and therefore co-author all our projects but we can never take ourselves out of this and I am acutely aware that the tone we set for collaborative conversations directly impacts on the narratives we collect. Often it feels like our role is to curate the narrative knowing that once it is out there in the world people will make of it what they will. Catherine explored this murkiness using examples of make:good's work where the role of author has been complicated as they say.
Catherine launched make:good in 2009 to bring together her architectural qualifications with her interest in people centred design. Her interests lie in getting to know an area from the ground up, what is the existing social infrastructure, who are the people connecting interesting ideas and places and how can make:good support these activities to thrive. Projects might involve research, creating public art, creative engagement or building new spaces collaboratively with communities. Catherine’s work is focused on working alongside communities meaning she is constantly juggling the ethics and authenticity of collaboration and engagement alongside the challenge of how to ensure that local people have meaningful influence over change in their neighbourhoods.
"Traditionally, a designer’s role is to master a visual narrative through colour, shape, material, typography and more. At Hato, we believe a narrative is further strengthened via our approach to Co-Design. We involve the community we design for through interactive workshops, events and online workshop apps. We believe that who we design for is at the very centre of what we design. The point of view of the individual or collective our design effects should always be heard."
Ken looked at how co-design unfolds at Hato and what the team understands participatory activities to be, may these be digital, totally analogue or hands-on. Co-authorship in our practice refers to the design of the ‘tool’ which is developed by Hato prior to the workshop sessions and passed on to the user to enable and inspire them to then design, draw or write. In a curated environment, the participants share and absorb new skills (from typography to cooking to printing) and develop products that live side-by-side in a community of projects.
For the duration of the workshop we as authors take the role of the facilitator. The workshop participants learn from each other, inspire one another and sometimes critique each other’s ideas. Once the session has ended the participants disperse with new knowledge and skills which can be used to develop individual practices.
Co Founder and director at Hato, Hato is a collective of designers, animators, programmers, copywriters and printers. We work together to provide engaging, meaningful and interactive experiences.
"I guess I design the way a journalist writes, trying to describe a fragment of overwhelmingly complex societal shifts into a very confined piece of work. Being the author for me is all about finding the right metaphor to trick my audience into feeling part of a reality it was previously looking at from a comfortable distance."
Marta presented Border Crossings, a project that aimed at addressing the migration crisis affecting the European Union and revolved around the question “what would it feel like to be on your way to Europe, as an illegal traveller? ”.
‘I believe it was the experience that more than ever made me question the perception I have of myself as an author and challenged my beliefs and expectations over the practice of co-design.’ she says.
“What if you picked the wrong audience?”
“How can you be empathetic without being biased?”
“What do you do when facing uncooperative co-authors?”
She discussed some of these questions, exposing the value as well as the limits of co-authorship, while uncovering the path that brought her to negotiate her position within a design project. Starting as an invisible author exercising a mild supervision, shifting to a mediator with shared ownership and ending up retaining full and undivided control.
Between London and Torino (Italy), Marta is an interdisciplinary designer with an Industrial Design training and a socially focused design practice. Placing politics, ethnography, social studies in relationship with functions and aesthetics; using narrative and fiction to tackle complex ideas and stimulate conversation.
She has worked with clients including VISA and Microsoft and her work has been exhibited at London Design Festival and Milan Design Week. She is currently Junior Designer at design studio TODO.
Dr Sarah Rhodes (Design for Social Innovation, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London)
"Being grounded in human-centred design, my work is essentially about people: how we work together, the unique stories we bring to the partnership and how we weave those individual narratives into one without compromising their uniqueness."
Collaboration and Authorship
My work is concerned with collaboration, particularly how to foster meaningful collaboration when the relationship of those involved is inequitable, using participatory co-design methods to bridge the divide between marginalised groups. I aim to create productive partnerships, usually in community settings, where everyone involved has a voice in the process to reframe, co-create and/or co-design engagements that address complex, societal issues.
Co-design has been described as an exploration that people do together and it is this that forms the basis for my work with the exploring – the process – as important (if not more so) than the final product of the work together.
Through I examined the notion of authorship in relation to collaboration and how the role of the designer is dynamic throughout the process, shifting between collaborator, facilitator, friend, mediator, interloper, narrator and more. Using examples from my practice based research with African craft producers, community groups and design students I explored the question, how does the role of author fit into this and does collaboration necessarily mean co-authorship?
Sarah Rhodes is a researcher, designer, maker and educator. She completed her practice based PhD, The True Nature of Collaboration: What Role does Practice Play in Collaboration between Designers and African Craft Producers?, at Central Saint Martins in 2014. Her PhD research reframed collaboration between designers and African craft producers through the lens of design process, using a participatory design perspective, rather than the usual paradigm of product design development. It looked to determine how craft and design practices can act as tools for communication and exchange, and how to foster meaningful collaboration when the relationship of those involved is inequitable.
Sarah has contributed chapters on southern African design to two books; Cultural Threads: Transnational Textiles Today (Hemmings ed. 2014) and Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective (Skinner ed. 2013). Sarah’s jewellery has been exhibited internationally and her consultancy work includes designing the SS09 collection for fair trade jewellery company Made and developing the curriculum for Botswana’s first jewellery design and manufacture course.
Sarah has a continuing research interest in participatory design process, particularly in its use to bridge the divide between marginalised groups, and its utilisation for social innovation and sustainable practices. She is currently a design researcher for the Public Collaboration Lab project based at Central Saint Martins, which explores the potential for, and value of, strategic collaboration between design education and local government.
"..if you want to use narrative to inspire people to action you have to leave the ending open for them to finish off; in other words, to pass the voice of authorship over so others are speaking it in their heads, and becoming the protagonists of their own stories..."
‘I am an artist working in many different media and with different groups of people and subject matter. My work ranges from small hand-holdable sculpture to large architectural work, and from drawings in ink to film and animation. My subject matter ranges from considering our relationship to our sense of self to considering our relationship with the environment. Having a view of myself as an author of an ongoing narrative holding the different work together is helping me ground myself and unite the various strands. It is an alternative to the conceit of the moody romantic artist, the master, the genius. Perhaps in a more matriarchal way it includes an ability to start a story and pass strands of narrative over to others, including them in the work, and being included by them in their own narratives. With this in mind I presented two projects I am working on at the moment:
In 2013 I began "I Wish". This is a project in which I make people a talismanic object after a conversation with them in my studio. The conversation culminates in them imparting a wish which I write down. Afterwards I make a small talismanic object while holding in mind the wish told to me in confidence. It is an intuitive process.
My studio is on Deptford Creek in South East London, and I spend a great deal of time watching and identifying with the wild life on it (having been brought up in the countryside myself). Grey Heron and Hummingbird is about my relationship with the wildlife around me, and the huge changes that are happening around our community as the land all along the Creek gets built on and developed.’
Victoria Rance is concerned with the exploration of social and human behaviour, encouraging people to become more aware of both their inner psychic space and their relationship with the physical environment. Her sculptures can often be worn or entered and she records interactions with animation, photography and film. Ongoing projects include I Wish in which she makes a talismanic object in response to a one to one conversation about a wish; and Otherworld a series of sculptures, paintings and films about the magical and mythological, but vital, relationships between humans, animals and nature. She also writes and curates and has completed several public commissions.
Victoria studied Fine Art at Newcastle (BAHons) and Art and Space at Kingston University (MA). She won the 2003-4 Mark Tanner Sculpture Award and isbased at APT Studios in Deptford, London. Solo and two person exhibitions include I Wish, Deptford X (2013, 2014 & 2015), The Sleep of Reason, BBK Osnabruck Germany (2013), and Medusa Stories, Chalabi Gallery, Istanbul (2012).
We are thankful to everyone who has supported and helped us along the way especially Scott Burnham, Silvia Grimaldi, Niharika Hariharan, Karina Lee, Victoria Lee, Valerie Mace, Julia Pitts, Katherine Skellon and past NiP speakers for their willingness to spread the word for NiP 2016.
We would like to say a very big thank you to Fluid / Soundings for allowing us to use their office as the venue for the Speakers’ Brunch.
We would also like to thank Nozomi Koseki for all her help and for coordinating our team of volunteers.
We are of course, truly thankful to our speakers for participating in the event, for sharing our enthusiasm, for providing a fresh perspective on authorship and co-authorship and adding to our growing list of narrative gems: Jamie Elliott, Daisy Froud, Catherine Greig, Ken Kirton, Marta Monge, Victoria Rance, Dr Sarah Rhodes.
NiP 2016 would not be possible without the help of the following individuals:
Nuttanun Chantadansuwan, Vishanka Gandhi, Nikki Van Grimbergen, Prachi Joshi, Nozomi Koseki, Ting Hsin Lin, Lea Nagano, Citra Oktaviana, William Price, Angela Xie.
Finally, we are grateful to Tricia Austin (Course Leader of MA Narrative Environments, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London) for her continuing mentorship and guidance and for ensuring that our writing and thinking on narrative and design theory is up to standard.
Branding & Graphic Design
Hackney Bow Belly
Nikki Van Grimbergen
Proofreading & Copywriting