9 Axioms for Research Communication
01 DRAWING UP AN INVENTORY
Communicating a creative research project to peers is in itself a full research project. One of the requirements was therefore to give value to the work by similarly valuing the various skills involved, whether in terms of graphic design, exhibition design or storytelling, which are also among ECAL’s strengths. This is the spirit in which this publication was conceived. It sets out a kind of vade-mecum of intentions, procedures, experiences and other “things” that mark out a research process. The artefacts produced are therefore classified according to criteria that could be used to spark a debate around research in design.
02 COMPREHENSIVE NATURE
The first important decision was to show all the pieces that came out of the workshops, even if they were not completely finished. Some pieces might even be broken, because it was important to preserve the trail of the attempts, reorientations, improvements and setbacks that also form part of the heuristic potential of a project of this kind.
03 COHERENT VISUAL SYSTEM
When it comes to communicational language, an advantage of glass is that it forms a complete “optical” system:
“Visually, the pieces of glass speak for themselves. When you see them together, you understand what this project is about, because you see that each piece has a different characteristic, but they’re all glass. And these characteristics are defined by what the students decided to do. So if they decided to mould in a particular way, the glass looks completely different. If they decided to use a different treatment or finishing, it looks completely different. You can almost only understand this by seeing the pieces together and comparing them. This kind of library allowed us to have a minimal amount of information, with emphasis on the images of the pieces.” — Luke Archer, graphic designer
04 A 360° VISION
This homogeneity provokes a certain kind of acuity, because it invites people to play with subtle effects of transparency and to define their own criteria for comprehension and evaluation. In the same spirit, the chance to get a 360° view of the objects on the website enables us to understand how their transparency and brilliance varies with our viewpoint. This helps raise awareness of the extent to which the very contours of glass differ according to how the object is positioned in a space and how it is lit.
05 AN INDEFINITE SPACE
The original impulse behind the exhibition design was to create a kind of indefinite space, a place which blurs the kinds of ways in which we can interact with these objects in the same way, as Camille Blin explains:
“This was not to look like a gallery, or a library or somewhere to display materials. We wanted to create an intermediary space in which nobody would be too sure of how to interact with what they found. In a museum, you know in advance that you don’t touch the objects, while in a library, you can touch them or borrow them. It was interesting to play with the space that the visitor had in relation to these codes. This exposes the hybrid nature of these objects, because it would have been a shame to put them on pedestals, without creating even a minimum of interaction.”
06 CULTURAL ARTEFACTS
Some pieces are intelligible in themselves while others need to be put in context. The aim was not to suggest an overly rigid or definitive layout around this collection of hybrid objects. Aesthetically speaking, some of them may be more attractive or more relevant than others, but the aim was to set up communication mechanisms that would give the visitors “prompts” that would give enough points of view for them all to be able to tell their own story. For Matteo Gonet, “each piece is a work with plenty to say to people with the same kind of sensibility. Each piece has its own history and they come to symbolise a certain period at ECAL”.
This collection thus aims to arouse curiosity, to spark histories, the triggers which urge users to put their finger on certain questions at the heart of applied research. Starting from these various taxonomic levels, we can create a range of associations, based on formal, methodological or functional criteria. By flowing from one object to the next, we can thus distinguish for ourselves the effects of certain treatments, ways of creating textures or colour. There are many ways of interacting with these objects and there is no need to be a designer to appreciate this experience. The project is intended to allow anybody at all to gain a basic idea of the manufacturing processes or the terminology used in the field of glass. An object’s aesthetic qualities can thus help us distinguish between ancient craftsmanship and more recent techniques. This didactic process aims to put forward an organised system of benchmarks that trigger free associations.
08 KINDS OF ATTENTION
It is more a question of playing on the kinds of attention that usually guide our relationship with common objects. We can, on one hand, focus directly on particular references depending on the name of the author, the attractiveness of the object, the technique used or any other characteristic that we could list, following a standardised model of regulation. On the other hand, it is equally possible to drift from one object to another, gathering information and impressions yet not in pursuit of any specific goal. In this case, knowledge is not an end in itself; rather, it is connections that predominate:
“What you initially have is visual information; the image of a piece, so you don’t have to understand what moulding or blowing glass is. However, the categories provide an understanding. If a person sees the picture of an object with a certain label describing the technique, she/he would be able to see all the other pieces using the same methods. So they can observe that a certain kind of treatment gives a certain kind of characteristic to the glass.” — Luke Archer
The average user’s curiosity is grabbed by the fragile, almost personalised character, of this profuse collection. The aim is not to distinguish between projects with great potential and unsuccessful ones. Their importance is more determined by the specific place they acquire in this extraordinary collection.
09 TOWARDS A SYSTEM OF QUASI-OBJECTS
In the introduction to his work The System of Objects, Jean Baudrillard mused on the possibility of classifying the huge proliferation of objects as we would do with plant species or animal families. He considered that this task would be all the more important in an era – the 1960s – when societal ways of life were undergoing the first waves of acceleration. Identifying and inventorying everyday objects in a “more or less coherent system” would allow us to reveal the effects of modernisation. At the same time, the term quasi-object is used to define things, serving as intermediaries, which trace the relationships between individuals. The quasi-objects are thus described as operators through which we can make projections relating to the organisation of more complex ensembles. A census of hybrids serving indeterminate ends, Heart of Glass is in some way a system of quasi-objects. It is this indefinite character that adds value.