When I first start this project, I was afraid if I misinterpret his identity as a designer and visual artist, which made me procrastinate to decide how to ‘frame’ him within 6 minute. It was the first time to present someone’s point of view about the graphic design, other than mine. Every projects that I’ve done during the sophomore and junior year were to present my thought about assigned objects.
At first, I just wanted to show his daily life as a design student. My thought was though people have 24 hours a day, everyone use them in a different way, which makes individuals’ identity different. When someone use their majority of day focusing on designing website, he or she can be seen as a web-designer although one doesn’t intent to be shown in the way. So I felt that how he use his time of the day will naturally lead my video to properly present him, rather than framing him as someone with some particular identity. My first approach might be successful if I have a plenty amount of time. However, because this project should be done within 3 weeks, there is no way to make connection between him with one theme.
Second direction that I choose was his interests in posters hung on the wall of RISD campus. It was interesting to me that the poster that used to hang on the public place is collected in his personal space, presenting an event and time that the student spend and also curious why he collect the posters made to show some information for public. Before listening the Phil’s thought, many posters in RISD were made just for some days’ instant events and lose its utility and meaning after the events are done, and I didn’t prefer to stand in front of the myriads of posters attached on the wall. As a viewer of all the posters, it was visual noise to me. Although individual posters might be made with the designer’s intention and visual strategy, when all the posters are gathered at wall in 15west or Design center, it was a cacophony, degrading each poster’s quality rather than harmonize. But after I listened to his thought, it changed my view about this particular medium of design, help me to rethink about the meaning of the ephemeral posters in daily lives and give contrast to the fine art pieces. It also helped me to understand him more. The theme, ‘poster’ presents his overall aspect of characteristic such as his interest of interaction with audience, his wittiness and desire to make narrative through posters. However, I might be look passive when I record his action of ‘stealing’ poster. However, as it is for showing a person oneself, rather than making fiction based on one’s identity, what I think I can do for my best was to make him behave naturally. I think the project gives me a freedom to present my interpretation about the project itself other than my point of view about a person.
For the ethnography project, I began by asking Karsten some general questions about his life– family, hobbies, and interests– pretty basic questions about himself on the surface. As we got into talking about art and design, it quickly became apparent that he had less of an interest in talking about his work than about metaphysics. Every question directed at his inspirations and purpose as a designer became a long and convoluted tangent about the questions of the universe and human perception of time and sound. Karsten was no longer interested in the physical world and what it’s visual realm had to offer, and I didn’t want to force him to talk about it for a school assignment that was meant to be about him. I caught him as he was packing for a night off campus with his family and asked him to just talk about anything he wanted. I asked about his empty room, a few pieces on the walls, and various philosophy books that were stacked on the drawer as conversation starters, knowing that it would lead inevitably to his own philosophy on art and life. I got about six minutes of footage before he took a call and I stood awkwardly in the room listening to a very revealing and emotional conversation between him and his grandfather before I decided to leave.
From the limited footage that I gathered, I wanted to show bits and pieces of ideas that Karsten seemed to be obsessed with– math, science, language– and how they are linked, without going too in-depth because they led to questionable topics that might make some viewers uncomfortable. Much of the footage couldn’t be used because I felt it was too personal or meant to be kept as a conversation between the two of us, off the record. Karsten is a genius in his own way, and I wanted to show that he wasn’t as crazy as he might sound. I asked him to send me some of his work and he gave me his laptop (which I still have). I found some of his work that showed the influence of some of these ideas that he couldn’t get out of his head and pieced the images and ideas together.
I’m really glad that I got paired with Karsten, because we have very similar views on art and RISD. I totally understand why he left RISD and his laptop behind. I doubt that the video will give the viewer a better understanding of Karsten, but I hope that it will at least provide an interesting and insightful perspective.
I didn’t know which direction to take this project in the very beginning when we were assigned to our partners and that confusion went for quite a while until I just decided to roll with it and see where it took me. (deadlines play a big role) So the project began with a casual sit-down chat with Sarah. I asked a series of general questions that gave me a background to how she came to arrive as a person she is today. From that, I learned some basic facts about her life, like different countries she’s lived in, her cultural background, and where she defines herself in all the different cultures she’s been exposed to. Also, not only was I able to learn some facts but I was also able to get a sense of her personality through the way she talked and the way she presented herself in a casual environment.
My observations from this conversation led me to a somewhat clear direction as to where to take the next interview step. For the ‘official’ recorded interview, I asked specific questions that could narrow down my focus on a specific aspect of her interests. Since I knew that we all had a common interest in graphic design, I decided to focus on her personal connections to it and what she is most interested in the field. By doing so, I decided to focus on her main interest identity design to begin and to weave in the narrative. As to the process of gathering footage, I really wanted to focus on having the visuals enhance the story she tells through her voice. The focus was to capture her in the most natural setting that is in a typical day of her usual life.
Some of the challenges I faced during the process was the fact that I had to balance my curation and artistic direction with the most true and raw portrayal of my partner. I constantly had to check myself to not distort the subject I am portraying in making editing decisions yet not lose my perspective as the director. But all in all, I think it was a really beneficial experience to work with elements that I cannot have total control of. The challenge provided me with an opportunity to think in both perspectives and consider elements that I usually never think about during my design process.
For me, getting to know about Christina and her background was most important and prior to anything else to start this project. I went over to Christina’s room and simply began talking with her about random stuff, which was actually very helpful. Just by seeing her displays of little toys and patterns on the wall, I was able to catch a general idea of what my video will look like, and from our random conversation, I learned a lot about her background, family, and her story of coming to RISD. She told me a lot about her illustration works from high school, which helped me to understand her approaches to the projects that she had done so far. So then I went on to ask about her interest as a designer and more about her works. I kept the voice recording on during the talk so that I wouldn’t miss anything important said in her natural tone. As Christina went on talking, I was able to understand her state as a student in the process of learning and absorbing new things. Then I decided to focus more on introducing Christina purely as she is by showing what she chose to show me to introduce herself to me. From then, with several recordings of her talking about general thoughts about design, I asked her to explain more in depth about some of the things, such as her book projects and her interest in patterns. When I began editing and putting videos and audios together, I had things all over the place without any specific order. It became harder the more I worked on it because I couldn’t look at my work with third person point of view. After the first crit, I had to go back and rearrange the order of some parts, which made whole lot more sense in the overall flow. When I was done editing the things that I had, I noticed that the video was missing something that links every other parts together as a whole, so I did one last interview with Christina with a white background. This interview was very useful and probably it was the most important part of the whole video where she gave her concluding statement. Also I could effectively use the video shots from this interview, in which she was looking and talking right at the camera, since the video and audio were separate from each other in all the other parts of the film.
When I first was assigned this project, I felt uneasy with this kind of collaboration project which requires a high interaction with one person. However I was very lucky to have been paired with Christina who was really understanding and thanks to her, I could feel comfortable talking about myself in front of the camera and the audio recording. Through several interviews, it was a great chance for me to go over what I have done so far and take time to think about what I am aiming for in the future as a graphic designer. Especially looking at how Christina combined and showed my works, I could see that I also had my own stylistic approach to art and design, which I wasn’t very aware of before. The project, overall, was not a very easy one, having to work with equipment and programs that I’m not very used to. However it was a great opportunity to get to know about my classmate, at least try out the new technical materials, and especially to experience what it is like to be a subject of one whole video.