MOTH_DESIGN_FOR LIFE AND DEATH. Death & Culture IV.Thursday 8 September 2022, 9.00AM to 09 September. York University.

Salkeld, Nicola ORCID logoORCID: and Rudolph, Ashley ORCID logoORCID: (2022) MOTH_DESIGN_FOR LIFE AND DEATH. Death & Culture IV.Thursday 8 September 2022, 9.00AM to 09 September. York University. In: Death & Culture IV_DaCNet, 08-09 Sept 2022, York University.

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Abstract / Summary

DaCNet seeks to explore and understand cultural responses to mortality. It focuses on the impact of death and the dead on culture, and the way in which they have shaped human behaviour, evidenced through thought, action, production and expression. The network is committed to promoting and producing an inter-disciplinary study of mortality supported by evidence and framed by theoretical engagement.
This internationally reaching conference will bring together death scholars, including postgraduate students, artists, the charity sector, the professional environment, as well as those who might not consider themselves death scholars whose work overlaps with thanatological enquiry.

Moth: Design for Life & Death investigates the skills and contributions which communication designers can make to death studies and end of life experience. Examining contemporary attitudes and anxieties to death, dying and belief systems, through the lens of design communication. The work focuses upon the importance of ideas as triggers of creativity, as devices for narrative and as loci for opportunities of chance and transition in the context of loss, bereavement and death symbolism. It examines both formal conventions as well as future-thinking on how mourning, in (a largely secular) society can be made more visual (grief aesthetics).

Research investigates how we can confidently express ‘negative’ emotions in both the digital and analogue realm, creating evolved graphic visual language to help navigate grief and sadness and to communicate empathy and loss in our social relationships.

Projects provide platforms for creative exchange and contribution; they investigate how design process and practice can equip us to talk about death with greater confidence, giving us courage to see death as being something we can learn from rather than fear. Examining our personal and social relationships with grief and bereavement and what we believe might happen, when the one inevitable event we plan for the least comes to visit.

In this paper we explore the life and death of our ‘STUFF’, examining objects and artefacts as triggers for hidden memory, the micro/macro, construction and de-construction, a passion for rejects and fragments. As well as the emotional and material factors which drive our consumption and the legacy of the stuff we leave behind - “the curated graveyard”

D.W. Winnicott the English paediatrician and psychoanalyst influential in the field of object relations theory and developmental psychology, wrote “Our objects have history, and each one shapes us in particular ways. They leave traces that will mark the rest of our lives. They specifically influence how we can develop a capacity for happiness, an aesthetic experience and creative play. The use of transition objects continues through our lives as we imbue objects with meaning and memories that are associated with other ideas, places and people

As humans we are pretty unique in the way we collect and curate items. Souvenirs infused with memories and messages from other people, places and times. Memorabilia to express loyalty, artefacts which represent the thrill of the find: obsession and possession. Objects which express our primal need to accumulate and store practical resources (hunter gatherer). Artefacts which represent endowment and contagion, the attachment of value and meaning of objects which have been owned or infused by association of belonging to someone/thing significant.

In a supersaturated world proliferated with visual content consumed at speed alongside a superabundance of objects and brands our clutter can be overwhelming.

Design not only makes things possible but is also a limiting factor. All of the objects we design/make/ use are charged with political significance they, impact the world with consequences and culpabilities. Designers are deeply implicated in a consumer culture that makes ever more ingenious use of design as a beacon of identity and a tool of seduction. At the same, time they are free to question, oppose and perhaps begin to re-frame design’s future role.

Designers can also be liberated by the non permanence of their work, the transient nature of a magazine, a poster, packaging, but yet have on the whole an inability to throw anything away. Graphics Designers can be walking talking Cabinets of Curiosities. Archiving material that might be handy ‘one day’ - They like to think of it in terms of visual flotsam - equivalent to tins of screws and drawers of miscellaneous random things which the anal amongst us might meticulously catalogue and archive. Some objects are valueless - until they are rediscovered and transformed into a durable and wanted items. Others have no value, save for their meaningful and personal relationship to a person, place or thing - determining provenance. Design imbues meaning and myth, assumptions and values, it mediates how we interact with the world, our goods and brands define lifestyle choices and aspiration. A project/experiment entitled , Significant Objects set out to measure the commercial power of the written word, with fictional narratives attached to ‘worthless objects’ to gain not only subjective, but objective, value, according to the project’s hypothesis. In Paul Wood’s sculptures he subjects the deceased, creating poignant memorials from charity shops, transforming unfashionable clutter and resurrecting it into small monuments to a past existence. Bruno Mouron and Pascal Rostain created a body of photographic work entitled Trash, illegally raiding, and photographing the entire contents of the bins of Hollywood celebrities: the likes of Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson and Madonna, Liz Taylor. They were inspired by an article Le Monde, where a sociology professor had written a piece about a study aimed at analysing the standardization of consumerism, consumption and social behaviour in relation to trash.

Our Significant objects remind us of the narratives of our lived materiality - meaning, transition, connectivity with loves and losses, hopes and dreams. To have and to hold is essentially human. The cultural philosopher Marshall McLuhan, talks of our fundamental need to find meaning, we need to make sense of the world, in order to survive.

In DESIGN IS STORY TELLING, the writer, designer and curator Ellen Lupton advocates that, design must engage with emotional intelligence to be able to read people’s feelings and to respond in ways that build understanding and co-operation (empathy). To consider how users will anticipate an experience and how they remember that experience later. Designers need to tap into our emotions to trigger feelings of delight, desire, surprise, trust. They play a vital role in our reasoning and ethical judgment. The success of a product/object/experience does not just rely on its function/utility but its meaning in the life of its users.

Functional or technical obsolescence is a familiar concept, but we know less about emotional obsolescence: the emotional and material factors which influence what we decide to keep or discard. Our objects and possessions can reveal much about ourselves, they may outlive us, and it begs the question, of what happens to them beyond our lifetime?

Walker, S. (2018). The Life Of Stuff. Doubleday.
Turkle, S. (2011). Evocative Objects, Things we Think with. The MIT Press.
Moran, A O’Brian S. (2014). Love Objects. Bloomsbury.
Winnicott, D. W. (1958). Collected papers: Through Paediatrics to Psycho-Analysis. London: Tavistock Publications.
Lupton, E. (2017). Design is Story Telling. Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.
Glenn, J. (Editor). (2012). Significant Objects. Fantagraphics Books.
Eno, B. (1997). The Edge. A Big Theory of Culture”
Poyner, R.(2003), No More Rules: Graphic design and post modernism. Lawrence King.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Subjects: Communication > Graphic Design
Courses by Department: The School of Communication > Graphic Design
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Nicola Salkeld
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2023 12:40
Last Modified: 23 Nov 2023 19:00


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