Objects & Their Stories

There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying. -Robert Evans

His Story

In the summer of 2009 I backpacked through Nepal with Lucas. You know he lives in Indonesia now? Java. Anyway we had a few friends doing conditioning for Everest and we figured how fucking often does that happen so we went to meet them. I miss being able to just pick up and go like that, man. I mean now with the kids and everything. And Jas -one look from her and I cave on pretty much anything. She has me wrapped around her finger. My boy too but with Jas it’s different. Anyway I’m getting off topic. We were starting off in the Kathmandu valley -yeah, I know. I’ve wondered about the people we met there so often. Anyway we were starting off in Kathmandu and doing the Annapurna Circuit and we stayed in a series of Teahouses. We met a lot of people in those Teahouses. Anyway, one of the Teahouses near the beginning of the hike was selling these khukuri. That’s what they’re called. I remember choosing the one I gave you because of the coins on the front of it. There are three of them right? And then another emblem that I don’t remember. I remember thinking this was such a beautiful piece of artistry. And I bought one for you and one for my sister, but I used the one I gave to you because I figured you’d be more interested in something that seemed authentic. You were like that.

My Story

Oh my god I remember being so nervous! When you told me that you had a present for me and it was a little weird? And I remember at that time I had just started dating Cyril and I knew he was going to be at that party on Bleeker too, remember? And so I remembered thinking Ok I should probably go off to the side with Peter to get this gift, like what if it was lingerie or drugs or something, and then worrying that if Cy saw me with you off to the side with another guy then he’d think I wasn’t interested in him. You know how relationships are in the beginning -every move is like, crucial. Anyway, I remembered not knowing how to address that when we met up, and then when we finally did you just like, dropped your backpack in the middle of the street and like, handed me this thing wrapped in what looked like blood-spattered cloth. I mean if I didn’t know you I would have thought you were disposing of a murder weapon. And people on the street probably thought you were. And I think that’s when you told me that it was from fruit that you had cut when you were hiking, and you didn’t want to clean it because you thought it was more authentic that way and I remember thinking that wasn’t really the reason why and that you were just lazy. But anyway fortunately Cyril was just paying attention to his French friends and not really paying attention to our interaction anyway, and I remember being thankful and then mildly annoyed that he didn’t care that I was spending time with this tanned good-looking Bermudian guy who had just handed me a knife in the middle of Bleeker street on the way to a party.

The Museum Story

Khukri, sometimes Khukuri – Nepalese. Wood, brass, steel.

The kukri or khukuri (Nepali: खुकुरी) is a Nepalese knife with an inwardly curved blade, similar to a machete, used as both a tool and as a weapon in Nepal. Traditionally it was, and in many cases still is, the basic utility knife of the Nepalese people. It is a characteristic weapon of the Nepalese Army, the Royal Gurkha Rifles of the British Army, the Assam Rifles, the Gorkha regiments of the Indian Army, and of all Gurkha regiments throughout the world, so much so that some English-speakers refer to the weapon as a “Gurkha blade” or “Gurkha knife”. The khukuri often appears in Nepalese heraldry and is used in many traditional rituals such as wedding ceremonies. This kuri appears to have originated in the early 21st century, possibly 2009. The residue that appears on both sides of the blade is deep red in color and mildly sticky in texture. Upon first appraisal it appeared that the knife had been used as a weapon of war, but materials testing revealed that the substance is in fact fruit pulp, perhaps from an anaar (pomegranate) or anjir (fig). Source.

Additional Resources Leslie Bedford’s Storytelling: The Real Work of Museums and Chapter 3 of What We Made: Conversations on Art & Social Cooperation: “Museum, Education, and Cooperation: Memory of Surfaces, Ernesto Pujol, Artist and David Henry, Museum Educator”

Body Burden III: The World Is Ending, Learn To Die

That to Study Philosophy is to Learn to Die. -Michel de Montaigne, Essays

The human psyche naturally rebels against the idea of its end. -Ray Scranton, The New York Times

[In] March [of 2013], Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, the commander of the United States Pacific Command, told security and foreign policy specialists… that global climate change was the greatest threat the United States faced — more dangerous than terrorism, Chinese hackers and North Korean nuclear missiles. -Ray Scranton, The New York Times

We have entered a new epoch in Earth’s geological history, one characterized by the arrival of the human species as a geological force. -Ray Scranton, The New York Times (emphasis mine)

If homo sapiens (or some genetically modified variant) survives the next millenniums, it will be survival in a world unrecognizably different from the one we have inhabited. -Ray Scranton, The New York Times (emphasis mine)


Topic Proposal

As I have continued to explore the harmful chemicals found in the umbilical cords of minority newborns, it occurred to me that the normalization of an otherwise absurd reality (toxic chemicals in umbilical cords? Really? It sounds light something from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -oooze! Oh no!) might be best confronted by a satirical response. I’ve chosen to utilize a (hopefully) fictitious dystopian future narrative in order to address the risks to which we are subjecting pregnant women and their children. I debated tackling this in several ways including:

A. Greeting Cards From The Anthropocene

a series of congratulatory and/or birth announcement cards for newborn children. Sampling: “Congratulations! Baby Esmerelda is a charm! We’re so happy to hear that her life expectancy exceeds forty years despite her extremely underdeveloped atria.” I also considered

B. PSAs For Pregnant Women

which I envisioned would play out as a series of photographs of myself  (or another woman) that would be made to appear pregnant while ingesting various toxins in both fluid and solid states. We could condemn the pregnant woman’s actions in the same way we might condemn drug addicts’. I ultimately moved away from this model because it seemed that it would be almost too easy to dismiss the message of this series and instead make the woman culpable despite it being a satirical piece. Finally, I arrived at

C. Your Favorite Baby Shower Gift

Which seemed almost too perfect because it has the added bonus of criticizing a particularly western consumption culture (in which I am all too guilty in participating). It also seemed to be the medium by which I’d be able to offer the most full narrative of the aforementioned dystopia, and the most powerful mechanism by which I could attempt to -for lack of a better term- scare the shit out of my audience in a very tangible way.

I propose that for my final version of this project, I generate the actual “kit” that I am pitching in these RELIANZE advertisements, along with full “scientific” explanations for each kit item and its inclusion. Heavy emphasis will be placed on the mitigative/adaptive effects each item is intended to have. These explanations will be based on the research that I have conducted on Body Burden, and  will address the most harmful effects of Body Burden, specifically on minority newborns.

Additional Resources New York Times, Floating Islands Look Like Less of a Pipe Dream; Ray Scranton, Learning How to Die in the AnthropoceneGlenn Dyer and Stephanie Wakefield, Notes from the Anthropocene #1, Brooklyn Rail ; Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement, part 4: “politics”; All icons via the Noun Project.

Use Case: Screen-Based Counter & Prototype

Exercise Create a smartphone screen-based version of  your counting device, and create a physical prototype of it.Consider the best way to translate the physical sensations that you found successful in your physical prototype.

Keep in mind the tactile, audio and visual feedback that was successful on the physical prototypes we looked at in class.


Rachel is a 30 year old PR Account Manger who finds her job boring and lives for her vacation. Some days she feels she cannot make it to 5pm without knowing that there is a vacation on the calendar. Rachel is constantly tracking the number of days until her next vacation. She is looking for a fun way to motivate herself by tracking the number of days until her next vacation.
Jon is a Sales Rep with a stressful job and has developed a bad habit of drinking too much coffee. He is trying to cut back because he can’t sleep at night. This winter he is up to 4-5 cups a day. Jon loves coffee and doesn’t want to quit, he just wants to scale back from almost 30 cups a week  to a limit of 15 cups per week. Jon is looking for a way to easily track his coffee consumption by counting the number of cups he drinks each week.

Additional Resources Why Designers Should Never Go to a Meeting Without at Prototype; Dribble; Dribble

When Grandpa Died

Exercise Create a short sound piece or story in 2-4 parts. It can offer different perspectives on a single subject, or use multiple voices or different components to complete a single narrative. Use either approach in creating your short audio “story.” 

I chose the subject of my grandfather’s death because I am interested in the ways that we choose to remember traumatic events -what sticks out, what gets erased, what everyone remembers and what memories become secrets only we recall.

I have listened to the story of my grandfather’s death again and again. What surprises me is both how differently each of my grandfather’s children (my aunts and uncles) frame their experience, and how my grandfather’s final wishes resonated with all of them.

Mostly I am interested in how our memories of a particular story evolve over time, and whether they become convoluted, or only more pure.

Non-sequential narrative


I conducted four separate interviews that were ~ 1 hour long each. None of the people being interviewed were aware of the topics discussed prior to the interview. After interviewing I sketched a rough storyboard and edited clips based on themes identified and the time stamps I noted as the interviews were being conducted.

The Little Mermaid: Behavioral Modification Therapy

This week, we have been charged to take two to three critical actions in our story and make modifications to them. I have identified three main scenarios in Ariel’s storyline:

  1. Her office life, or the scene-setting portion of the plot,
  2. The show with her bandmates, or the central point of conflict and
  3. The “happily ever after”scenario which, in this case, is Ariel’s non-traditional decision to focus on her career.

Scene 1: Office Life

Present day. Ariel is a mid-level executive at an NGO that works in environmental preservation and is particularly concerned with preserving the world’s oceans. She has a crush on one of the dudes that works at a bank across the street. None of Ariel’s friends understand why the hell she’s so smitten with a brodouche. Ariel’s dad doesn’t get the obsession either.

Ariel has a colleague at the NGO who has been bypassed for promotions year after year, even though she has deserved them. She is shaken by the openness of fourth wave feminists, and confused by their many contradictions. She is particularly confused by Ariel who appears to have a very nice life, and wants to compromise her ideologies for the sake of finding a man. Who needs a man that wants you to change? That’s not the right man.

Scene 2: The Show

Ariel is the singer of a band. After E misses one of Ariel’s performances that she really, really wanted him to go to, she cries herself hoarse. At the office the next week, Ursula, the colleague, offers some unsolicited but sound advice: Focus on your career. Be yourself. You will be fine.

Scene 3: Happily Ever After

Ariel introduces Ursula to her ornery widowed father. They get married. Ariel finally has the strong female role model she needs. Ariel ignores E. and saves the world’s oceans. It’s the right choice.

Modules, Natural & Synthetic

1.1 Shell A series of pods that compose a single vessel.


1.2 Magnets A series of stackable magnets that swivel according to polarity, and repel each other at short distances.


1.3 Copper This copper branches and provides structural support for more copper -as though it was generating itself.

Exercise Modularity exists in all levels of the biological hierarchy. Look into various instances of modularity, and experiment with developing your own module for re-use throughout the semester. In the process examine camouflage, strategies of reinterpretation and reformulation, adaptation, reconfigurabilty, inheritance and conservation.

2.1 Sketch Mapping my module & cutouts on graph paper.

Considering Reconfigurabililty, Reformulation, Affordance & Adaptation

I am dissatisfied with my solution, because it is not scalable, and is extremely rigid. However, I believe this excercise was necessary for me as a way of first understanding the properties of a module itself, and material affordances.


I was interested in utilizing tessellation as a means of material conservation. However, my pattern necessitated not two but three shapes in order for my module to effectively clasp.

tes·sel·la·tion ˌtesəˈlāSH(ə)n/ noun
  1. the process or art of tessellating a surface, or the state of being tessellated.
    • an arrangement of shapes closely fitted together, especially of polygons in a repeated pattern without gaps or overlapping.
2.2 AI Sketch Committing to a not-quite-tessellatory pattern


3.1 Tortoise Shell Naturally occurring tessellation.


3.2 Windowpanes Tessellation by design.


3.3 Triangle Series Mathematical manipulation.


2.3 Paper Model Finalized prototype before taking to the laser.

Designing A System & Differences In Materiality

I wanted to make sure that this process was scalable, which is why I started with the most obvious and basic format of a module; literal puzzle pieces in three simple forms, allowing for scalability and iteration in the most traditional sense. Now that I’ve (barely) mastered this structural format, I’m interested in exploring non-traditional forms: pods, magnets, vines and spinning metals, to see how I might build a design system in a less expected format.

Body Burden Part II

This week, I dove deeper into my exploration of Body Burden and the implications it has on us as a species. In doing my research, I have found myself more and more drawn exploring the specific studies surrounding the impact of toxic chemicals in the umbilical cords of newborn babies.

In particular, I am interested by a series of studies conducted by the Environmental Working Group in conjunction with Rachel’s network and published in Scientific American:

“The study referenced found traces of some 232 synthetic chemicals in cord blood samples from 10 different babies of African American, Asian and Hispanic descent born in 2009 in different parts of the U.S…BPA turned up in nine of the 10 cord blood samples tested. But perhaps even worse is the study’s detection of whole new raft of chemicals showing up in babies’ cord blood for the first time.”

Findings of the study show that, unfortunately and unsurprisingly, minorities have a higher exposure to the harmful agents that cause these chemicals to be present.

Source: EWG compilation of chemical classifications published by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency, the European Union Consumer Products Safety and Quality Unit, the International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC) and neurotoxin listings from academic review published in the journal Lancet (references).


Additional Resources & Potential Artist Responses

QUIZ: What’s your toxic body burden? / Response -QUIZ: What type of mutant baby will you have?

PSA’S -Got Milk?/ Series of poison consumption ads.