Celeste Muethe discusses Self-Initiated projects and how to deal with free time during the first part of her DPS journey
When I was in foundation and filling applications for different Bachelors courses, I was, as I assume everyone is, pretty nervous about finding the course that would suit me best. My biggest fear was to end up in one that would give us open briefs and a very long time to work on them. I would say to all of my teachers that I had a hard time doing personal work if no one was watching or if we didn’t have a lot of guidelines on what to do. The reality is I had a hard time doing work for myself instead of for the teachers and the grades. I guess our school education is made to have us think that way. Starting DPS I was then anxious about the free time between internships and the big roles that self-initiated projects have in the year.
As I started the term I managed to get an internship really quickly, the only issue was it was starting mid-November. I struggled to find another internship that would last a month or two while finishing before the month of November. I realized that if I didn’t manage to secure one for the time being, I would have to work on something personal.
I decided to work on something that would make me learn new skills and fill my free time. I was going to improve my digital drawing abilities; this was my goal starting off. I also wanted to do something that would have a daily outcome. This way I was sure to work on it every day and make it a priority.
Visual magnitude is the outcome of this project. It is an Instagram account where I post digital portraits that I made daily. (@visual_magnitude) I started by making several portraits every day without posting anything. I figured that I should have a few of them ready for busy days. An aspect that I think was a good way to keep me going for a long period of time was the variety. Each portrait takes a couple of hours to do which means it doesn’t feel like working on the same thing for too long. It then makes it difficult to get discouraged and it is also very pleasing to have regular outcomes.
Using Instagram was a good way to showcase my work by allowing a wider audience to see it. I think the feedback from the viewers replace the feedback I was used to having in school. It feels rewarding and encouraged me to continue the project for longer than I intended to.
Having free time ended up being a lot less terrifying than I thought. It is a time we have to learn new skills and working on projects that I would have been unable to undertake in addition to uni work. It is also a time that you I use to start very different ventures at the same time.
For example, I have been very intrigued by virtual and augmented reality for a long time. I started to learn how to code so I could have a better shot at working with those techniques one day.
Starting by facing one of my fear, was a bold way to go but I think it was necessary.
Adam Warren reflects on the idea of surveillance as part of a personal investigation during his DPS year.
Surveillance (within the context of academic theory) is something that I’ve found increasingly more interesting since originally studying it as part of my CTS last year.
One could say that the study of this topic begins with the ‘Haussmanisation’ of Paris – an architectural feat engrained with concepts of surveillance. The changes to Paris in the late 1800s consisted of three large avenues built through the condensed slums of the city in the attempt to create a clearer point of view for patrolling policemen (this also allowed the military to access certain points of the city more efficiently). The logic behind this being that it would lead to a degree of self-regulating society and thus, reduce crime.
This idea ties up nicely with the ‘Panopticism’, a concept coined and first written about by Jeremy Bentham. He believed that you could encourage a self-modifying behaviour within prisons thanks to an architectural design as opposed to physical torture and pain. The hypothetical design of the building is a circular prison-cell structure with a large watch tower and courtyard in the centre through which guards can see prisoners, but prisoners cannot see them. The idea behind this is that once prisoners are aware (or unaware) of whether they are being watched, their behaviour and cooperation will automatically improve. Whether or not this design is effective or morally sound is a point of discussion, but the concept itself is extremely relevant in the context of ‘surveillance’. Panopticism has been written about by many philosophers and psychologists since Bentham’s first ideas, including Michel Foucault. He went on to say that the ideas behind Panopticism could potentially be applicable ‘in hospitals, workshops, schools’, etc.
It’s interesting to try and find structures in contemporary life that reflect these ideas of being watched or watching someone: CCTV is the perfect example of modern-day panopticism. Increasingly, we’re living in a society whereby nearly all our movements can be traced. Whether that’s thanks to our travel cards, payments, CCTV footage or even our own social media which tend to act as an individual’s self-documentation of movements. A paper on the main surveillance theories and concepts by Tjerk Timan of the Tilburg University in Holland excellently describes this recent shift. ‘Surveillance Capitalism’ is the change of intention from an organisation or government using surveillance as a means to discipline, to using it as a way of controlling society – the aim being to modify human behaviour as a means to produce revenue, e.g. tailored advertising.
I’d like to incorporate my interest in surveillance studies into my practice, somehow. I noticed recently that the language used behind CCTV signage often tries to imply that the existence of surveillance cameras is solely for the benefit of the citizen. My aim is to create a small publication that visually researches this language with a short essay acting as a foreword, contextualising the imagery.
Mushroom man Charlie Boyden shares his innovative self promotional project to help secure him an equally innovative placement as part of his DPS journey.
Mycelium: The vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a network of fine white filaments (hyphae).
Over the past two years I have been increasingly interested in materials, in particular the up cycling and repurposing of found materials or objects. Having recently started the Diploma in Professional Studies I had spare time for experimenting and working on projects I had dreamt about for a while, so that’s when I ordered the Mycelium.
My plan was simple, or maybe not so. Make a lunch box out of mycelium, but instead of stopping the growth process of the mycelium by subjecting it to high temperatures like instructed, I would allow mushroom spores to form over the box. These would then be trimmed off and set aside. The lunch box would then be exposed to high temperatures, triggering the end of any further fungus. After being heated I would fill the lunch box with it’s mushrooms, adding a package of risotto rice and instructions. This together would make a fully biodegradable Fungus for Lunch Box with a MYrisotto (make yourself) kit within.
This lunch box would then be hand delivered to a few studios or people, in The Netherlands, that also work with the material or who are pushing creativity within product and furniture design through the exploration of materials like mycelium.
Mycelium is overpriced and undervalued. Not enough people are producing the material in order to lower costs and not enough big brands are taking the leap to use it. There is one large producer and seller of mycelium packaging and Mycelium GIY (grow it yourself) Kits in America, a company called Ecovative. They recently formed a collaborative company with designer and mycelium explorer Eric Klarenbeek, where together they are bringing the material into Europe easier and cheaper for designers and consumers like myself.
There is a huge market for mycelium, it has the possibility to be the material of the future but not enough people are seeing it true potential. For this to happen I am becoming a part of the growing community of designers and artists who are attempting to push the material into the public eye. You could probably say that in creating Fungus for Lunch it has taken the form of a self promotion project, which it has, but I see it as a stepping stone to a bigger platform and area for experimentation.
Throughout this exploration I learnt a few things, one being the knowledge that mycelium is fragile. You have to be so careful not to infect the mix with bacteria, yeast or moulds otherwise it could risk the material failing to act the proper way. Another is temperature. I lost many days of growing time due to the room not being hot enough for the mycelium to grow in. The best temperature is 23 degrees and so to achieve this heat I built a wooden rack, within which I placed the mycelium ad covered with an electric blanket. These are both things that I have learnt from and will change in future explorations.
Right now I’m waiting for the final stages of the mycelium growth. They should in fact be ready to leave the moulds tonight and will be left to grow the spores over the coming days, with myelin to go to Amsterdam at the end of this week.'