Saturday, September 13, 2008

- Charles Eames

You have the right to work but for the work's sake only;

You have no right to the fruits of work.

Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working.

Never give way to laziness, either.

Perform every action with your heart fixed on the Supreme Lord.

Renounce attachment to the fruits.

Be even-tempered in success and failures, for it is this evenness of

Temper which is meant by Yoga.

Work done with anxiety about results is far inferior to work done

Without such anxiety, in the calm of self-surrender.

Seek refuge in the knowledge of Brahman.

They who work selfishly for results are miserable.

Technology and Humanity in the Indian Context:

Gandhi had a dream of a global world. The world is global but not how Gandhi saw it. In the process we lost India to it. And with India we lost our selves. In brief it is about how mankind has progressed and the world we are living in. I find this most interesting and perhaps even very shocking. What life has come to mean in these times. I do not really know how to tackle this issue but for a start id like to list down certain points of conflict:
a. knowledge: general education compared to specialization and professional courses.
How things are becoming more and more complicated and our reasoning behind it doesn’t sustain. I have all sorts of gadgets and devices which give a specialized set of problems. The issue is that nobody really thinks them out before introducing it into the market: we are faced with mass production and a variety of models
Take for example cell phones: it causes heart ear and other hormonal problems:
Diesel and petrol cause pollution so we resort to CNG which proves to be carcinogenic
We realize these problems after implementing massive world scale systems into place.
It is perhaps a design problem but I wouldn’t be so forward as to say that.
But at a simple level I could say that these are solutions that are not thought out well enough. We have so many people and fields of thought and technology that cater to different ideas that we have lost sight of a larger perspective. WE are going a long way everywhere because everybody can experiment. But certain large scale experiments can be unforgivable blunders for humanity. Perhaps it is a cycle perhaps it is a time.
In India when I was in school about 6 years back we used to hear about the ozone hole and about population control. India is just behind china when it comes to population. Then for many years it was not my concern until I realized that nobody talks about it any more. A friend of mine mentioned a family planning doctor who had ten kids himself. How convenient our education has become. But that’s the least of our problems.
Even more recently we realized that the young population in India is at its hilt. There are more young people in India now then any other people. In a couple of decades we will have a lot of middle aged people then elderly people and kids. These are massive changes. Nobody knows what is happening in the world today. History has stopped being recorded a long time back. And what is recorded as history in a global world is not what was recorded in nations before. Scales of operation are larger. I feel basically that this abundance of potential and knowledge must be sorted out somehow because we are no longer spectators in the processes of nature. We have dared to meddle and we must now take responsibility. Maybe I venture too far. But after many years in study of design I realize that there is no concern for it. Perhaps our priorities are wrong. Anything goes because it is new and we will always find a crowd that admires it or buys it. But we must stop because a person has a choice but his choice is limited by what is produced. WE will find a million glasses to buy : that is a wonderful choice but do we actually need to make a million glasses try and error and fail and die to know what is good and how it should be done in the first place. Even if we do we now have a million glasses and cars and washing machienes and television. What we don’t have is a standard of living and a educated man who thinks about it. They are just good bargains and diwali gifts.
Also I must believe that we ape the west we are behind them in many ways but we are also more in contriol of our selves we need not go the full cycle. We can perhaps learn form their mistakes instead of making them our own. A sense of sustainability we have always had. It is what the need of the hour is. To be developed in a sustainable manner. In small but efficient and profitable ways, like Laloo Prasad did with the khullars. A quest for nature and environment instead of call centers and multinationals.

b. Capitalism and Multinationals:
How they brand, provoke and flood our senses. Experiments are conducted in panoptic practices. Coke adds flicker on a blank screen for such minute moments that the eye does not register and the consumption of coke in that theater goes up like mercury. The dump their slurry in farm lands and make them so redundant that nothing grows there. They make multiple brands of pepsi fanta merinda and stuff shops with it. They market it so hard that the consumer and the retailer do not doubt that they should stock and consume. They kill the choice of the nimbu pani.Also in directly by dumping industrial waste in the pure waters of a poor country like ours. There by making it necessary for us to drink that dishwater. Bitter gourds are all bopugth by pharmasuiticals to manufacture medicine and use its properties the vegetabvle is now rarely available and we must supply our selves with medicines instead of having bought and cooked kerele ka bharwa.
How they mak those plastic building with malequins inside and give us a real shopping experience.

c. Corporate culture: working in cubicles, lifestyle and health
d. Children and Media influence: Computers and side effects
e. Nature and Equlibrium
f. Future of the world
g. Fear of exhausting all rewenability before we stop
h. Perhaps we hshold concentrate on saving the planet before we land on the moon

Trip to Jehangir Art Gallery

It is always fun to go to an art gallery. It is an enjoyable and enriching experience. I have always been interested in the arts. Seen it in books and heard it in lectures and also seen it in galleries before. I remember when Picassos traveling exhibition came to India it was a thrilling experience. Art is not what it looks like in books. It is a rare joy to see Picasso’s bull, the goat, the childlike paintings he did when he was old and the prints of Minotaur.
After that for days and days I wanted to be an artist. My other great love in art has been Michelangelo, in fact he is probably the reason I am at IDC today.

So getting back to the point a trip to a gallery is a learning experience like everything else- but sometimes and to so many people there is no clarity so as to what that learning could be. This trip connects in my head to the presentation on contemporary artists that we gave- most of this artist’s work was displayed in the gallery. These guys are the last school of artists in my memory. Art in Bombay is also quite different from the art in Delhi. It reflects in the centers of excellence and the conversation around it. In Delhi art and thought revolves around IIC and Habitat center also in the incredible Connaught
Place we will find small galleries. The artists are somewhat constant too. Where as in Bombay there is a different kind of art scene. If I were to crudely distinguish Bombay is still old style but dwells deeply on concept and society-with the media industry booming all that is new in art is applied there.

Art has transformed into advertising media and design which does not go on to say that there is no potential for art itself. At Jehangir what I saw was more a patronage to the old stalwarts. Though it would be lovely to also expose us to the new art which has no rules. Where as Delhi is more commercial art we would see everything from chemical processes to simulate desert landscapes to A. Ramachandran’s colorful forms of Indian villages and cast bronzes, vivid paintings of Manjit Bawa and the ceramics of Daroz. Lifestyle designers in Delhi also tend to bend towards art. Art is no longer a canvas it has exploded into space, and media it has now evolved into communication strategies. And we can see this only in retrospect.

As nobody knows what is happening in the world today. These are desperate times for recorded history. The explosion of knowledge and the quest to define the state of being has only begun. But to me Jehangir was about restarting this discourse of which we seem to lose touch from time to time. And it is not possible to record all that one felt and where the mind goes but art makes more sense when you visit a gallery.


Paper submitted by Chetan Shastri

William S. Huff was and Architect and an educator, who studied at the Ulm school of Design. Basic Design was known since Bahaus by such other terms as Foundation courses.

Basic Design deals with certain complex human perceptions, mostly right brain activity, that forms the basis for all design. It deals with elements and conceptions such as rhythm, proportion, structure, form, even truth and virtue.

William S. Huff through his article examines the nuances of Basic design through ‘Structure’. He defines Structure as the relationship or arrangement of parts or elements. To design is, first, to structure and therefore, the study of structure is equivalent to basic design.

We observe objects and phenomenon through two ways: one being scientific investigation and the other being through the very human, detached and superficial way of experiencing. In the face of this dichotomy, William S. Huff considers two distinct areas in the study of structure: the physical and the perceptual.
The former refers to physical deformations and transformations constituting under lying patterns or motifs. Things that concern identities or those that create contrasts to the basic concerns of perceptual phenomena form the latter.
Much is yet to be learned about structure in both its manifestations of organic form and inorganic form. Structure can be studied through biology, mathematics and physics indicates D’Arcy Thompson.
He talks of the structure of the honeycomb for example. We can basically look at a honey comb and tell that it consists of hexagonal containers that meet back to back with geometric precision. It exists in a state of minimal surface configuration and its resultant equilibrium. The bees calculated the Maralidi angle before Maralidi himself.
He moves on to the Fibonacci series which mathematicians will say is their paradigm. This Fibonacci series is a mathematical order which is found extensively in nature. I would feel confident to say that the way a tree grows the angles at which branches sprout reflecting a visual aesthetic and a corresponding balance is proportionate to its mathematical equation. Maybe the degrees of perfection vary but that same golden spiral is found in sunflowers and shells too. It is perhaps engineered and we cannot say what branch of knowledge it belongs to but there is dialectic aesthetic. In the article I feel the words become perceptual so I will use my own vocabulary to better explain how I see it.
In order to be esthetic then structure has to be more then physical or mathematical, though so far I have always judged esthetic as visual or material.
Man he says has the possibility of arranging and rearranging structure- and along with the structures come possibilities and narratives. The structures may vary in form, space, dimension, and in other manners. With this infinite possibility the structures are limited by nature herself. It would be unfair to say like William S. Huff says that structures are defined by mathematical laws or theorems, but perhaps the esthetics of them can in an inane sense be defined by them.
Basic design is said by Anni Albers to be Use less design or design without a purpose.
This unadulterated realm extends over to graphics, architecture, sculpture and other fields of design. Where simply put the aspect of aesthetics is combined with function.
If we were to aesthetically arrange unknown objects in space we would perhaps look for an aesthetic but if those objects were to be a chair, table, bed and a lamp in a room we would adopt functionality.
This is perhaps the basis of difference between basic design vs. applied design.
It is termed as the problem of the bridge.
It so happens that the basic design problems are given to open the students mind and give the student a creative outlook. Although the student develops creative abilities freely during the foundation course during consequent years when the students are channeled in the directions of practical problems the smallest problem can turn into an obstacle. And the basic design education and creativity are sacrificed for the usual.

Personally I feel basic design generates a certain passion and understanding of principles which as it says in the document is followed by most design schools all over the globe. Being from one of those schools I have never felt any one pointedly say that the exercises don’t make sense. In fact I feel they are the key to the world I see now. Somehow things have lost their wonder but the framework of thought still remains, the passion is reduced but the quest is alive. These exercises I believe are the only exercises that give an integrated approach to design. Under broad classifications of space, form, structure and colour. These are a parallel world of existence. Design and design thought has come a long way since these articles were written. They conflicts they breach are perhaps no longer conflicts also different conflicts may exist in different minds. I grew up with these ideas now I realize where they came from and as clearly as I remember it every new idea was like entering a new world of possibility- not justified by science or physics but drawing from it and creating a parallel perceptual reasoning. It clicked.
I feel as a basic a structure would work in many places to illustrate if we were to design a structure as a basic exercise we would have no functional constraints it would lean towards a metaphor, form, joineries and perhaps material. I say this only as an example of what basic design would be. But if basic design were to be understood structure could mean anything and would ideally mean different things in different scenarios. A physical structure would be there to a building or textile and a perceptual structure would be there in a film or a narrative. Structure can also be defined in relation to space and form it is perhaps in physical terms just that. Structure may refer to the logic of an exercise or the process followed to derive something. Therefore it is basic and can be extended to any of the design disciplines.
I believe basic design is then primarily a philosophic activity and in most cases philosophic activity may help us lead practical life better. Hence, dismissing the idea that basic design is useless.
It is a very thought inspiring article that William S Huff has written. These ideas originated at the very beginning of design and still holds strong.