“We have lived for too long in the dreary region of homo economicus, our lives shadowed by principles of self-interest, utilitarian 'necessities', instrumental moralities. But we are permitted to hope; to revive those great and optimistic words of Breton: Perhaps the imagination is on the verge of recovering its rights. We must welcome, as did the surrealists, the re-entry into modern life of homo ludens,the imaginative man at play, the intuitive visionary.”
Mel Gooding in A Book of Surrealist Games, 1995
I am a firm believer of just showing up to your work. The idea that, if you find ways to engage with your work and get your hands dirty, your work flows. For this reason I will often challenge myself in various ways. I set myself a few restrictions with a deadline and off I go. Last year, I engaged in a studio residency where I had one goal for two weeks: find something to do and make with my paper bin. My paper bin is a beautiful collection of unused test prints, torn envelopes, tiny paper scraps, mis-cut papers and more… It is a beautiful mess. So the question arose whether I could make something out of it? I decided to spend a full two weeks with nothing else to do in my studio other than engaging with my paper bin.
Now as I said earlier, I am big fan of showing up to work. Often times just spending time with what is in front of you make ideas come to surface. Add some deadlines and restrictions to that and you are sure to get into a creative process where things unfold.
Many of us have learned to develop projects conceptually. While a strong concept is at the base of any good design project, the simple notion of just wanting to make something, the idea of playing and having fun creatively, of loosing yourself in the process often gets lost. But strangely it is one of the primary reasons many of us start design school in the first place!
John Huizinga defined our human species as a homo ludens, specifying that play is primary to and a necessary condition of the generation of culture. Huizing states that ‘play is older than culture, […] and animals have not waited for man to teach them their playing’. As such play is at the base of our nature.
However, throughout the course of our lives, we often unlearn how to play. Our lives get over-shadowed with utilitarian necessities. We live by our to do lists and we become unable think out of the box. Now I believe it is necessary for every human being to be able to play, but when you have a creative practice going on, it is of primal importance you are able to get your hands dirty.
That is why I will often challenge myself with a project where I have to kind of just… play. As we all know you need a playground in order to play. So last year, during my studio residency, I decided my paper bin would be my playground with I would show up once a week during the coming year to make something with the paper scraps it contains.
After two weeks of working with the pieces of paper and researching into their possibilities I finally decided to just arrange the paper scraps in plastic bags. I liked their accidental shape and form - slightly deformed by being thrown in the bin. Torn, to affirm the end of their existence. Cut, in an accidental pretty shape. I decided to keep their primal shape and play with them in order to find a composition.
This play has now been going on for a good year and a half. It has piled up to about 110 assemblages. For the coming three weeks I am going to engage once more in a studio residency trying to finish my year long play. Have a look here for the full archive and watch it grow!