‘Envision’ tool, ‘Remember’ tool, and the ‘Archival Trash Can’

September 29, 2009

The most recent meeting of Maine Interaction Design Association (iDXA) was a group project — generating design ideas for a website to present the work of  artist Adriane Herman.  Here’s how the Maine College of Art (MECA) web site says describes her work:

Adriane Herman references the culture of consumption in the imagery she utilizes and the presentation concepts she has employed to deliver objects ranging from the archival to the edible and in other ways ephemeral. Her 2007 solo exhibition at Center for Maine Contemporary Art monumentalized evidence of human intention toward action as manifested in to do and grocery lists.

Herman collects “to do” lists, and re-constructs them so that these transient documents become archival art objects.  A simple shopping list for a party becomes an introduction to a social experience; the list of tasks preceding a funeral reads as a memorial of love and caring.

Herman’s presentation gave us a striking picture of her passion, her clarity, her professed sense of “disorganization”, and of the patient care that goes into constructing her work. If you ever have a chance to hear her speak — go!

After her talk, we proceeded — individually or in small groups — to map out possible web sites.  Some focused on using well known modules and templates – to promote ease of use.  Others were designed so that the artist (not a “geek”) could maintain the site herself.  I took what I thought was a different path — wanting to create a web site that would model Herman’s world, and would let the user explore that world as viewed by different stakeholders:

  1. Herman’s house or studio, containing all the objects she’s acquired — some of which are already embedded in her art, and others that are waiting for a right place.  Some may be neatly arranged in flat files, while others are just in piles or disorganized boxes.
  2. Museum curator’s view, showing her work arranged by significance, by theme, by era.
  3. Gallery owners view, showing her work as it is for sale, for different uses (e.g. note cards vs framed prints), and at different price points.
  4. Bulletin board view, showing the connections and community that Herman is seeking.
  5. Classroom view, showing the skills,  processes, and methods that Herman can and does teach.
  6. Calender view, showing events, classes, shows, etc.

In order to move through this space, I “created” three new  “tools”:

  1. An envision tool that moves forward from an object to its uses in various art creations.
  2. A remember tool (the opposite of envision), that moves backward from an art object to the objects that comprised or informed it.
  3. An archival trash can, that lets people throw anything out (including objects of their own, not yet on this web site), knowing that nothing thrown out will really disappear.

Clearly, this design is technically challenging.  It represents a web that is not at all linear.  Would this be helpful in showing the complexity of Herman’s artistic life, or is this confusing and hard to use for inquisitive users?  Clearly it’s not “standard based”.

How new is it?  I’m not aware of other such webs, but would be interested to learn that I’ve reinvented something that already exists.

Talk to me!  I’m interested in continuing this conversation.

3 Responses to “‘Envision’ tool, ‘Remember’ tool, and the ‘Archival Trash Can’”

  1. Tnelson said

    Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so, Excellent post!

  2. Arthur, thank you for rearticulating what you brainstormed during that thoroughly thrilling session you Maine iDXA’ers bestowed upon me. Your idea is indeed complex, reflecting the multi-layered and non-linear nature of my brain, studio, and life. As you sensed and reported, my sensibility is not the touchstone to use here in order to gauge usability (!), so I am eager to hear others’ feedback. The lenses provided by the three tools really excite me while the notion of splaying out the sordidly non-sorted reality of my studio / home strikes terror into me, so I know there must be something there.

    I love the notion of the trash can from which nothing is ever actually tossed out (such a great metaphor for the “bricolage” [scavenging / gleaning / using what is to hand] that has come to underpin my practice). Still, some things do get lost — hopefully only temporarily — in the shuffle and I wonder if it might add interest and a bit of truthiness to incorporate a “forget tool” adjacent to the “remember tool,” which could be waved over some items, causing them to bury themselves amid the fray, only to emerge at some random future time and place.

    Again, thanks for putting your innovative brain to this purpose and for being so open to ongoing dialogue. What a gift.

    Adriane Herman

  3. I definitely agree with the cause for going green. It’s just crazy to me that the worse things get the less people seem to care.

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