Tag Archives: inspiration

The New Untouchables

First of all, sorry I haven’t blogged in a long long while. I’ve been deep into my thesis work, so I’ve been sparse with my writing. Apologies! However, I did come across a great article in the New York Times that I’d like to share with everyone. It is called The New Untouchables by Thomas L. Friedman. It’s an article about creating new opportunities for oneself during this time of recession. I think one of the major lines that can describe this article is, “those who have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work were being retained. They are the new untouchables.”

This also brings to light what our Chairperson Anne Burdick has to say about designers in her article, “Graduate Education: Preparing Designers for Jobs that Don’t Exist (yet)“.

I see the opportunity right now to design a job that doesn’t exist quite yet. As a designer, it is not only up to me to try my best to do well at what I do, but it is also up to me to carve out spaces, or rather, “design” out spaces in the working world that have the potential to do things that existing job positions just don’t do right now. What can my explorations do to enhance my own practice as a design researcher? What am I doing as a designer to advocate for the induction of new creative practices within our culture?


Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity?


In preparation for my upcoming thesis review, I’ve been mapping out my process, writing down questions, pulling quotes, drawing little diagrams all in the effort to articulate this terms explorations. Where was I and where am I now and what am I aiming to do? What is my own process teaching/informing me?





Steve Roden Workshop

@ The Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock
presented by The Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound (SASSAS)

I had a chance to attend a three-hour workshop called Make It, Perform It, Install It: Listen facilitated by sound artist Steve Roden. I wanted to attend this workshop because I figured it would bring inspiration and new perspectives to my own thesis work. Steve Roden started off by presenting some of his work. One of his focuses is on the translation of letters, numbers, shapes and color into new forms through the use of self-imposed codes and constraints. I really enjoyed viewing his work not only because his interests relate to sound and language, but also because he’s a man of juxtapositions who finds inspiration and new meaning by removing some of the obvious and distorting the senses.

During the workshop, we had the chance to create a bit of a collaborative orchestra of sound, film and color. There were about fifteen people at the workshop and we each were asked to color a portion of 8mm film that was strung between all of us. As music and sounds played in the background, we were asked to draw on the film according to the way we felt. When this part of the exercise was completed, we ran the film through a projection reel to see what types of patterns would emerge. 

Prior to arriving at the workshop, we were asked to bring instruments or sound making devices. I brought some percussion instruments, but others brought guitars, violins, digital devices, bells, their own voices… . The film was played again, and this time, we were asked to play our instruments according to relative connections the patterns we were viewing. Steve asked us not to play tunes to the literal movements and color patterns – he wanted us to observe the smaller details of the visuals and he also wanted us to listen to the other participants and allow everyone to have their own creative sound space. One might think that we would have played something horrible and messy, but the outcome seemed quite the opposite. Instead, there seemed to be moments of, hmm…harmonious dissonance. In many ways, it seemed very much like a design research exercise and because it was very free in nature, I felt it was easier to be a creative participant. 

There were a few takeaways I learned from this workshop. First, experimental projects have to be thought-out, but they don’t have to be complicated. Through our exercises that evening, I learned quite a lot about the integration of media, interaction and space. Experimentation doesn’t have to be hard – you just have to do it and learn from it. Second, live participation can be very rewarding, especially when the interaction you do is not just between you and a device or machine, but between other people as well. There is something much more personal about making with others. One other observation I made was about alternative ways of displaying light and color. The workshop allowed me to realize that I must keep my options about in terms of how I portray light and color and what mediums I use to project light. I.e. Not everything I make has to be be about LED’s. Rather, where else can I gather light? Projectors, shadows, natural light? Also, what subtleties can make my work more meaningful, more detailed, more – for lack of a better word right now – poetic?

Backstage Inspiration




All photos taken by Mari Nakano. All rights reserved.

Inspiration weaves itself in and out of the self. I believe some inspiration emerges from the innate self, but also gets absorbed and then translated from our surrounding interactions with objects and beings. As a designer and maker, I believe it is imperative that I remain in a consistent state of observation and absorption. I also believe that discovery and realizations of our deeper interests comes from varying where one seeks that inspiration. 

I had the great opportunity to spend the other day photographing and hanging out with some inspiring performing artists: On-Ensemble, a contemporary taiko quartet, taiko player Kenny Endo, flautist Kaoru Watanabe, violinist Ysanne Spevack and vibraphone player Brad Dutz. I spent a lot of time not only watching their rehearsals and the main performance at the Cerritos Performing Arts Centre, but also spent a lot of backstage and down time chatting with them about their views on performance, personal interaction and design. Could they be my thesis advisors for the year? Just kidding. Well… .

All of these performers are not just good at their art and their music, but they are in tune with the people to whom they present their work, their art, their craft. They have the capability to give all of themselves, but understand that there is a space between them and the audience that they cannot control, that is left to be interpreted by the individual. I learned a lot from my conversations with these artists and agree that my work is not something I want to fully “control” either. I believe in serendipity, in emergence, in self-interpretation. I believe that meaningfulness is created because that particular individual chooses to interpret and decide a song for themselves. And if not a song, then a story, an interaction, a moment however long or short. 

I also realized that these people were storytellers who had the capability of bringing a person into another world. I am not the type to be taken aback by performances, – and I’m not saying this to flatter anyone or promote my friends – but I was taken away by their performance. Many of the pieces were often premised with a backstory (i.e. a song dedicated to the birth of a new son, a piece in dedication to a place in which they grew up, rhythms about traditional foods…), and the delivery and curation of all of this really allowed for me to connect with the musicians on different levels. At times, I felt nostalgic, sentimental, romanced, entranced and excited.  I really did! Now, the question is, how can I evoke similar experiences through whatever I create? What am I learning about storytelling from these performers and how has the arena of music and performance assisted in my understanding of my own work?

James Turrell at Pomona College


On Sunday, March 08, I went to see James Turrell’s architectural light space at Pomona College in Claremont. I went with a few other classmates right before sunset. The main lighting program occurs at sunset and sunrise and lasts about an hour.  It was fascinating to see natural light contrasted with artificial light. The opening in the ceiling caused your eyes to contrast the sky with the particular color being emitted on the ceiling. 

James Turrell is one of the leading artists in lighting. His works are illusionary, spiritual and serene. Turrell’s work is very inspirational to me, so I was lucky to have discovered that this particular work exists not so far away from home. The discreetness of the lighting method was probably the most important detail for me. The lights are hidden in the upper beams, so you cannot see what exactly is changing the color of the ceiling. The lighting transitions were also very subtle and smooth from one color to the next, sometimes to a point where we didn’t even catch the transitions. Also, the construction of the roof was thin, and slightly arched so even if you backed away, the roof seemed extremely thin. The other observation was the figure ground illusion – depending on the color of the lighting, the hole in the roof would seem to recede or come forward.  

Here are some other photos from Sunday: