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Social sculptures as world making activity; creativity narratives from Bali

Boyer, Britta
Loughborough University, Design Innovation



The current health pandemic, environmental destruction and near economic collapse, across the globe, highlight the simultaneous crises as being not due to the way our ecosystems function but how our ethical systems function. There is increasing awareness emerging through critical design studies that insists on a cultural, philosophical approach that questions design’s very foundations. Any paradigm shift requires re-humanising and embracing the entire living ecosystem, to include the non-human, and a worldview that aligns with the relationality between what we design and the impact this has on all life forms and systems in both the global north and south. Increasingly, the design literature omits the socio-cultural aspects of sustainability with an increasing emphasis on the technical domain. A more holistic approach is imperative if design research is to be inclusive of non-western and feminist epistemologies; this is especially important when, historically, dominant western cultures have asserted themselves through technologies and techniques.

This research explores creativity through designer activist, multiple and non-western, told through their life-story narratives and situated processes of change in Bali, Indonesia. In-between spaces where meaning is created and can result in hybrid ways of living that have nothing to do with the western construct of development but more to do with creative collaborations across cultural and national boundaries. By positioning this research in the dimension of experience and relationality, we can understand patterns of our social relationships within the culture of everyday life and the lifeworld, possibilities that Manzini (2011) has identified as being at the heart of sustainability. Thus, a relational worldview that exists in dynamic fields – in flux, unpredictable and full of creative possibilities.

The aim is to understand how designers creatively utilise the diversity of their experiences to navigate change towards more sustainable ways of living by illumination what happens in their social world; their emergent world-making activities, social sculptures, give hope to diffusing capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy through social structures created in society using language, thoughts, actions and objects. Shelly Sacks (2007) describes the social sculptures as the place where inner and outer worlds coincide, in particular, connections between aesthetics and eco-social responsibility. Thus, a bottom-up theoretical and methodological agenda focusing on embodied ways of knowing and situated processes of change beyond Western notions of development.

Keywords: Social Sculptures; Design Anthropology; Participatory narrative, Autoethnography

About the Authors

Britta Boyer is a final year doctoral researcher within the Institute for Design Innovation at Loughborough University, London. A former design practitioner and early pioneer of sustainable fashion working with post-consumer denim waste in the 1990’s. Fundamental to Britta’s worldview is that she self-identifies with being an immigrant, never living in her birthplace and growing up across three continents. Creative practice led to working across various geographical locations, most recently Bali for almost 20 years; Britta also lived in Indonesia as a child. The diversity of these experiences across both the Global North and South resulted in acute understanding of the competing discourses, in design, and ways in which creativity is used as a hegemonic term within policy, education and the creative industries. It is the growing response “ability” (Sacks, 2017) towards patterns of organisation and world-making that support diversity and the more than human worlds that led Britta back into academia in 2016. Britta’s work is interdisciplinary and integrates qualitative and sensory ethnographic approaches, through design anthropology, that explore non-exploitative human development through creativity and the storied nature of human activity.

This work is supported by supervisors, Mikko Koria and Laura Santamaria, alongside a PhD Studentship from Loughborough University as well as travel bursaries from the DRS (Design Research Society) and Santander travel award to conduct the fieldwork in Bali.

Co-presented by:

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