A Few Reflections: on silence / by Kiersten Nash

Logistics matter  Scout out and coordinate specific meeting place ahead of time. Particularly if you have never met the person that you’ll be collaborating with face-to-face. For instance, one musician who responded to Sxip Shirey's tweet, was unable to participate because we failed to connect in the park.

Bring essentials  Food, water, and shelter.  At the very least, provide the necessities for your collaborators. Matthais needed° a chair. Typically, when in Central Park, he co-opts a bench as his stage. But we wanted to position ourselves in the cross traffic (needless to say, that's not where benches are typically located).

People are generous  Walking around Central Park soliciting for musical talent, I was astounded at the outpouring of generosity. For the most part, people are willing to devote time, energy, and insight to discussing issues that directly effect them.  Granted, my target audience was musicians.

Lost in translation What was an effective two-dimensional campaign, failed to elicit response in the three-dimensional realm. This is not surprising however given my experience designing wayshowing° systems. Yes, I am a trained environmental designer—a not-so-minor detail I probably should have mentioned before now.

Six years ago as a brazen undergraduate ensconced by the white walls of the Ronald L. Barr gallery at Indiana University Southeast, I took a moment away from hanging my BFA exhibit to reflect: Since discovering the diversity, flexibility, and potential impact of visual communication, I have pursued the study of design. My intrigue lies in the discipline’s potential humanistic and ephemeral qualities—the perpetual exploration of an evolving society, the opportunity to make sense of the chaos, and the ability to challenge, define, and mold one’s individual perspective, if just for a moment.

Oy vey. Without details, one might mistake me for Cuomo, Taylor, Squier, or one of Muzak's audio architects—similar means, physiologic modulation, and end, to engage, persuade, educate or, dare I say, 'mold.' To think, weeks later upon donning a cap and gown and receiving a piece of parchment, I was collaborating with artists, architects, engineers, educators, and writers to construct environments intended to immerse individuals in the unique narratives of museums and other 'culturally accredited' institutions.

Such as Maker's Mark Distillery. Approximately 100,000 bourbon fans make the pilgrimage to Loretto, Kentucky (population 718) every year to sample The Samuels Family's small-batch bourbons… Or at least that's how the story goes. [Re]presenting and [re]producing the myth of Maker's Mark is undeniably one of the most immersive and phenomenal environments that I have helped brand. Upon arrival, visitors are transported to the Samuels' home circa 1950—family portraits adorn the living room walls (a few share their wit and wisdom, Harry Potter style); while the gentle rasp of Will Monroe and others emanates from the radio; in the office, business ledgers and blueprints decorate Bill's desk; the sweet smell of bread baking leads individuals into the kitchen where they can peruse the 'secret' recipes that spawned the renown Maker's Mark bourbon (according to family lore). From the Distiller's House, a docent leads visitors through the distillation process as distributed throughout the campus. The final note? A tasting room and retail store—consumption eased by a nip or two of consumption.

  Makers Mark Distillery, Loretto, KY. Designed in partnership with  Solid Light, Inc.

Makers Mark Distillery, Loretto, KY. Designed in partnership with Solid Light, Inc.

"Activity in context," according to design theorist Malcolm McCullough, "is the heart of interaction design."  Whether employed by a politician, a business manager, an architect, a university, or a distillery, design strategies are techniques of the empowered that fabricate, calibrate° and /or modulate time, space, and being—activity in context—in order to advance a particular narrative, agenda, or ideology as a seemingly immutable truth. Considering I'm currently interested in challenging the authority, legitimacy, and integrity of said truths, I wonder how might I affectively engage or enact context (time, space, and being) as a means to interrogate a dynamic dialectic, such as Bethesda Terrace on Sunday, October 9, 2012?

Surprisingly, as the conclusion of my BFA statement reveals, I have been wandering around this terrain, from various perspectives for some time (most often merely meandering rather than actively mining): Dazed by the glow of the computer, I increasingly had the urge to create free from the constraints of commercial design. The casting process literally allows the model to shed her skin, metaphorically generating a rebirth. They are the human form, simultaneously vulnerable and secure. This is the essence of my exploration—a quest to become secure with the vulnerabilities inherent in human interaction.

Simultaneously vulnerable and secure—shew, my Taylores-que tendencies can be quelled. Standing silent in Strawberry Field while distributing the fliers, I was vulnerable and secure. However, both Matthais and I failed to embody these attributes during our performance at Bethesda Terrace. The uncertainty spawned by the unfamiliarity of the situation tempered my security. I failed to cultivate the trust necessary to create an environment within which Matthais and I could step outside of our comfort zones with ease. And as time passed, I  became less secure with the vulnerability inherent in this action. Consequently, there was minimal interaction.