Constraint Thinking: How Material (and other) Hindrances Can Lead to Successful Design

Activity: Talk or presentation typesLecture and oral contribution

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Cameron David Warner - Lecturer

Recently, I collaborated on the designs of two museum exhibitions. Whereas I had been tutored to think in terms of material affordances, what possibilities my environment offered me, my experience in exhibition design consisted of almost entirely of the opposite: material (and other) hindrances. Repeatedly, human and more than human entities diminished, even obliterated my agency in decision-making. Paradoxically, as my options dwindled, making these exhibitions became not only easier, but more successful in terms of budget, attendance, dare I say impact. This has led me to think about externally-imposed design constraints: commercial, non-functional requirements, compliance, style, scenography, and collaboration. I propose that we think via negativa in relation to material affordances. What are the materials hindrances that prevent us from achieving preconceived goals? How do constraints function to limit thinking and practice in ways both negative and positive? I argue that constraint thinking, limiting choices, not only produces better research outcomes, but reduces anxiety produced by an over-abundance of material affordances. The empirical basis for my paper will be an auto-ethnography of the design and curation of two museum exhibitions: "The Value and Impermanence of Tibetan Culture" at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, May 28th-June 3rd, 2018, and "The Museum of Impermanence" at Moesgaard Museum, February 9th-May 19th, 2019. The funding for these exhibitions comes from the Danish Council for Independent Research, Aarhus University, and Moesgaard Museum.
13 Aug 2019

Event (Conference)

TitleMegaseminar 2019: Time to Choose
LocationSandbjerg Conference Centre
Degree of recognitionNational event

ID: 186356334