Christiane Holzheid

Archive for March, 2009|Monthly archive page

One Moment

In RESEARCH QUESTIONS on March 30, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Visualizing / telling a story in a book format. Although I made this project for a class called “Visualizing Dynamic Systems” this theme falls into my thesis direction. Collecting an every day story and portraying it in some way. This book is a collection of information about “How one moment spreads into this crazy spider web of actions… connections…” it is more like an information journal with hints of emotion. The collection includes, phone bills measured in inches, “get better” soon cards, pictures of flowers, graphics of getting surgery and people involved, insurance information….. and as you go along in the book things start to reappear and make connections.

ONE MOMENT – the story about how one moment can morph into a web of uncontrolled actions. By C. H. written, illustrated and printed in Los Angeles, March, 2009

look inside:















Roommates / your space / my space / our space?

In RESEARCH QUESTIONS on March 30, 2009 at 9:24 am

I went to five different apartments, where roommates share a space.

It actually all started that my roommate and I somehow without ever talking about divided the table into two. I never sit on her side… it is rather strange. Things just happened in a way, but we never talked about it.

So I wondered how in roommate situation people share their belonging. How do you keep your things private, or maybe you don’t even need to or want to. What do you share… where is the line… what duties does everyone have… you talk about it… ?

So I invaded their private space with a video and photo camera and asked them all a set of questions. At the end of each session I took a few photos, especially the fridges and then asked them for a portrait with their most private object which they would never want to share with a roommate.

I made a rough floor plan of the apartment/house

I am still working with the footage, but here is a little taste.

The questionnaire:

being a roommate – having a roommate

the art of living together with best friends, strangers, foreigners, bankers, musicians, … how do you still feel comfortable, have privacy or don’t you…

– Say your name and city you live in
– How long have you lived in this apartment
– Are you the lease holder, landlord, subletter
– How many people live here
– What is the shortest amount of time that someone lived here

Common area – living room
– How about privacy / common areas / rules
– Do you have a common area
– How much of your private belongings are in this area
– How do you keep your things separate from everybody else’s  – or do you share everything
– Do you buy things together for the common area. How do you handle this?

– How are things divided in the kitchen, do you have your own shelfs…. plates, cups…
– How about the fridge? Do you share, have labels, do you shop together. Do you eat your roommates food?

– Do you share a bathroom? How are things divided

– Do you have cleaning rules
– What about the dishes
– The trash
– Is there anything else that might be different, pleasant, horrible, strange…. here than to any other living situation you ever   experienced… or in general something you would like to add

First apartment


liz2 chris1 mat1 julia1 michael1 erin1

how I am going to portray all of this I am not sure yet. I am going to edit the video in the next days. I actually can’t wait to do it.

Where I am at, ideas/goals/work…. October to now

In RESEARCH QUESTIONS on March 30, 2009 at 8:38 am

The last time I really posted my thoughts and where I was standing with my work was a while back, October 1st. Since then a lot of things have happened and I must say I feel way more confident about my work now then 5 month ago. I think a lot of things have led me to this point now… and no I have not all figured it out yet, but …
Let me start in October and guide you through my journey of strangeness.

October 1st:

“…From objects and their behaviors and tricking people – to fragmented stories and interactions (words, ideas , facts, statements). An interest in evoking narrative and imagination by tapping into peoples’ dreams – concentrating on GESTURE / PSYCHOLOGY / MATERIALITY / TACTILITY

I was thinking quite a lot – not really getting anywhere – being interested in word plays like “accurate forecast, almost never, back seat driver, … wearing many hats… caught my attention…
I watched PULP FICTION (for the fragmented storytelling)  – what does fragmentation add to stories or give to the viewer?
what do I want people to walk away with – what do I want to add as a designer?
How to connect reality with the unreal…
and once again I ended up looking at Michel Gondry‘ work – he is all about “… child like explorative eye, my work is my playground, tells stories about people and their lives while questioning our reality NATURE / SOCIETY / MIND…”
I also like things and like to create things, where you look at and have a certain expectation, but when you look closer or again you are surprised and actually it is totally not what you have expected.

– BRINGING THINGS TO LIFE – it was pointed out to me that maybe I interested in MAKING AN ILLUSTRATION IN REAL LIFE? very interesting this thought has never crossed my mind – animating life – but not being an animator.
– cause some kind of disruption, disturbance, stirring something into motion… maybe break some sort of circle / system and have the viewer walk away a little confused….
– SYSTEMS – there is a clear part for the audience or the individual viewer – he/she is part of the story – only with them is the story fully realized in its own way.”

Here are some sketches to this thought process.
Everyday objects / everyday stories – how connect both of them.

objects0081little doodles I put on paper while brainstorming. Everyday objects…. buttons, film….

objects009-copy1… a fan, what else could a fan be or do? Or maybe a hat… playing with words… “wearing many hats”…

objects007I looked at metamorphosis – morphing objects and stories – what can morph, how do things morph, how do we morph things (every day objects). Objects that are made for special purposes how do we morph their behavior.

Got this book for my birthday.

Design by Use: The Everyday Metamorphosis of Things (Board of International Research in Design)


“This publication explores and analyzes a very special kind of design – the phenomenon, as normal as it is wonderful, in which people with no formal training in design take things that have already been designed and reuse them, convert them to new uses, in short, “misuse” them in the very best sense of the word. Non-intentional design (NID) goes on every day, in every area of life, in every region of the world. Redesign through reuse makes things multifunctional and cleverly combines them to generate new functions. It is often reversible, resource-friendly, improvisational, innovative, and economical. It can become a source of inspiration for design, provided professional designers look up and take notice of what actually happens to all the things they design when they are used.”

I am looking at everyday objects. Their build, their history… I am basically creating a little object library with the idea that it’ll come in handy for inspiration and a better understanding about shape, structure, materials, technology, maybe even electronics… wishful thinking.


Once I am doodling I sometimes tangle into these strange little things. I saw a post card a while ago it had a jelly toast and another slice of peanut butter illustrated and it said “we go together well, don’t we”. It just delighted me and this image sticked with me, so I drew this.

objects011While I am at I might as well share what else delights me – although it has nothing to do with my thesis… well who knows, maybe it does. It delights me and when I get a responds from people it is even better. So I doodles these postcards, inspired by a song from Simon & Garfunkel. I suppose I am collecting data in a strange way… here check it out.

My friend from London would rather be a spoon than a chicken!






Back to were all this is coming from and going to… so in October I had an accident and had to wear so huge sling for a few month. I felt like this sling was a conversation starter. At random places, strangers started talking to me and telling stories about their accidents, bad experiences or  misfortune their friends gotten into. I felt like a walking memory trigger… I started recording their stories, collecting the emails and messages from friends with accident stories. I wanted to make a project out of this collection but something didn’t feel right. I started looking into memory triggers, stories, why we want to share stories, listen to stories…. what are stories, what is so special about them some and why sometimes they draw you in and you cannot let go.
I came across Ira Glass. His take on stories is very great. (I have a link and notes on my inspiration post) ever since I am observing the stories on “This American Life” as well as listing to “NPR
Try to find a story where you can feel – yes, this would be exactly what it would be like, to be that person, to be in this situation, be able to imagine yourself as this person,. IT NEEDS TO FEEL REAL.” we need to be able to connect. And I think for example my huge sling that just looked like a bad accident had happened to me, made people connect to me and think about all their bad mishaps….

A few weeks ago my friend Mari and I got the lucky opportunity to go and record with “Story Corps” south of Los Angeles. What a cool experience! I was particularly interested in the whole sound set up and recording. Following this program for a while… this is one of my favorite story:



Merging objects and stories

What would the reason be? Why? What does the object add to the story? Is it educational.. fun… who is the target audience. I went to one dollar store and picked up some silly looking objects. At home I took them apart and tried to look for similarities, or better what that object reminded me of and maybe what story it could tell….
here a few silly sketches.





Basic RGBBasic RGB

this felt a little too tacky so I never physically build it.

For some reason I wanted to build a model train and inside the window I wanted to have it play a video of two people having a conversation. I was searching for content and interaction ….




train04Something was missing, the interaction did not make sense to me. So around Christmas time my friend and I jumped on the train to San Diego. I was hoping to find something, an idea, an inspiration, an answer. It was great, the ride is really beautiful and I can only recommend it. So after a while just acting and goofing around no answers… so we just started asking people for if they would tell us their most favorite travel experience story. Or a memory on a trip which they will never be able to forget. Quite the challenge to randomly approach strangers with a camera in your hand, but surprisingly enough some people were into it and told us their experience. That day I collected stories about a “cockroach killing in India”, “flying to Mexico instead of San Diego, because of bad weather”, “an excited dog tail leaving a mark on his face for days”, “a daughter traveling Mexico with her Dad”….

From there on I took my camera with me and asked my friends for unforgettable travel experiences. I started contacting my friend all over the world, mainly with Facebook to meet me on Skype or Ichat and they did. I have over 30 travel experiences now and they are all very special and amazing. The only constrain I have given me story tellers :

“Tell me a travel experience, sad, funny, bad…. which you will never be able to forget. But no longer than 3 minutes”




still from video

moving away from the model train – what others ways are there to support these travel stories. If I bring the stories back into physical space,

1: of all WHY

2: would anyone want to listen to them

3: how to draw the audience in

4: what physical interaction would for the audience would add to the experience

5: what every day object would add something new to the stories

mapsThe people telling me their stories over Skype and Ichat… they told me the location where they were sitting in that moment and the place where they traveled to. My latest idea then was to have an interactive map which would show you where the people are located and a line of LED lights going to the place where they traveled to on the map. Yes, the map and the LED’s did not add anything for the users experience, since most of us already know what a lap looks like and we can also make the connections of for example “London” and “Australia” in our heads… unless I provided the audience with a little bit more interesting or new… maybe history on the place…. it was time to scratch the LED map.

Thinking about specific location. This project could be at an airport, or a train station, it could be a travel advertisement, it could live online and give people the opportunity to add their stories to this…. or just a gallery.

In a gallery: Like a time capsule, 3 D, with interactive screens, you could walk around it. (with the LED-map on the bottom, video still)

capsuleAt the Airport: on the wall, people sitting in the window of the plain telling their story, listener is able to change seating arrangement and pull up new people and listen to more stories.



bored waiting at the airport….

sky05No more boredom at the airport.




it still feels like the “train”, the “plain”, and the “time capsule” are just some housings (packaging) for the stories. But they don’t add anything new to the experience…. oh dear….. not the most genius ideas…..

ok lets get away from the videos. The stories need to get out of the boxes…. so at first I just played the audio without the video and then  I transcribed a few of the stories. I stepped away and then red them…. yes they were nice but something was missing. All the amazing accents of storytellers got lost. The audio was nice, but I seriously missed the gesture and mimic of the speakers… ok it needed to be in video form!

Turing this long process I met with a lot of professors… and one said something I thought was super important which I didn’t even consider… ” you need to treat these videos with respect. They are already great! You need to consider the peoples feelings in the videos and them opening up and telling you a story….”

a moodboard of two people having a conversation at a cafe… I needed to get a sense of feeling and over all tone.


I am trying to creat a feeling of speaker and listener sitting down with each other and …. I am building a “story telling device”.At first I thought it would be nice if the device would be standing and acording to the person telling you the story the screen would move to the persons real hight giving the listner the feeling of someone really telling him/her a story. The screen would also be moving acordingly to the gesture of person in the video. But standing and listing to a story seemed like a rush…. when do you like to listen to stories? When oyu have some down time, a break, you are relaxing, you are comfortable…..

So the “cafe” scene and everybody sitting seems to make a little bit more sense.



04just in case the screen is too heavy

03material list. Which of course already changed.

On Friday I met the artist Brett Doar. He is great and helped me out a lot. Told me to get a beefy motor – the motor is on my desk. I’ll post a photo tomorrow and some opto isolators…. my friend Matt brought me a Ryobi today so I could see some motor moving action.


Seriously everyone is super helpful: THANKS!

The guys in the shop are amazing. My table top is nearly done. Taken me about 5 days longer than planned. I think I build it in the most complicated way ever.

First I laser cut the cube shape on 5 boards. Glued the boards together mad the cubes. Bought a vintage table. trimmed it for the cube-board to fit in. Glued the board in, nailed the table back into one piece. Sanded the hell out of it. Bought a piece of cherry formica. Glued this on top of the table to make it look one piece. Trilled hole through the formica where the cubes need to be and then took the router and cut out the wholes….. Build a box under the table, coated it with formica – for my electronics.

Now I just need to put little magnets in the two cubes, the wholes in the table and the electronics….. alright!

The robotic screen holder will be my next thing. But I need to take it slowly, I don’t want to mess it up and ha, I have never done anything like it before. So I guess it’ll be like learning how to swim.


cube01first user tests




In INSPIRATION on March 29, 2009 at 11:39 pm

“Dunne & Raby use design as a medium to stimulate discussion and debate amongst designers, industry and the public about the social, cultural and ethical implications of existing and emerging technologies.”

here are some work examples:


Ira Glass, host and producer of This American Life

In INSPIRATION on March 29, 2009 at 11:22 pm

A few weeks ago a friend send me a link to this video:

“A master class in storytelling. Ira Glass, host of “This American Life” on radio and TV, has spent years telling stories, and getting stories told. In one of the most popular Gel talks ever, Ira describes the elements of a good story.”

I was just taken by his talk and learned a lot. Here are my notes:

The rarest thing when listening to the radio and watching TV is being surprised – for someone to give you, the listener, a new thought, the ability for you to picture something in a new way…a happy, pleasurable surprise is rare.

In the news the seriousness and the funny are never allowed to collide, they are two separate things. A serious story and then maybe at the end a wacky weather person = it is kept separate = failure of craft.

Maybe failure of journalism – their part is to document what the world really is – they describe a world without surprise, joy, pleasure, and humor. it makes the world seem much smaller than it is.

Why not tell stories, whose estactics is surprise; stories which are saying , look how different and interesting this is. Look for stories where there is a little surprises all the time along the way – what this does is – it shoes that the world is a place with excitement, pleasure and surprise… where lightning can strike…

How to tell interesting stories:
– Listen and look for small things – little things that are special and are often left out or overseen
– Telling something exactly the way it is
– Portray people at exactly human scale.

Structure for story telling:
– Stories are normally structured to constantly throw you bait and pull you forward.
– Suspension has been created – once there is a feeling that something is about to occur, something is about to happen, you want to continue listing to the stories.
– A story is a sequence of actions / events, which lead to one thing and to a the next thing – it is not about logic or arguments – but about motion.
– Narrative is a machine that is raising questions and answering them
– If the story is told the right way – it hooks you. Once you are in you can’t get out, you need to know what’s going to happen next

what are physical reactions, emotions,  – we laugh, cry, grinch

What is the bigger thing a story is: why are certain moments so powerful?
You want a sequence of actions and then a thought – a bigger question (can you focus on the feeling the story portrays – what are stories good for?)

– The power of narrative – is like a backdoor into our inside… when a story gets inside of us it makes us less crazy. Meaning when we can connect to the story and what is happening. Maybe even we see ourselves in this story.
– You need to be able to associate – in order to understand… this is how it would be to be this person… I am feeling for this person, I understand.

– We live in this cultural moment where we are bombarded with more narratives than any people that ever lived.
– Every story on the web is a narrative, every add, on TV, every song,  is a narrative – and most of these stories are yelling at us and are trying to get our attention – they are giving us a falseness, like they need to be selling us something

Try to find a story where you can feel – yes, this would be exactly what it would be like, to be that person, to be in this situation, be able to imagine yourself as this person

3 amazing movies / documentaries, very inspiring

In BIBLIOGRAPHY on March 23, 2009 at 6:25 am

Since I am very much interested in story telling and all its different possibilities – my library needs to be expanded.

Man on Wire

2008 documentary film, directed by James Marsh, about Philippe Petit‘s 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center and is based on Philippe Petit’s book, To Reach the Clouds



Cinematographer Style is a 2006 (see 2006 in film) documentary by Jon Fauer, ASC, about the art of cinematography. In it, he interviews some 110 cinematographers from around the world, asking them about their influences and how they create the cinematographic style they do. This is the first major English-language documentary on cinematography since Visions of Light (1993).”


Fast, Cheap and Out of Control

“A 1997 “non-fiction” film by documentary filmmaker Errol Morris. It profiles four subjects with extraordinary careers: a lion trainer, a topiary sculptor, a mole rat specialist, and a robot scientist.”,_Cheap_and_Out_of_Control