Christiane Holzheid

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




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