Blog | Christopher Hansen

May 2017

This past month has been a busy one finishing up my thesis to be delivered. I have spent quite a lot of time, experimenting with the graphcal output of the project and how that it will be viewed during the coming exhibition and exam. For example I have had the wonderful opportunity to learn how to use and experiment with a risograph printer, which my entire thesis has now been printed on. This machine prints only one color at a time, which allows for a more hands on and crafted approach to printing. It functions very similiar to the way screenprinting works.

   

In the end I have now ended up with a collection of small publications that each serve a different purpose, a film that depicts the life of a newly immigrated human being to Mars, the design of a martian space helmet and a megastructure that is situated in the Gale crater on Mars. My goal has been to show what the future experience of Mars would be like, when all of life will happens inside. I have argued that the space of the helmet, at a human scale and the massive living spaces that will be needed are the same thing. They are both distortions of reality that will never be capable of showing us the real Mars, due to the limitations of the actual landscape.

     

My written part of the project has been handed in and I am now finishing the final touches to my helmet and models while I get ready for the examination next week where I defend my thesis.

 

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April 2017

The two typologies that I am working on are similiar in that they are both insides within the context on Mars. They have clearly defined and strict borders, which our sheer existence hinges on being tightly controlled. Both attempt to bring the outside in. Despite their similarities these two spaces are extremely different in scale, polar opposites.

The space of the helmet, leads the gaze outwards, continuously redefining the outside reality of the martian landscape. Being in the great outdoors, is suddenly a very intimate matter of being inside. Experiencing the reality of Mars, becomes impossible in any true form, related to our sensorial way of interpreting things. We can only tangent the experience of this landscape as closely as possible without, crossing the border, which ultimately is a matter of death. Seeing is done through the glass of the helmet. Sound is filtered through microphones. The air has nothing to do with the landscape because it is continuously recycled, so smell is out of the question. Objects can be touched, but they must travel across the border to our inside, out of their natural habitat.

The borders that define the outside and inside, then become filters to our inner way of being, where reality can either be distorted or realistically interpreted.

In the same way, this conundrum holds true to the confined space of the inside outside rooms. The landscapes and environments that we control and create, become a question of re-creating what we already know or distorting it in a way that we have never experienced before. Here our attention and gaze is internalized, the outer landscape does not exist. We are only confronted with the constant existence and looming presence of the encapsulating roof as a reminder of the un-natural state of this `natural´ landscape. A crude manmade atmosphere. Being outside is suddenly not the same feeling of a vast expanding landscape, but possibly slightly claustrophobic, compared to Earth.

For me these spaces are not only the realities of a future life on Mars, but metaphors for the way that we deal with and experience life here on Earth today. You might be reading this throught the aid of glasses, on a computer screen that simulates type with pixels, while listening to your preferred input of sound. Everyday we filter and distort the realities of life around us. As people often say, we are already living in the future, well we are already living in our own constructed hyper realities. I am not so sure we can agree on any one reality that is shared. The manmade landscapes of distorted nature on Mars, are similiar to the way that we have created our own worlds here on Earth. This holds true in the digital space that has seeped into the physical space and the so called natural and artificial landscapes, that are also morphing into one thing, which some have dubbed the fourth nature.

Our definition of natural, has changed so many times throughout history. How will we define natural in the coming future? How will we define being human? How will we define reality? I wonder whether or not this will even be possible.

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March 2017

The fiction that I have been working on has deviated from the typical storyline. I have had trouble with spending a bit too much time on this and trying to avoid falling into the trap of creating a grand narrative for my project, that attempts to depict the totality of life on Mars in the future. From the very beginning I have wanted to avoid any clear solution on my part, but rather initiate a reflective response from the viewer.

The story has now turned into a series of messages from the perspective of a newly immigrated human being to Mars and how this person experiences the transition into the new world from the old. The idea has been to use this narrative as a way of filling in the gaps between the two polar scales that I am working with, in order to give insight into what life might possibly be like. These fragmented moments, memories and thoughts from the character are meant to portray micro utopias and dystopias that exist within everyday life, using small situations and observations to paint the bigger picture as opposed to designing and deciding on how society would function on a grand level. This also has to do with avoiding a strict utopian or dystopian outlook on the future, which tends not to be so true in regards to real life. The future is usually a bit of both worlds.

 

By using this format of messages sent home to Earth from Mars, it also allows me to address specific issues that I would like to bring up, but in a subtle way. The person that the main character is writing or speaking to, becomes the audience, which I think is a nice way to explain things. These `letters´ are portrayed in short films of around 1-2 minutes, where the immigrant reflects on life, while images of what he or she sees and thinks about pass by on the screen. I have not decided whether to narrate the movie or to only use subtitles. The title is called “News From Home?”, which is an appropriation of the short film by Chantel Akerman. In Akerman’s film, she has recorded scenes around the city in New York, while she reads letters that her mother has sent her from Belgium. Throughout the movie one begins to get an understanding of who her family is and how their lives are in Belgium.

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February 2017

Most of February has gone by jumping back and forth within my project, which by now after many projects completed, is a familiar stage in my process. It is confusing and full of doubt, but a necessary one to go through.

The strucure of my project has been around the development of fictions. These fictions supply me with a context and narrative, that in turn help produce design pieces and spaces. There is a mutual relationship here, where both fiction and design bounce back and forth, influencing each other. This exchange is fruitful, allowing for a variation in process. Some days I write, other days I draw and make small mockups.

The final outcome will be a series of design pieces/spaces that are supported by a narrative that further communicates the issues and themes that I would like the audience to reflect upon. My aim is to bring forth socio-cultural issues that the public outside of the design world can reflect upon, while at the same time making visible certain issues that add to the discourse of design.

The internal quarrel I have been having with myself has been on choosing the specific framework for the project. For now I think I have managed to decide, but then again I said the same thing to myself a couple days ago. Initially there was the idea of working with three different stories, at three different scales, that discussed three different ranges of issues. One relating to the body and object, one relating to the unit such as a house and one relating to the landscape or large scale structure.

This framework started to seem a bit forced and I have ended up working with the human body and the landscape as micro and macro scales. These two similiar worlds are extreme polarities in terms of size, yet on the context of Mars they are the same thing; a border and mediator between you and reality. The true nature of the martian landscape will never be experienced, but how close can we get? The two different scales are now explored within one fictional story, which is in the process of becoming final. The story will end up as a film that includes my visualisations and drawings. A nice reference here is the film La Jeteé, by Chris Marker.

So far I am working with the suit/helmet as a micro-architecture and the paradox of a reproduced outside inside nature, as mega-scale architecture. Some of the main issues and topics are starting to revolve around questions of reality and what we consider to be real or natural.

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January 2017

This past month has been difficult in terms of understanding for myself, what it is exactly that I would like to achieve and communicate with my project. Fortunately I feel like I have managed to work past this and really get going with laying down the groundwork and objectives. So far everything is not quite decided and I don’t expect this to happen all at once, but the most important parts are.

I asked myself the question; "What does my project do and how does it do it?", in order to come up with a short descriptive text that explains my intentions. To me this is important for my own understanding, but also in order to communicate quickly what I am doing to others. So, in a nutshell:

"My project draws on speculative and fictitious scenarios within the future context of a human colinisation on Mars, using design fiction as a tool to understand the complex issues of humans and human society. Exploring these projected futures are intended to function as introspective binoculars, taking the reflective glance far enough away, in order to come full circle, and ultimately examine todays world. This process also allows room for questions to arise about the inherent nature of being human in the world of tomorrow. The distance and at times obsurdity, of the constructed narratives, allow for parallels to be drawn from the future to the present."

My entry point into the project is dealing with the mutual relationship between science fiction and design. If science fiction indirectly designs the realities of tomorrow, then a designer is certainly one who deals with science fiction. As we know that fiction is capable of becoming a reality, the idea of working with fiction does not seem so irrational. Therefore my method so far, is to produce my own fictions, which provide me with a given context and background to breed forth designerly outcomes. These outcomes are then a part of a larger narrative that reflects on chosen issues, such as exploring the notion of home.

The democratisation of design and production in todays world, leaves us with an immense responsibility to become equally as proficient in producing valid ideas.

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December 2016

I have finally been able to get back to work which is such a nice feeling. The month has been spent doing a quick self initiated workshop together with a friend that studies fashion, in order to kickstart the masters project and start producing things rather than spending too much time writing and reading. Together we have created a fake company named META, which stands for Martian Everyday Technology Assistance.

The company exists some 50 years into the future, after the first few generations of humans have colonised Mars. We are using the body as our common ground to speculate on how life might be after most of the hardships have been overcome. How will your personal time be? Would you go hiking in the mountains? What does this new society involve?

We have produced fictional products to be displayed in a fictional appropriation of typical japanese lifestyle magazines such as Popeye and GoOut.

The collaboration has resulted in the production of a Boride nitrate nanotube (BNNT) compression suit to help combat the cosmic radiation and the thin atmosphere on Mars. Our idea was that this garment would be used as a sort of everyday item that one could dress over. In this way one progresses away from all wearing the same suit and more towards a diverse and individual society. We produced hiking jackets and pants to accompany the suit, together with business fleece sweaters and a line of mission patches.

The collaboration has resulted in the production of a Boride nitrate nanotube (BNNT) compression suit to help combat the cosmic radiation and the thin atmosphere on Mars. Our idea was that this garment would be used as a sort of everyday item that one could dress over. In this way one progresses away from all wearing the same suit and more towards a diverse and individual society. We produced hiking jackets and pants to accompany the suit, together with business fleece sweaters and a line of mission patches.

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November 2016

Still not quite over the concussion, but I have been able to slowly start writing again and working in short sessions. It does not take much for me to get really dizzy and a headache. I am at home everyday, only going out of the house to walk the dog or buy food at the store. Podcasts have definitely become more important than they were. I listen to podcasts all day. I believe I have found my setting for the masters project, which I think will give me a lot of freedom to work with a range of topics and subtopics within the project. My chosen setting or theme if you will, is Mars. I chose this because it is a futuristic scenario, but not an unrealistic one, therefore not entirely out of reach. Conceptual work, in my opinion, should have a good dose of realism or feasability.

The thought is that we might be able to understand more of who we are by exploring where we might be going in the future. I think that exploring possible futures can help us reflect on the present and essentially on who we are. Starting a new society will involve a lot of questions that we need to ask ourselves, which allows for a great oppotunity to explore the very core issues of humans and human society. I am not quite sure how I will do this yet, but it will involve designing a scenario or situation that someone can experience holistically.

My hopes are to use the future scenario of Mars as a way for people to question what it is that we are doing on earth. I am very interested in the relationship between design and science fiction. It is not very hard to see the indirect and direct effect that science fiction has had on the way that we have designed the future for ourselves. This concept of “the future” is also something I am interested in exploring.

The Tabula Rasa and this idea of a completely fresh start, entirely new life, new world, new structure new everything. We have no historical context to respond to and no societal context to respond to. These are some of the things I will be reasearching. Looking forward to getting back to work soon!

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October 2016

Unfortunately my October month has not been very productive due to a concussion. My doctors have told me not to work on the computer, read, draw or even listen to music. Like an idiot I thought I could just keep working, which has in turn made the symtpoms worse and last longer. This month has been very slow, but I have had plenty of time to think.

It is amazing how much we constantly stimulate our mind on any given day. We almost never leave time for ourselves to be bored or just let our mind wander. The experience has been boring and a bit anxious at times, but it has been nice to slowly turn things off and be alone with my mind.

I have been thinking a lot about what my masters project will be about. There is a qoute from Juhanni Pallasma where he describes the task of art as being to show what it feels like to be human in this world. This has been on my mind as I have been thinking of what the task of design is, or at least on a personal level. I think the idea of focusing on or exploring who we are as humans is an important task for a designer. In some way I will be working with what it means to be a human. Designs task should be to show what it means to be a human in the world of tomorrow.

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September 2016

For the whole of September and parts of the summer I have been working on an architectural competition that is set in Tokyo. The competition was held by Archoutloud and open to both students and professionals. The site was set in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo within a quite strange mix of surrounding contexts. This area is full of pachinko parlors, stripclubs, host clubs, massage parlors, clubs, restaurants etc. In general it is known to be a bit seedy.

The task was to design a cemetery for the area that addresses the issues that Tokyo has with space. In the recent years developers have been buying property and selling off burial spots as this is more lucrative that actually building something. This has been a problem in Tokyo, with cemeteries popping up everywhere. We were asked to design a cemetery that took care of the spatial and sustainability issues that come with cemteries, but at the same time to explore the relationship that the city and especially this specific area would have to a cemetery. We were to explore the relationship between architecture and death, while looking for new ways to experience the cemetery.

In short, my proposal involves a floating roof, embedded with diamonds created from the ashes of the dead. Rather than hide from the city, this structure offers an open public space that forms an efficient mutual relationship between architecture and technology in order to reform the cemetery typology from passive and symbolic to active and informative. The landscape of the dead becomes a landscape of data in the sky, mapping relationships between the decease that inform and engage the city user who take the advantage of smartphones. By absorbing the traces of human life, death and architecture become one.

Coffins are huge space wasters and so are urns with ashes. A company from Switzerland started offering the service of transforming loved ones ashes into artificial diamonds. The high carbon content is compressed and then superheated. This technique allows for an immense improvement in terms of spatial efficiency in a city that desperately needs it. The tough materiality of the diamond allows for an extremely long lifetime and zero maintanence.

The floating roof is a non-hierarchical structure embedded with these diamonds that are connected to a sea of fiberoptic cables above. The light is then received from either the sun or the city. When lit from beneath the light travels back through the roof and into a glowing field of light where ceremonial burials are conducted in the form of planting the diamond and cable.

Augmented reality and cameratracking technology make it possible to experience the dead within the city in a new context and new way. Using our phones we can livemap the decease buried in the sky, seeing relationships between people, relative information and even access the history of our ancestors. The dead have an honorable place within the city but also offer the city user information, shelter and light. Out of 460 proposals, my project Yaoyorozu, was chosen for an Honorable Mention. Check out the entire project here: http://www.archoutloud.com/tok-results.html

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August 2016

During my summer I have dedicated most of my time to reading and doing research in preperation for my masters project that will be delivered this year. My initial ideas and intentions have changed over the past 12 months and I seem to be looking into spaces and rituals as opposed to an investigation into space from a strictly sensory position that involves our perception as individuals. This might of course change again.

I have found one specific text by Foucalt, on what he calls heterotopias, quite interesting. Liminal spaces, heterotopias and the ritualistic activities of humans that tie into these spaces have provoked further investigation into certain typologies like cemeteries, prisons and what we consider sacred spaces. You might say that my interests have taken a slight turn into the anthropological aspects of space and society. Marc Auge's Non-spaces have also been quite thought provoking, in addition to an interest in the massive amount of digital space in which we live our lives. Some sort of study on the relationship between physical and digital spaces could also be a nice starting point for my masters project.

The outcome of this research is still quite unknown, but for the time being I am not too worried and am rather focusing my time on reading and writing. My creative process in the beginning of a project usually involves a lot of research that produces a series of texts which I use to get a better understanding of what direction I am going in. This helps me to frame or focus my thoughts towards a specific problem that needs to be solved or a topic to investigate. If this were to be visualised I like to think of it as a diamond shape. Where in the beginning one gathers as much information as possible until it widens out and then tapers in towards the focused outcome.