During my diploma semester I had the opportunity to give a one week compact class at the Faculty of Design of Hochschule Darmstadt, supervised by Sandra Hoffmann. I designed the curriculum, held the class and graded the final work of the students.
I wanted to offer the Attention Recalibration Workshops to the design students, because I think that as designers it is especially important for us to connect to the context we are designing for and in, to explore its specifics and needs, to come up with sustainable concepts of creative interaction. Diverse realities of humans and more-than-humans on site should play a role in the negotiation about possible interventions. The second reason was to show the students possible tools to find inspiration anywhere, since in our profession we are required to come up with ideas at the push of a button.
Since the university building was not accessible due to covid restrictions, and I wanted to show that places of learning can be anywhere, I wanted to find a unique setting. DIESE Studio kindly allowed me to use their woodworking shop as a headquarter. From there, the students spread out to discover and map the surrounding industrial area, unknown to most people living in Darmstadt.
I started the week with five workshops(1) spread over two and a half days. After every workshop we met up in the headquarter to discuss the findings and approaches, we talked about how different everyone whitnessed the same area. This was followed by half a day of reading(2) and theoretical discussion. The rest of the week was reserved for the students individual work. The task was to use one of the approaches of the previous workshops to create their own project which we then showcased in an unofficial vernissage scattered throughout the area. The second task was to design two zine pages documenting the week and their final project.
A few weeks after the class, we met up with Sandra to have a final discussions. Sandra also wanted to get feedback about my class from the students and interview them about what they learned and how they thought it could benefit their praxis. Everyone got a Zine that I made from the pages, they gave me. Finally, Sandra and I discussed grades(3) and gave them to the students.
To say I was happy with the outcome of the workshop would be an understatement. I am proud of the ways each student got involved with the rather unfamiliar learning situation, in fact you could see how from workshop to workshop, they got more acustomed to expressing themselves and talking about their perspective. They gave feedback more freely and openly and discussed the impact of their actions taken during the workshops on their surroundings. Below you can find some of my favorite student work both from the workshops and their final project.
(1) Workshops in order: Open End, Outside Acting Club, Finding Resonance, My Friend the Tree
(2) Reading list: Thinking like a Mountain by Aldo Leopold, How to do Nothing (excerpt of chapter 4 Exercises in attention) by Jenny Odell, The Subversive Force of Unlearning: the Making of Illusions (Verbier Art Summig 2019) by Grada Kilomba
(3) Giving grades to projects that where built on a subjective foundation was hard, but I stuck to my predetermined criteria: Was the approach intersting, unique, new…? How did the project reflect on or interact with its surroundings? How accessible was the project to others – could they understand, interact or wonder about/with it? How well was the idea translated?