DWFE show us how they got to where they are now and the origins of the Green = Boom project. Below is a transcript of the conversations we had with them about who they are and what this project is all about.
Think-Work-Play: What is it that you are interested in?
Matt Ward: We’ve called ourselves DWFE, which is maybe an empty and open signifier so we can change what it means as and when we want to. We like the idea of having continual and shifting meaning. We work together as staff at goldsmiths, teaching design, and we decided to collaborate on some projects.
Jimmy Loizeau: That was good
MW: Thank you.
TWP: What is green=boom and how does it fit in with the other stuff that you’ve been working on?
Laura Potter: It has a couple of titles: Green=Boom or Recreational Bombs… or we’ve probably got some other titles for it depending on how you read the project. That’s part of the point really. It fits in with three or four other projects that we’ve been doing that have overlapping concerns to do with experience, design-and-experience or design-for-experience. Most of them are connected to photography, image and cinematics, or self image based on how you view yourself through a lens. All with different locations and scales. This is the first one we have made public, most of the others haven’t been tested on anybody yet.
MW: As a project it’s got different themes that run through it. Part of it, as Laura said, is creating a cinematic or photographically poised moment – so part of that is a reflection on the fact that our society consumes images at a vast rate.
The first theme is looking at how we consume images – both moving and still – as a culture. The pace of that consumption is sped up to the point that their value is quite difficult to judge. So in some way this is a large piece of photographic equipment set up to capture a specific image of an event, or an experience. That’s one of the over-arching themes: how do we add value to – and create – a very special moment in the production of an image.
LP: We’ve had conversations about consumption. As designers, how do we operate in the world without producing stuff? “What’s the product of your design practice?” if you like. I think we are all a bit uncomfortable with making stuff to sell, so what’s the other “product” of a piece of design? What else can people take away as a thing to keep? It might be an image of an experience rather than a consumable artefact.
MW: I guess underlying some of this is us questioning where the boundaries and borders of design as a practice are. Does it have to be linked to ideas of consumption and production for an industry? Can it ask questions? Can it make us think about the world in different ways? Can it present us with new experiences? So we are quite happy to try and push the boundaries or whether this is design or not – and were not quite sure if it is – but that makes it more exciting in some ways.
I guess the other underlying theme that runs through it is a questioning of the ethics or the manner in which we consume violence as a product within our society: through computer games, films and news footage. When they are distanced by the consumption of a screen, does that change our view of it? If we start to act out these scenes of heroic or dangerous events, does that change our understanding of it? We’re not saying computer games are bad, we are just saying how do we shift and change our readings of those kinds of experiences?
JL: I think one of the other things that is really important with this, is that there has been no initial strategy with the generation of this project. There was no “we do this to lead to this to lead to this’. We took several ideas quite casually and then allowed them to grow through our different perspectives on them and then saw how they could draw in other perspectives and other aspects to that conversation. So in a sense the idea is a product in its own right, as a kind of central point for drawing in different opinions, different points of view and different subject matters.
MW: In fact if we’re looking for something that joins all of the work together it’s very much the process in which we engage in. We haven’t got a strong settled and stable agenda.
LP: This is partly why the title DWFE is kept deliberately open. It’s not a kind of gimmick. We actually change what we do, we change what we are about on a week to week basis depending on the results of whatever experiment we’ve just done. So it is fluid.
MW: The process that holds it together is a genuine curiousness and experimentation. We entered this and started inviting people to it without knowing where it would take us or where the project would move onto. We will then gather everyone’s opinions, see how we feel afterward and then judge it from there. It has kind of an internal logic for where it goes to.
TWP: Could you describe what’s happening in the videos?
LP: The first film is the start of the project. We’re having a conversation about what bombs were like in film (“made-up” bombs) and then fifteen minutes after that conversation there was a cardboard vest with a balloon in it and a scalpel and we had our first prototype for the project. Then we filmed it, and because we filmed it that helped us move onto the next part of the project. We decided we needed other people to do it so we got Steph involved, who was at college at the time. At that point we had balloons up our jumper so there was a bit of pain attached to the whole thing. Getting Steph’s reaction was good because Steph reacted really strongly to it and I think that helped us decide to carry on. You know each point: these processes, these actions and then the reflection on the action, they really give us clues for what to do next. And then because Steph’s reaction was very strong – actually he shook – we started looking at physical and emotional responses. There is a video with the galvanic skin sensor, which measures the erm…oh come on, what does it do?
MW: It measures the level of moisture on the skin to give an indication of arousal, so whether that’s fear or happiness or excitement. In that way the final video gives a feedback to the experience, so it gives us some data.
TWP: What does it mean when the pitch of the galvanic skin sensor changes?
LP: It emits a beeping noise. The higher the pitch the more moisture there is so the more agitated you are. The higher the pitch, the less ‘cool’ you are.
MW: Laura wasn’t very cool.
TWP:What is Shopwork and how have you used the space?
MW: Shopwork is the gallery-studio of El Ultimo Grito. They invited us to come and use the space. So we came along, we measured the room and then built the structure off site, bespoke for the room. Again it was the first time we have ever built an environment: something to go through for the detonating of a device.
Over a period of five days, people have booked appointments to come for 2 hour slots. We’ve taken them through an experience where they have entered the structure, made their way through and tried to disarm a bomb at the end of it.
TWP: Anything else?
JL: A lot of our experiences are vicarious and via the screen at the moment. You know, we sit down very passively; we experience it in two dimensions. This is taking that experience out of the screen, placing it in the real world and seeing how it effect’s people and how it might be developed.
LP: Yeah, and putting it here and getting people involved has done that. We’ve got lots of feedback about what people like about it, how they would change it, how they would like to do it, where they would like to see it. I think it’s helped to have discussions about the issues involved, when people sit at home and play computer games, you don’t end up having discussions with them about the ethics of computer games and bomb disarmament as a form of entertainment, But in doing this you can then have conversations with people about how they feel about it, and actually that’s the point of a lot of the projects that we’ve been doing. We talked about the idea that the image is an output, but really the conversation after the event is part of the output as well.
MW: We see this as a piece of design research, so we are making things to investigate our experiences of the world. It’s not to create a product at the end, it’s to – in some way – open a context to question something, and find something out, even though we don’t quite know what that is yet.
JL: [sarcastically] Yeah, it’s generative, non-directive philosophy.
MW & LP: [laughter]
MW: Please use that
JL: Don’t use that
LP: What I like is the idea that people might go off and do some of this stuff themselves. We’ve already got somebody that’s gone off and got a breadboard out and is thinking about making their own device and often that’s brilliant! That’s great! As long as we don’t get sued.