Narratives are the stories we build our world upon – they convey values, norms and shape our understanding of society.
Allowing singular narratives that reinforce normative public, political and cultural discourses threatens the well-being of communities globally. Monocultures serve to reinforce inequalities and prevent the changes we seek in order to establish more equal and sustainable futures.
My work aims to utilise design artefacts as discursive tools to rebalance discourses that interrogate complex social issues and create new design frameworks. These works seek to allow underrepresented stories to be heard and to support more representative and plural futures.
In this project, I explored the role of books as designed artefacts of power and validated knowledge. Playing with the legitimacy brought by the print medium, I question who gets to write their story and who are the readers of the texts? The work examines the tensions of knowledge and power over others. Key considerations throughout the piece are who are excluded from the process? Who does not get to share their story?
Those books tell stories from viewpoints different from traditional dominant archetypes [white, male, privileged, educated]. They celebrate different versions of ‘truth’ and ‘knowledge’ by giving voice to cultures, including indigenous minorities, underrepresented genders, and people with disabilities often marginalised by society.
The design outcomes work beyond the traditional book format. They are not books in the conventional sense. Instead, they are interactive conceptual objects that transcend media – audiobooks, websites, art exhibitions – to enrich the experience and immerse the reader in the ideas they embody. This assemblage format highlights the existence of multiple stories and allowing individuals to become actors of those stories.
Book 1: Disappearing knowledge
This first book is about the stories we will never know and the knowledge we will never get. It interrogates the power of dominant narratives over others and illustrates the concept of ‘epistemicide’ – the silencing of other forms of knowledge diverging from the main western episteme.
You’ll never be able to access its content: just as alternative cultures, other forms of knowledge or mythologies, the story exists, but you won’t be able to read it. It deliberately questions the value of what we lose when those narratives and knowledge(s) disappear. It is a critique of us as a society. The disappearance of knowledge is also the loss of languages, cultures, ways to see the world, nature understandings, species, and ultimately, ourselves.
From my researches and interpretation of the epistemicide concept, I extracted five processes illustrating how knowledge is taken away from us today. These were censorship, negligence, ignorance, rewriting and destruction. Through design, each chapter represents the way the dominant narrative silences other’s stories and voices.
Book 2: Futures
This second book aims to incite readers to co-create their own stories about the future. It was inspired by the Adventure books, where every reader’s choices lead to different pathways with different consequences and endings. The book is an open format where people can rearrange the pages to build and share their vision of the future. Readers are actors of the stories instead of spectators, highlighting how our future choices impact the way we think in the present.
Once the story has been completed, the reader passes the book to someone else to repeat the process – rearrange the pages and rewrite the story to invent their future image. This process aims to highlight the multiplicities of possible futures, the ease with which stories can be rewritten, and how idealised visions of the future are often built on others’ ideals.
The story includes multiple and inclusive concepts of the future – from afro-futurism to Indigenous futurism – to move beyond the usual western-centric accounts of the future as shared in most popular fictions. It acts as a catalyst, a connected space highlighting how, when brought together, cultures can be amplified and grow from one another. The work combines different forms of knowledge in different epistemes without silencing or marginalising questions about our responsibility toward the future and the world we want to live within.
Book 3: Modern Songlines
The third book highlights the challenges women face during their journey in public spaces. Built as a journey that mixes maps and audio files, the book creates an immersive experience introducing women back to the centre of the map and making the issues they face visible and prominent. Once again, the book acts as a catalyst for other mediums and stories – connecting people and opening the discourse beyond the usual book format.
By linking women’s narratives to sounds and places, the book redefines how we connect with our surroundings and others on different, more profound levels. The work gives a different perspective on the places we think we know and encourages the reader to question their relationship with these locations and their people. Through a cross-disciplinary imaginary, the book allows us to rethink current representations of Brighton and Hove and include a wide range of topics giving us new insights into the city’s social, spatial and discursive fabric.
Each map illustrates one issue faced by women during their journey: ‘body language’, ‘time burden’, ‘street harassment’, ‘the geography of fear’ & ‘hyper-consciousness’. Each of these topics was identified during a research workshop conducted with women living in the Brighton and Hove area in April / May 2021.
For my master project, I plan to continue exploring books as tools of knowledge and power. I want to explore books as design artefacts and hybrid objects carrying multiple narratives and stories, embodying the interconnection of all voices and cultures.