Date of Award
Master of Industrial Design
Soap made with a single hair from someone you kind of know.
Porcelain vessels that seem to bubble up with anxiety from the inside.
A blanket made from surveillance footage of an intimate moment on a car.
When we use these objects, it’s hard to say if we’re touching another person or not, or if they’re sensual or synthetic.
This book presents a collection of domestic objects titled Really Clean No Problems At All. This collection focuses on post-digital culture’s increasingly dissociative relationship with bodiliness, intimacy, and hygiene.
This collection alters objects that live in our deep memories — things that we’re so accustomed to that they define our concepts of home, of interiority. ‘Sensual synthetics’ describes the dissonance between the sterile abstractions that facilitate post-digital advancement, and the sensual, bodily reality that persists despite it. We need more reminders that along with the sterile rationalism of our abstractions, we also lead visceral, nebulous, fluxing lives. Our stubborn tendency to divide the sensual and the synthetic does a disservice to the complexity of our experience.
Voyeurism is one aspect of sensual synthetics that is exacerbated by post-digital culture. Media enables us to build complex internal relationships with others involving no reciprocity. We freely observe, knowing that we can’t be observed in return. When we observe via technology we sometimes feel like we’re connecting deeply, when in actuality most of what the other ‘is’ to us is a composite fiction created in our mind. This kind of voyeuristic attachment can exist in interpersonal relationships as well as with objects, exemplified by the extreme case of people falling in love with robots and dolls, but it’s also true of the relationships we have with typical domestic objects.
The medium of domestic life is a powerful one. This medium is made up of things that are not sacred—we are free to use, touch, move, and alter them. Often they help us, and we take care of them in return. Commercialism plays an important role in this relationship. An art object’s value is so great that there is always a boundary between the object and the viewer that psychologically cannot be breached. Art objects are handled with care, or not at all. On the other hand, when an object is mass-produced at a lower cost, it is possible for someone to have a relationship with that object as an equal. And when these conditions are met, there is the potential to cultivate thoughts and feelings that define your daily existence. These types of objects can give you a more vivid sense of what it means to exist right now because these objects do in fact constitute your existence right now.
Johnston, Christina, "Really clean no problems at all" (2018). Masters Theses. 246.
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