dunne ascribes para-functionality of objects when “function is used to encourage reflection on how electronic products condition our behavior”. the phrase “form follows function” is applicable to traditional industrial design practices, as dunne argues design discourse historically emphasizes the functionality of the object rather than suggesting “a role for design objects as discourse where functionality can be used to criticize the limits that products impose on our actions”. we view our iPhone as an object to perform certain functions (for example, finding our location on a map and getting directions from point A to point B) but how often do we contemplate how the design of the application and its affect our behavior? (how are the directions are selected? at what criteria is this route determined the best? by following these algorithmic recommendations what possible journeys am i missing?)
for this exercise, i wanted to investigate para-functional objects as eccentric, absurd, even pathological – the emphasis on the object’s purpose is not its function (or ability to accomplish that function) but that it provokes reflection and arouses emotion on part of the user. like panamarenko’s objects they “rarely work, provoking the viewer to think about the nature of the invention and the desires that motivate it.”
the aspect of provocation and contemplation in relation to the body led me to think about an aspect of health that is strongly gendered and can arouse discomfort when discussed, menstruation.
[sputniko!] :: menstruation machine
sputniko’s piece is a wearable device that creates the experience of menstruation for the user. the metal girdle tightens around the abondem recreating the sensation of pain, and even bleeds. sputniko featured a transvestite boy wearing the “menstruation machine” in a music video. the object sparked a strong reaction by the community on questions regarding what it means to be a women, our discomfort with publicly revealing the mechanisms of the female body’s monthly cycle, and what menstruation means to humans culturally, biologically, and historically.
[brigitte coremans] :: life clock & menstruation clock
another artist using the topic of menstruation for her work is brigitte coremans. coremans has created two pieces. the first [on the left] is a “menstruation clock” and is essentially a visualization of body temperature data written out on a un-windring scroll of paper [similar to seismograph machines or lie-detectors]. the piece “aims to reconnect a woman with her own personal rhythm, which itself is sensitive to various factors, including stress, exercise, under- or overweight and artificial lighting.” the second [on the right] are a string a 500 ceramic beads. every 28 days a bead is dropped, representing a woman’s changes for conception. over time the beads change in color reflecting the dimmed chances of a woman conceiving past the age of 40.
like sputniko! coreman’s work does not serve a strict functional purpose. rather they seek to provoke contemplation and thought in the user on what is the meaning of menstruation to defining identity as a woman, provoke contemplation and awareness on a topic we often consider private and not for public display, and the context of control and contraception.