Acts of Self- Preservation
Thesis Project for RISD Graduate Degree
Masters of Design in Interior Architecture:
Exhibitions and Narrative Environments, Class of 2019
In the hands of Indonesian-Chinese undocumented migrant workers, she was born in the city of Malacca.
She too, was undocumented.
At a tender age, she was handed off to another family at the rubber plantation.
Sri Lankan Tamil Indians of Hindu belief who resided in Malaysia.
“Adoption” was the best word suited for their narrative.
When she turned 8 years old, they relocated to Singapore.
Exploited by non-identity, she was raised as a domestic worker without pay.
Not indentured, but a slave in her own home.
Yet, the complexities of love and family made it difficult to find hatred in her heart.
Mental and physical abuse, daily labor, and servitude.
She tried to leave once, and they soaked all of her clothes in kerosene.
The smell still lingers in the recesses of her mind.
She converted to Christianity and was finally evicted.
It is now 2019 and for every good fortune, she has her God to thank,
And I have her for all of mine.
Why tell Her story?
Social and human injustices are a global issue. To fully understand the lasting impact that public policies (or lack there of) have on minorities, we must humanize these stories and speak of the individual experience. The complexities of personal narratives necessitate multifaceted modes of communication within exhibition design. When looking for precedents, I found myself searching between different disciplines because I felt quite unsettled with the lack of range each individual exhibition had. Knowing the case study intimately, I felt as though one, even two approaches would not serve her story justice. Moving forward, even though I may not be as intimately familiar with other personal narratives, I know that all stories are just as complex. This project serves as a catalyst for my future methodologies, processes, and frameworks for contextualizing personal narratives and intangible cultural heritage. It is important to know that these complexities inherently exist and we must search for such depth, leaving space for different forms of expression to create an honest and emotionally impactful exhibition.
How can I tell Her story?
Different modes of storytelling necessitate users imaginations. As we build images, memories, and experiences, we also build knowledge. For instance, when we watch a movie and re-listen to the soundtrack, images and memories reappear in our minds and allow us to rewatch films solely by using our memory. As a literary device, imagery consists of descriptive language that can function as a way for the reader to better imagine the world of the piece of literature and also add symbolism to the work. Imagery draws on the five senses, namely the details of taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound. Designing for the necessity of active participation and imagination was one of the most fascinating parts of my initial process in deciding how to tell this story. Furthermore, expanding visual design to multi sensory and ADA compliant design creates an inclusive and immersive environment that considers all types of learning abilities.
6 Architectural Elements
Installations reference traditional Malayan architectural vernacular. Designs incorporate use of wood, stilts and gabled roofing.
This exhibition is intended to travel, so mobility was important when designing. These elements are easily assembled and dismantled by cold connections using handmade brackets, designed in response to ornamental trimmings on traditional Malayan homes. Composition of elements and exhibition circulation will depend on host structure, as these spaces are meant to adapt to their environment- analogous to topics of migration and displacement.
There are a collection of 6 spaces, each referencing a specific moment in the narrators life. Each moment speaks of creed, gender bias, race relations, domestic work and the complexities of multicultural identity.
Void of color, I chose to use paper to indicate enclosures, surfaces, and objects. Lack of color will necessitate users to use their own imagination with descriptive imagery provided, much like standing inside a book.
2. Model Making
3. Roof Structures
4. Technical Drawings: Sections and Elevations
5. Detailing Connections
Original design and hand-cut brackets. Mold and casting made by local caster Harrison Casting Co. in Johnston, RI.
6. Assembly & Installation
RISD Sol Koffler Graduate Student Gallery
Providence, Rhode Island