This is a newsletter for designers and time travel facilitators. It has insights about the speculative practice and tools we use in our method that they could try as well. Today we welcome the dead.
This transmission is ‘Speculative Day of the Dead’, a time travel to the past!
Speculative scenarios are often unusual, curious, occasionally even disturbing, but desirable and attractive prompts that create the suspension of disbelief about change. They are open-ended, offer the audience the possibility of personal interpretation, and frequently include humor, which activates the audience on an emotional and intellectual level, in a way similar to literature and film.
The designer’s challenge during Phase 1 of time traveling (scenario design) is a difficulty from participants to come up with original stories or stories distanced from utopia/dystopia; also when participants feel intimidated to blurt out storylines amongst peers.
To get things moving in this occasion, we switched things a bit: we still asked for scenarios but provided artifacts and the Day of the Dead tradition as prompts:
Disas Ting is a rectangular stone setting in a village in Sweden. Sometimes this site is referred to as Disa’s “thing”– the thing being the ceremonies that Disa conducted. Due to the mysticism of the story, we chose Disa’s everyday as a space to explore.
The Mexican tradition Día de los Muertos is a special time– a portal lasting a few days when the dead are welcomed and remembered; a celebration where people become Stories.
For this exercise, the entire village was invited to speculate on a past story instead of a future one– to imagine Disa’s everyday in order to welcome and perhaps remember her from now on.
What would be a scenario based in the past of your studio or practice, special to remember each year?
Phase 3 of time traveling is about rapid-prototyping. Artifacts are a view into a time traveler’s heart and soul (and values and fears and hopes and a conviction that they are indeed creative, a conviction which we as designers must protect at all times). In speculative design we communicate ideas with artifacts. During rapid prototyping we think with our hands and build physical or digital objects that contain a fiction, a scenario, a challenge inside that scenario, and a proposed answer. This is how we make artifacts rapidly, how prototyping works at The Time Travel Agency, or how this weird stuff is created.
For Speculative Day of the Dead we selected a few items from the studio and asked people to think of Disa’s everyday, and then tell us what she used the objects for. We built an altar with objects and stories that looked like this:
Here are details of the artifacts: Disa’s journal with “who’s been doing what”; her best friend (“those bones don’t mean it’s dead, just that her best friend was a ‘bones cat’”); her portrait (which was taken with “magic technology that allowed photos of that time but only of their inventor”); and her “seeing instrument” (“so that she sees the truth and can rule accordingly”).
By making together her favorite snack (also imagined, resulting in a sort of s’mores), Disa was invited to join us for Day of the Dead.
What artifacts would you choose from The Story of your Practice Past to put on an altar every year?
Time travel to the past brought up discussions about respect for the traditions of other cultures in the present. It also revealed that some locals already had a connection to Disa– there is a puppy with her name in the village, which we all met.
What we see when we aren’t seeing into a specific project.
We borrow from film, literature, games, the zeitgeist, the bus…
“Los Togolitos” is a photographic series by Sammuel Hernández that interprets children who visit us during Day of the Dead. The word ‘Togolito’ is the zapotec word for ‘the dead’.
What piece of media out there represents the spirit of your practice, the one that you keep bringing back?