Welcome to Magical Fragments: a blog about emotional objects and storytelling.
My name is Henrica Langh and this is where I document the research process for my final project in MA Applied Imagination at Central Saint Martins. My project looks at how and why people form emotional connections with objects and how exploring emotional items of clothing through a fictional and poetic approach can inspire self-reflective storytelling.
The topic is explored through a workshop method that uses garments as access points for emotional investigation and deconstruction. The method is an autotelic creative process that builds on Barthes’ theory about the essence of the photograph and the practice of poetry as a healing exercise. The method is designed for extracting emotions and associations from clothes and turning them into poetic narratives, allowing for deeper investigation of feelings associated with specific items of clothing.
If you would like to explore the narrative world of the objects you own, please do have a look at the series of ‘intervention scores’ here.
The longer summary
Human culture is partly shaped by objects that hold meaning and memories; material things that are affectively connected to our collective and individual narratives. Meaning is not inherent to the object but created by the people or the person to whom the object is relevant (Maquet, 1993). Jules David Prown (1993) suggests that similarly to dreams, artefacts are unconscious representations of our hidden mind and can thus unravel deeper cultural truth if ‘read’ as fiction rather than analysed as history.
Partly building on a similar theory as the one proposed by Prown, this project looks at how exploring emotional items of clothing through a fictional and poetic approach can create a dialogue between the conscious and subconscious, with the potential outcome of unravelling ‘new truths’.
For the foundation of my final project I have been exploring the affective connections people form with objects and how these can inspire self-reflective storytelling. I have focused particularly on the moments and relationships people associate with things they wear. Because clothing is so strongly linked to the body and has an intimate relationship with the Self, it makes for an ideal repository for emotion and memories. This can be seen in the primary research conducted for this research project, which shows that exploring the emotions and memories of one’s wardrobe can be highly self-reflective. Furthermore, examining the visual, tangible, and sometimes even olfactory details of clothing can lead a person on an unexpected journey of metaphors and associations.
The method developed during the research process is concerned with a deeper investigation of personal items of clothing and the creative and transformative potential of their emotional narratives – clothing becomes the muse instead of the subject or medium. Rather than focusing on the clothing purely as a commodity, the workshop method uses the garment as an access point for emotional investigation and deconstruction.
There is undoubtedly potential for further exploration of the emotional role clothing plays in our personal narratives. Based on evidence from my primary research I would argue that using evocative items of clothing – especially as part of a deconstructive method such as the one developed as part of this research process – as access points for self-reflection has valuable creative and transformative potential. The primary research conducted as part of this research project, shows that exploring the emotions and memories of one’s wardrobe can be highly self-reflective. Furthermore, examining the visual, tangible, and sometimes even olfactory details of clothing can lead a person on an unexpected journey of metaphors and associations. which can, as reflected in the words of a workshop participant, ‘lead to new avenues of thinking’.