Four months ago, when I started working as an intern at Proboscis, I wrote how pleasantly surprised and perplexed I was in finding myself in such a stimulating and challenging environment. My disorientation sprang from my own unfamiliarity with workplaces in general, having spent most of my adult life either at University or in the company of books, and from the inherent shifting quality peculiar to Proboscis. This crossdisciplinarity allowed me to try my hand at activities I could hardly have done anywhere else: projects I was more aware of and versed in, and a project I was less skilled at.
The outcome of my months spent here at Proboscis are a series of eBooks extrapolated from the visual essay I composed on Proboscis’ wall, loosely based on their work and enriched by my own series of allusions, suggestions and relations. First it developed as a concise mind map which outlined the fundamental design underpinning Proboscis’ long journey and then evolved in different and unexpected directions, feeding on my past knowledge, fortuitous connections and new sources of inspiration. It was elaborated following different paths and along the way I published several posts about themes I found fascinating and prominent. Unfortunately, the result of the other project I followed, Pic(k)ing out London, was less fortunate and successful in terms of stimulating participation but the reflections that were stirred proved to be neat and helpful for future research. Alongside I had the chance to grow more and more familiar and feel more comfortable with Bookleteer platform (absolutely brilliant!), Flickr and posting on blogs.
I want to deeply thank Giles and Alice and everyone at Proboscis for hosting me these months. I am confident and optimistic that my experience here will mature and take shape and, even retrospectively, will prove to be valuable and irreplaceable.
Last August I started planning and outlining the details of my personal project named Pic(k)ing out London. Alice and Giles helped me adjust and refine my initial blurred design, propelling questions and making objections in order to show me how intricate and elaborate planning even a simple project like this is. At first I was pretty enthusiastic about that as I thought I would have had the chance to test my ideas – how ever scattered and ephemeral they might have appeared – about urban interaction against the merciless reality. My aim was to select people from different backgrounds who have diametrically opposed points of view of London. That meant avoiding close friends or at least I meant to pick only a few and try to differentiate my recipients as much as possible. That again meant that I should run through different channels in order to recruit people who could possibly match my criteria and expectations. At first I sent emails to contacts I was provided by Giles and Alice and although the response was quite poor from the beginning I was at least pretty satisfied with the initial goal achieved: yes I had found six people willing to take part in the project (being six the minimum threshold we had set) and even if among those six there were some acquaintances or some friends of a friend they altogether formed a varied lot!
How ever promising it could be, it was not destined to last long. People disappear, they don’t get in touch or, when they do, they vainly assure me they will eventually do it. People then abandon the project along the way for various reasons and I should say I soon realized I was not in a favourable junction at all as all sort of unfortunate circumstances seemed to come together: computer crashes, camera breakdown, memory card not inserted and many other personal misfortunes.
In order to compensate for this ever weaker inflow of material Alice and Giles advised me to enlarge both the scales of time of the project and the spectrum of potential participants by adopting less-beaten methods to recruit and involve people. We cut the days people had to commit and proposed a 5-days, one-weekend or even a one-day involvement. Besides I tried to broaden my horizons by contacting associations and various community clubs, posting on different websites, boosting the group Facebook and Flickr pages, approaching strangers on the streets and handing out flyers. I should admit that I also went back to those very friends I had at first neglected and begged for help. However, as hard as I tried, it just did not work!
After the inevitable discouragement and frustration, I became aware that a reflection about the reasons why the outcome shattered my anticipation was absolutely indispensable and, all things considered, it was the only thing left to do. Giles and Alice were not of secondary importance in this process, as they always tried to make me understand that a marginal failure is unavoidable and predictable when doing projects that require the involvement of people. As long as you stick to your ‘sacred cows’, you have to be flexible and adapt your ideas to any change of circumstances which may occur.
As the project was initially designed, it was perhaps too demanding, too specific and not so straightforward as I thought it was if you consider working with people from a distance. This implies an autonomous effort from their part and if the tasks are a bit challenging they may easily get lost and lose interest in the project. Then it is mandatory to understand how people have their own concerns and duties to care. Therefore in a situation where the participants feel no obligation whatsoever, apart from being a mere act of helpfulness, and they see no reward in actually accomplishing the task, it is too tricky to trust in their complete commitment. Now I guess that having worked with a closed community would have made a great difference as people might have felt duty bound to carry out the research and might have found mutual help and support.
I have also reflected about my own attitude towards the whole project and in particular the strategies I adopted to convince people not just to say ‘yes, I’ll do it’ but to feel positive and intrigued by the principles and values of the whole plan. I therefore recognize in my own approach some flaws due not so much to a lack of faith in what theoretically underpins what I was doing, but mainly due to my own inexperience in translating some abstract concepts to a more varied audience. I feel that people outside the ‘field’ may find this sort of engagements quite silly or, at least, useless and unfruitful. So the puzzle, still unsolved, is: how to connect with people who may be, initially and on principle, suspicious and uninterested? How to make my aim and desire be understandable to a wider arena?
This enigma and my own unfamiliarity obviously made my conviction in the project be full of ups and downs and inevitably led to a poor and visible self-confidence. And that is not the ideal tack to prompt someone to complete a task! Moreover, the continuous alterations on strategies adopted, in order to make up for the scarce response, did nothing but weaken my ease. To be honest, one should take into consideration other factors to explain why it did not work as expected, such as the time of the year (it started in August when most people are on holiday) and a bare series of misfortunes which had diverted my initial idea. Anyway, I think it is essential to be critical and analytic towards both the context and one’s own faults. What I can say is that I would definitely like to put myself on the line again and test my unresolved issues if the occasion arises in the future and now I am confident that from this disastrous experience I may learn something precious. Most of all, I should learn not to take for granted what I used to and to ask myself those very questions that the project helped to bring to the surface.
Finally, I want to thank those who, despite snags, helped and supported me and those who did contribute to the project by sending me pictures and diary entries.
This is my third week here at Proboscis, still pleasantly stunned as I found myself catapulted in such a fertile and constructive milieu. My name is Elena and I come from Italy, and although I lived in London before, this new dimension I am going through here has an inspiring as well as touching nuance. A little more than two months ago I eventually got an European Phd in Comparative Literature and Culture from Università Roma Tre including a semester spent at the School of English and Humanities at Birkbeck College. My dissertation was about the representation of London in postcolonial and contemporary European Literature and my analysis basically started from the assumption that urban space is not an inactive and semantically univocal dimension, but a text marked by conflict and personal memories which requires different readings, interpretations and models of literary and political
agency. This in part explains how keen I am on Proboscis’ approach on certain issues such as geography and identity, the relationship between private and public spaces and public authoring. And then this Spring I was lucky enough to be awarded a 4 month internship grant under the EU Leonardo da Vinci scheme and, especially, lucky enough to have a positive response by Proboscis. So here I am, reading and taking notes – I feel quite at ease with this kind of task actually – about the astounding story of Proboscis, running through their brilliant projects, trying to compose a coherent idea in my mind of their peculiar work. Before coming here, peeking at their immense website, I was thrilled to find words and concepts, the harsh terminology of academia simplified and brightly expressed in concrete projects. The more I read and the more I observe the activity going on in the studio – something is still shifty for me to tell the truth – the more the ability to combine thoughts and facts, art and society, the beautiful and the functional strikes me. I am particularly interested in their work and reflection about people’s emotional geography and the individual potential of positively and confidently affecting the texture of urban space so that a more equal society could emerge. I tried to outline the fundamental design underpinning Proboscis’ long journey – according to me obviously – in a concise mind map (see picture below).. yes I know there is a childish tone in it, hopefully I will improve. In fact, one thing I am sure I would be invited to do during my time here is to explore other ways – creative, artistic, ‘technological’ – to translate intangible ideas and make them real and touchable (and hence more effective).
For the time being, this is just a kind of vague proposal from my part to read Proboscis’ work along a trajectory that departs from the individual, who belongs to a society which is always and inevitably locally specific and geographically defined, and comes full circle to the very place we inhabit. In between – what I think Proboscis’ aim is mainly about – the subject is warmly invited to expand his/her creative potential in order to develop personal agency, to challenge monolithic received notions of space and time and collectively exert a positive, autonomous influence on culture and society. This basic map is just the core of a so-called work in progress which will be spreading out unexpectedly and, hopefully, entertainingly as well, with multiple suggestions and influences – I’ll keep you posted about any progression!
Finally, I’d love to thank Giles and Alice for giving me the opportunity in the first place to live this challenging experience and I thank as well my fellow colleagues at Proboscis for the warm welcome. The atmosphere here is unique, calm and relaxing with an electrifying vein streaming underneath.
My background is interior architecture, and furniture design, which I’ve practiced in Beirut, Lebanon, before coming to London to do my MA in Design, Critical Practice at Goldsmiths in 2008. I am interested in design work that may function as a device which has impact on people’s lives within both the public and private space, in relation to social, cultural, and political concerns.
In my six months internship at Proboscis (supported in part via an LDA Innovation Placement grant), I had the opportunity to explore further ideas which were of importance to me, through working and assisting the Proboscis team in multidisciplinary art projects. One project I was took part in was Sutton Grapevine, where I was involved in the research and production. The project looked at issues like geography, identity, migration and sense of belonging through using story telling as a medium for creating social spaces, a theme which is of interest to me, and was the theme of my work. Cart-og-ra-phy, a research project based in the Palestinian Refugee camp of Shatila in Beirut. It was fascinating to note the differences between working with communities of two different cultures, that of Sutton-in-the-Isle, and Shatila Camp in Beirut, where issues like perception of privacy, ownership and space are completely different. Story telling however is a common art, and working on ways to record those and creating spaces with them is always very intriguing.
The other project I was part of was Sensory Threads, for which I worked on the identity design as well as designing and building the housing for the ‘Rumbler’, a piece used as a medium to experience in vibration, sound and image the journeys of four sensors in a space. It was quite a challenge for me, as I’ve never been involved in working on pieces for technology projects before, and the chance of interacting and working with people from Birkbeck College, University of Nottingham and Queen Mary was a great experience.
Being part of the Proboscis team was my first professional experience in London, I learned a lot, and acquired more confidence through taking part in discussions, idea generating and engaging in different processes to create a narrative. It was a great opportunity for me to work closely with such great people from different backgrounds, leading to an interesting take on projects, where the intervention intriguingly moves across art and design.
Internship at Proboscis, July 2008 to March 2009
I am a visual communication designer. I graduated from The Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore in 2006. I am currently completing my masters in ‘Creative Practice for Narrative Environments’ at Central Saint Martins London.
As a part of my study at Central Saint Martins, I interned at Proboscis from July 2008 to March 2009. Working with Proboscis has enabled me to gain a global-local exposure and an insight into the art and design scenario in London.
- As a design student, I have had the opportunity to participate in a variety of multi-disciplinary projects and intend to pursue this approach to my work. Proboscis is an open space that employs such an approach and collaborates with a range of professionals outside the field of design.
- Working as part of an organization that deals with a range of projects from artistic performances to technological mapping, has opened up different avenues of thought, processes and understanding for me as a creative practitioner.
- Being a close knit and well established organization, Proboscis has enabled me to directly participate and gain first hand experience of their diverse work systems.
- Proboscis has enabled me to interact with other practitioners of design, allowing me to acquire knowledge of the art and design industry in London through the experience of others.
- At Proboscis I was given the opportunity to actively participate in workshops and client meetings (Perception Peterborough workshop and Being in Common) which has provided me with invaluable experience.
I was involved in the research and production which gave me the opportunity to work and interact with fellow professionals from the industry. I also gained first-hand experience in developing interesting and innovative research methodologies and documentation techniques. This provided me with the confidence to see a project through all its stages right from its inception to final production. I also gained experience in working with a wide range of mediums. For the Perception Peterborough project I worked with moving images and for the Being in Common project we constructed art pieces for installation in Gunpowder Park.
Although, my internship at Proboscis was significant in all respects, two aspects deserve specific mention.
Firstly, the artist versus designer debate. What is art and what is design? How are they related? What are the boundaries that define the two practices? Proboscis is an art organization and their work shifts between design- problem solving narratives to artistic explorations. As a design student over the years my process had slowly become devoid of artistic empathy. Being at Proboscis I have learned to incorporate ‘Art’ into my work again.
During summer 2008 I worked on Perception Peterborough, a project aimed at creating ‘impressions’ of what the city might evolve to become in the following 15-20 years. My approach here was driven by raising issues and providing possible design based solutions. Proboscis viewed the ‘impressions’ more ‘artistically’. They aimed at creating images and narratives that would inspire and evoke thought from the audience. This was an important realization for me, as I had been addressing the briefs from a solution driven perspective. Working with artists enabled me to work with more fluid and experimental concepts.
Proboscis has also given me an insight into London and its people. Through the course of many lunches and tea conversations, I have learnt about the English lifestyle, history, landmarks in London (some that I had walked past unknowingly!). I have had the opportunity to travel out of London, to Peterborough as well as Enfield (Gunpowder Park) and allowing me to learn about experiences and daily lives of people living outside the cosmopolitan city.
I am keen on developing my work in the arena of education in the future. Through my conversations with Giles who is a visiting tutor at Goldsmiths’ College Design Department, I have gained valuable knowledge in this regard.
My work with Proboscis has enabled me to observe how a studio functions at a systems level, which will be undoubtedly be useful in my career.
Finally, as a multi-disciplinary designer, I have always been interested in being part of spaces that allow participation through different processes. Proboscis allows for involvement and contribution to various aspects of a project which may not necessarily be related to one’s specialization. This allows for a larger learning spectrum in a variety of fields related and non-related to art and design.
I feel, from the above, that my internship and learning at Proboscis will be a valuable starting point for my future projects, goals, and growth as an artist and a designer, in the years to come.
MA Creative Practice for Narrative Environments, Central Saint Martins, June, 2009
Internship Experience at Proboscis, January to June 2008
I heard about Proboscis while the research stage of an information design project at college. I was looking for interesting approaches into social and communication studies, and I noticed them as a group specially involved into different social areas and communities. At that point I didn’t get to understand much of what I was reading about their projects, but their singular way of working, variety of approaches and concepts made me really interested to know about that “small” group of people with lots of work done. At that stage, trying to classify Proboscis was hard to me and I assumed for most of the people who first get in touch with them. They work across disciplines, with high social involvement and lots of collaborative practice. They have a non-commercial look at design and communication and a tactile and playful way to look at either complex concepts or at everyday life. After being with them, working, collaborating, talking, drawing… Is still not easy to classify Proboscis, but I feel I understand them better, not only their work but also the way they have to look at the world surrounding. The environment in the studio is anything but tense or awkward, is an open space and a place for talking, discussing and listening new thoughts, connections or ideas.
During my time as an intern I used to work from two to four days a week, during a period of about four months. My main intention when I applied for it was to get a first contact with a studio in the city, to get confidence in my work while applying my skills and learn. Learn as much as I could from people who could talk and think about my general areas of interest. At Proboscis they were clear about their expectations and incoming projects in which I could get involved and that made the experience for fruitful.
My tasks there were from image making to lay-out, photo editing, illustrations or printing experiments.
I would encourage prospective interns to feel comfortable for developing work into the assigned projects and feel confident to present to the group, as they are really open and appreciate suggestions, ideas and experimentation. And it builds that unique atmosphere in the studio of a high collaborative way of working, where everyone and every project feed the others creating a whole range of interesting connections.
Some of the best outcomes from my internship time were the conversations with the team and the opportunity to experiment into personal interests in a non-stressful environment. I learn about ideas, meanings, connections, process or methodologies.
My experience with Proboscis is a journey that went from being a non enough confident student of graphic design to feel as someone taking part of a group in a interesting and rewarding environment, feeling able to understand and learn from daily work activities. Currently I work some times as freelancer with them involved in different projects, and it is a pleasure to keep that walk next to them.
Carmen Vela Maldonado, June 2009
Proboscis Internship Experience May-June 2008
I stumbled across the Proboscis website while searching for creative organisations that worked across disciplines and this is certainly something that sets Proboscis apart from other organisations. Other distinctive features are the close, small team they have within the work space whilst also putting collaboration with others, artists, researchers, academia and communities at the centre of their practice. These elements were some of the positive aspects of Proboscis and that remained distinctive throughout my Internship.
My internship involved working one or two days a week, lasting a period of a month or so. The experience was primarily engineered through my own desire to work with Proboscis in some capacity, whatever the nature of the work. On reflection this was perhaps a little misguided. In future I feel interns should be clear about the expectations of their work and interests and plan for a longer time with Proboscis than I had available to really feel the fruitions of the work.
I had an interest in Education as I was going to do a PGCE and thought that some time looking at creative technologies would enhance my understanding of education as situated beyond the classroom. In discussion with the team, my brief was to research into how we might develop some of the projects that had been completed in schools, such as Everyday Archaeology and Experiencing Democracy. I primarily looked at how Proboscis’s current work might link in with the ‘Personalisation’ agenda within education and proposed suggestions for developing the work. By the end of my short time with Proboscis I was able to produce a research document and for me personally, more importantly, an insight into the organisation and how creative organisations work. One thing I did not take the opportunity to do, which I urge all interns to do, is make time for conversations with the team and I think this is best achieved through applying to do intern work that is project and collaborative in nature, not individual research.
I did enjoy the freedom to co-construct my own brief with the team, and did feel supported however I do feel that if I had more time and was also involved in a more hands on project, rather than research I would have gained more from the experience. I would encourage prospective interns highlighting that Proboscis provide an alternative internship, a creative and reflective space and learning environment, where you are a genuine part of the team. This measure of flexibility and the engagement with cross-disciplinary practice provides interesting scope for further work in the arts, education and social policy.