Writing for Design

by Ruchita

Identity Crisis

by Gauri Sanghi

“The first person with a ‘specific design ‘ tag in two days. The world ought to be like that.”

This is one of my log entries at the end of the second day

Of the unbox festival which is a three day festival bringing in a lot of practitioners from various fields together who are working out there in all spheres the social, the political and the economic. Walking into the festival I actually left behind a group of people back home in Alwar, a small town in Rajasthn ,asking me every second, what is it that you are doing? what did you specialize in in your design school? What did you become by the end of all that work and “money” put in in your education? What kind of design you do?

Besides not knowing a lot about design as I understand it today after being in an art and design school for 5 years. I think the way we categorize people into disciplines and specializations also leads to me needing to answer these questions. Spending two days here what caught my attention was the word practice. People here have their individual practices, which might be very specific to a particular geographical location or a particular community, yet can be applied to another context, another space. A team of a singer and a sound recording artist from the Travelling Archives have been travelling in Bengal and Bangladesh for last ten years archiving folk songs from the area, and they believe that language is key to such a project.  Another team of practitioners is trying to work with a group of folk artists from Hariharpur near Banaras, trying to build a school which can double up as a cultural center which can become a local platform for these artists to perform. The Bespoke project is working on low cost technologies to empower a community giving them a space for social and political expression. Now when we look at such practices, the key is not the discipline that these individuals associate with, but it is the intent and the creative energy being spent on moderating these larger ecosystems. Each of these practices is as valuable and relevant in each of the different spaces they are working in. At the same time there is a need and a space for each of these practices to come together. To use each other’s skills, borrow methodologies, critique each other’s practice, test and try what each other think in our own contexts.

So walking out of the festival, I would still be in the identity crisis of what is it that I actually became after putting in all the work and money in that design school. But I rather choose to always live in that identity crisis. Probably I need to re-imagine the role of my practice itself. Probably it is about identifying these spaces for dialogue, it is about creating networks that can function in and mess around with these larger ecosystems. But also, as I walk out, I know its not making it easier for the people back home, to navigate through these ideas, but I guess that is a challenge I took on five years back.


Gauri Sanghi is an art and design practitioner. She participated in the Writing for Design workshop led by Teal Triggs at the Unbox Festival 2013.