Tim Miller has devised 101 ways to use a trailer. Yes, a trailer, that mundane, strictly utilitarian object no one would ever waste a glance on. The designer, however, sees the trailer as a blank canvas that has the potential to become a tool for the realization of collective as well as individual dreams. You can use trailers for anything, you can reinterpret them, you can use them to manipulate the world around you or better said you can 'pervert' trailers according to your desires and needs.

Miller has already put some of its 101 ways to use a trailer to the test:

Image courtesy Tim Miller

- Trailers are routinely used as a rapid deployment devices that generate a zone of exclusion or control. The police turn trailers into mobile surveillance tools by mounting them with CCTV cameras. The military uses them as walls. Inspired by these practices, Tim Miller designed a trailer that emits a pink light that would deter teenagers from any area where the object is left. The choice of colour is not arbitrary. Pink lights have already been used in a Nottinghamshire housing estate because the colour is seen as 'uncool', emphasizes acne and as such rely on any personal insecurities young people might have.

Image courtesy Tim Miller

Image courtesy Tim Miller

Total Recall Filming in Toronto

- A film screened at RCA's work in progress exhibition showed another function for the trailer: the vehicle was used to simulate and film car driving in a similar way to the studios of Hollywood.

Image courtesy Tim Miller

Image courtesy Tim Miller

Pervert Trailer was exhibited at the Work in Progress show a few weeks ago at the Royal College of Art in London. Only 99 more ways to use a trailer to go!

Pervert Trailers was developed at Platform 13, in the Design Product department. The platform, which is by far my favourite in the whole department, is headed by Onkar Kular and Sebastien Noel. Together they look at how design can contribute to alternative models of living and production by engaging with, commenting on, and addressing issues currently beyond the usual scope of design - political, social, technological or ecological.

Sponsored by:

"They [superstitions] give us a feeling of control over uncertainty and so it might be predicted that the current feeling of instability in the world would create an increase in superstition," said Prof. Richard Wiseman in 2003, just before launching his 'UK Superstition Survey'. The research demonstrated that levels of superstition in the UK were surprisingly high, even among people with a scientific background (full details in the PDF.)

Image courtesy Shing-Tat Chung

In this time of crisis and confusion, are we going to resort more than ever to superstition and irrationality in order to get back an illusion of control? The project that Shing-Tat Chung was showing at the work in progress show of Design Interactions, explores a world in which beliefs and rituals emerge from the seemingly harmless private sphere to infect larger and more complex public systems. In times of uncertainty will the population demand an alternative logic to be implemented? This project imagines a stock market in which superstitions abound, producing uncanny algorithms and illogical bankers attired in green suit and Feng-Shui briefcases.

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Image courtesy Shing-Tat Chung

Questions to the designer:

I found surprising that your project associate people working in the Stock Exchange with superstition. I thought they were the only people who had control these days. What triggered this interest in 'illogical bankers'?

We're at our most superstitious in times of uncertainty, as we are hardwired to gain control of a situation by recognising patterns, even if they ignore current rationale. When I started researching superstition, I started to concentrate on looking at contextualising my project in scenarios that would best suit my project. This drew me to the stock market and thus bankers. Due to the high levels of instability and vast amounts of money at risk, it seemed the ideal economy to play out my project.

The stock market is in essence a breeding ground for superstition. We have this view that trading is done the rational way, almost emotionless, and then there is this whole other part that is hidden in the private sphere of the banker or trader, such as being buried in their lucky trading jacket or large hedge funds using financial astrology as a source of advice.

One of my favourite researched rituals is a 'reputable' trader who establishes his starting trading position based on the nipple direction of the Sun's page 3 model (up or down). Whilst these facts may be fun and whimsical, what really interests me is when these irrational beliefs start to emerge and become implicated into more cemented systems. For example, 70% of the largest lift supplier's orders, request that the number 13 is removed. So in question, how far will it go, and how far do we demand such beliefs to be implemented? What I want to do is extract these irrationalness and redesign a system which is governed by alternative beliefs. One in which all these beliefs that exist on a private level emerge to infect larger systems. In effect creating this parallel stock market.

With the economic and financial systems collapsing, will we seek an alternative logic? One in which will give us illogical bankers.

Do you think people would trust them more (or at least see them in a more favourable light) if they knew that bankers' decisions are influenced by superstition and illogical elements?

Maybe we would see them as more human and as a result vulnerable. However I think it says a lot more about us in general. The stock market is just another structure among many in which decisions are much more influenced by superstition. The same with extreme fishing, or even sports. That's why a lot of sports stars or even politicians deploy more superstitions than average.

In the early 20th Century, the anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski noted that islanders in the pacific who fished in 'safe zones' carried out their jobs with a high level of rational expertise. However the fisherman who ventured off beyond the coral reef displayed many superstitious rituals and ceremonies to invoke magical powers for safety and protection. So it would seem reasonable that bankers would use more irrationalities. What I want to see is what happens when they solely use illogical elements.

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Image courtesy Shing-Tat Chung

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Image courtesy Shing-Tat Chung

Can you talk to us about the Power of 8 suit? Why the number 8? And what do you mean by "The suit provides the owner with the comfort that even the process of the making of the suit has accommodated relevant superstitions'?

The idea was to begin to question what, why and how the stock market is run. What bankers and traders wear, the colours, the organisation. My first objective was to imagine what it may look like visually, would all the bankers wear green because green represents a rise in the market. However, I wanted to take this a bit further, so working with a pattern cutter, we came up with a pattern that had all its dimensions tailored towards a multiple of the number 8 (cm). Whilst it may look like a regular suit, the cuffs are in fact a bit wider than normal, the sleeves stretch out a bit more than usual.

Why I used the number 8? Well 8 is a lucky number in Asia. (Translates as sudden fortune and prosperity). A number 8 plate in Hong Kong sold for around half a million pounds, where as the Beijing Olympics started on 8.2008 on the eighth hour, eighth minute and eighth second. Part of the project is not only to critique certain collective beliefs but also to see how far we demand them to become implanted and that's where the comment comes in. To what extent do we take our beliefs. Do we require that the current logic in manufacturing is replaced with alternative ones? So if all the measurements of products had to abide to the number 8, what would our reality shape to look like?

If I was rich and superstitious and someone came up with the proposal to convert the all my belongings to be tailored towards 8, I would probably go for it.

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Architecture following Feng Shui principles in China

Image courtesy Shing-Tat Chung

One of the experiments of Superstitious Thoughts involves an Uncanny Algorithm. What is this algorithm about? And what do people invest in when they invest in this Uncanny Algorithm?

The Uncanny Algorithm is a trading algorithm. One that is currently in stage 1, which is the call for investment and the creation of the actual algorithm. The algorithm will use a trading platform and buy and sell shares with the investors money. However, rather than using current rationale, the algorithm will use superstition as its principle logic. The rules or logic will be governed by collective beliefs such as the fear of the number 13. Buying and selling on a collection of numerological rules (that don't clash). Whilst it will acknowledge collective superstitions, it will also generate its own. Hopefully it will recognise hidden patterns whilst it is trading. So upon a successful trade it will seek for hidden 'charms'. Speculating a bit here, but if I could link this pattern recognition with, for example, the BBC sports webpage, it could potentially start to develop superstitions that are related to the performance, of say, Manchester United. It will then use this to govern how it trades. Or much more simply, if it made a successful trade at a certain time, it may consider the numbers in this time lucky and start computing these as the logic to trading.

So what will happen is that the algorithm will happily trade shares for one year, after this period, the result, whether it has lost or won money will be returned to the investor.

During the trading year, I hope to release quarterlies (reports) and AGMs where investors can attempt to raise trading performance supernaturally. At this very moment, £686 had been invested.

Essentially, what people are investing in is superstition. The experiment, rather than a tool to make money, is more about moving people into the thought space that an algorithm could operate with a very humane way of working and to also act as a live social experiment. As an experiment, that is why I am accepting investments as low as two pounds.

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Image courtesy Shing-Tat Chung

How do you feng-shui a briefcase?

I like the term 'to feng-shui'. Maybe I'll use that more. What I was trying to be careful with, was not to embody the briefcase with, all aspects of superstitions, but to sub divide beliefs into more manageable slices. Feng-Shui has a lot of rules to abide to. So I didn't want to use them all in one go (my project would be over in a flash). In this case, I wanted to take the iconic 'hole in a structure' that channels through chi. It still amazes me when I see those buildings in Asia that have huge holes in the middle of their architecture. Incidentally Feng-Shui is used a lot in businesses, I wonder how you could Feng-Shui a business plan.

Maybe I should go to a specialist and ask to Feng-Shui my thesis.

Did working on this project make you more superstitious than ever?

I would say I am on the half way line. I am pretty rationale, however I like to entertain myself with superstitions. But by working on this project, and unearthing all these wonderful superstitions out there and its effect on systems, it hasn't made me more of a believer, but it has definitely made me admire them more.

Although now that my superstition knowledge has quadrupled and that I now know of more beliefs and rituals, maybe they will slowly or subconsciously affect me.

In fact, I recently found out the time I was born which was 8.18pm. Combine this with 8th Nov 1986 and I am starting to feel pretty lucky.

Thanks Shing-Tat!

The premise of Raphael Kim's project at Design Interactions' work in progress show --which closed a couple of days ago at the Royal College of Art-- contained all the ingredients to intrigue me: The falling cost and increase in speed of DNA sequencing has given rise to two extreme scientific worlds: giant pharmaceutical companies who trawl the Arctic Ocean in search of potent genes that would profit them in a lucrative cancer market; and DIY biologists who try to beat the system.

The designer imagined a gene hunting device that biohackers (who usually cannot afford to 'trawl' the oceans) would create to collect gene samples present in the air.


The device would rely on rotifers, tiny animals capable of absorbing environmental DNA, that have been genetically programmed to start glowing as soon as a target gene is spotted in their environment. The rotifers sit inside a chamber attached to the gene hunting device, and wait for the targets to come near. This kind of "LED switch" can be obtained by fusing a commercially-available fluorescent gene with a part of rotifer's own DNA (see image on the left).

A motor spins at high speed to draw the air onto the sampler while the outer mesh of the device protects the delicate samplers and filters out large, unwanted particles.

In-line with biohacking philosophy, these actions can be done, in theory, using an open-source data and hardware available to the public. Ever since the complete DNA sequence of human has been made public, genetic maps of other organisms have been published gradually, including those of rotifers, on free online database such as GenBank. Many other pieces of biohacking equipment can either be made at home or can be purchased on eBay.

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The gene hunting device. Image courtesy Raphael Kim

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Rotifer. Image courtesy Raphael Kim

Unsurprisingly, i left the show with many questions for Raphael:

The description of your project in the show mentions the 'falling cost and increase in speed of DNA sequencing', so how cheap and how fast can this be done nowadays? do you mean 'cheap' for corporate labs or do you mean 'so cheap that anyone can do it'?

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Carlson's curve

This is a 'Carlson's curve' that monitors cost of DNA sequencing over time (see blue line). At the moment, my understanding is that for each base of DNA it would cost you a fraction of a penny. The cost of DNA synthesis (the act of actually creating new strands of DNA) is falling as well, albeit relatively slower (red and yellow lines).

If we think about sequencing the entire genomes of organisms, the cost can be huge for an average biohacker. Humans, with three billion base pairs of genomic DNA, would cost just below $20,000 using the latest sequencing technology, and even a relatively simpler E.coli bacterial genome would be costly. However, most biohack projects do not need to involve the entire genome, but a selection of few genes from its massive catalog. These are in the regions of hundreds to thousands of bases, which brings the cost down to a manageable level, and they can be sequenced by commercial companies that can take your sample away and sequence them for you on your behalf.

Some companies even offer an overnight sequencing service, that would allow them to sequence around 1,400 bases of your sample through the night. So yes, the speed is there, and also affordable for ordinary people to carry out.

This is already happening in citizen science. DIY bio groups in Europe have already started to create microbe maps - by collecting samples from various parts of a city and analyzing them they are trying to paint a picture of microbial diversity in a given area.

It is also important I think that whilst low cost of sequencing and synthesis is a significant trend that allows biohackers to explore the genetic contents of their environment, it is only a part of a bigger economical landscape in which 'biohacking' practice as a whole, sits in. In fact, most biohack projects do not involve DNA sequencing at all, as they can buy cheap, ready made DNA components and templates for use (think of it as components of an electric circuit board - resisters, amplifiers, LEDs etc), as well as cheap second hand lab equipment bought from ebay, sold by pharma companies who are going bankrupt from the credit crunch.

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The gene hunting device. Image courtesy Raphael Kim

The gene hunting device you're showing would thus be used by a citizen to do their own gene hunting. Does it look in any way like the tools used by pharmaceutical companies? Do you know which kind of instruments they use to discover new genes?

If we think about what kind of genes we are looking for, what kind of organism these genes sit in, and where they might live, the design of the collecting device can be extremely diverse. At present, most gene-hunting is targeted at micro-organisms, such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa and planktons, which narrows it down a little.

For solid surfaces (e.g. skin, soil etc), the 'device' would simply consist of a cotton swab which is enough to pick up microbes. These swabs would then be sealed and taken to a big machine in laboratory for analysis. For water samples, they would use some kind of filter/net system to filter out biological samples according to size. The Craig Venter research group use specialized equipment which can be found here.

As for sampling air, which the device that I am showing at the moment is doing, simple machines called rotorod samplers are used in industry, as shown below:

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Rotorod air sampler

They consist of rotating rods powered by motor. The rods are covered in sticky material for the microbes to land on, which can be analysed.

The story I am working on is a device based on this technology. The idea is that the biohackers gather around a fish market, trying to pick up exotic microbes that become airborne from drying and decaying fish. And the rotating rods are found at the end of the device as shown below.

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The gene hunting device. Image Raphael Kim and Jae Yeop Kim

The air is a seemingly-unlikely source of microbes, but recent studies show that it contains abundance of them, and who knows if these could come from different parts of the world? The bacteria that coexist with fish - either living/found on its skin, or inside their stomach (ingested as food) or simply in contact with parts of the ship etc. or any other possible sources could possibly become airborne once it reaches the fish market.
I think it is important to remember that this is purely a sampling device - this device does not sequence the DNA of the captured sample for you, but merely makes some form of 'contact' with the target.

A bit of imagination was used to design the rest of my object - how long should they be to reach pallets of fish in the market, how could they imply a notion of a 'hunting tool', and also additionally, could they use some kind of a bait to help them capture the gene that they want? Where will the bait be positioned, how will it work?

Bait, here, is the rotifer, which leads me to your next question.

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Image courtesy Raphael Kim

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Image courtesy Raphael Kim

What made you think that rotifers would be the best ally of the bio hacker?

Many reasons behind this:
*Rotifers are harmless, non-toxic and non-contagious/infectious: they are animals, and not bacteria. They are made up of many different cells and are more controllable.
* Rotifers are found just about everywhere (ie. common source): If you pick up any grass or moss and put under water, these animals would be present.
* They are easy to culture and grow - just add water! (more culturing tips are found here: http://raphaelkim.tumblr.com/
* Rotifers are very robust - they can tolerate extreme dryness, cold and ioniszing radiation - an ideal set of features that are currently getting NASA people very excited.
* They can be dried and stored for future use. Below is an image of drying 'pellets' of rotifers which I have made. These can be ground and put into the chambers of the hunting device, and be activated when in use.

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Drying rotifers. Image courtesy Raphael Kim

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Culture plate. Image courtesy Raphael Kim

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Culture plate. Image courtesy Raphael Kim

* Also - perhaps most importantly, rotifers are used because they are able to absorb environmental DNA. This is known as horizontal DNA transfer - and rotifers do this first by eating the source of DNA (eg. oncoming bacteria, plankton, yeast etc). The rotifer then needs to undergo some kind of stress - eg. heat, dryness, etc. This produces an unknown mechanism in which the rotifer 'patches' the DNA content of its stomach into its own genome. Using this mechanism, the hackers try to engineer a switch that can be incorporated into the animal so that when gene horizontal transfer occurs, the organism lights up as shown below:

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Image courtesy Raphael Kim

The book that is in the exhibit is a journey and experiments that were undertaken to produce this switch.


Thanks Raphael!

Image courtesy Ai Hasegawa and Joseph Popper

Japanese love hotels go out of their way to satisfy the most outlandish fetish: some rooms offer the feeling of being inside a subway carriage, a class room, or a Hello Kitty SM room, others locks you into an alien abduction nightmare (/dream).

Ai Hasegawa, second year student in Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art in London, proposes to close loving couples into an even more extraordinary fantasy.

Her Extreme Environment Love Hotel simulates impossible places to go such as the Earth of three hundred million years ago (during the Carboniferous period), or the surface of Jupiter by manipulating invisible but ever-present environmental factors, for example atmospheric conditions and gravity.

Our bodies would survive if we were propelled back to the Carboniferous period but they would need to adapt if we'd stay over long periods of time. It is estimated that during that time, the peak oxygen content of the atmosphere was as high as 35%, compared to 21% today. This oxygen level resulted in insect and amphibian gigantism--creatures whose size is constrained by respiratory systems that are limited in their ability to diffuse oxygen. For example, the ancestor of the dragonfly, the Meganeura, grew up to seventy-five centimeters due to the huge concentration of oxygen in the air.

Life on Jupiter doesn't sound very pleasant for us either. The atmospheric environment of the largest planet within the Solar System is one of strong gravity, high pressure, strong winds, and extremely cold temperatures.

How might our bodies change, struggle or even adapt with varying conditions around us?

Portable Carboniferous room. Image credit: Anthony Dunne

The first of Ai Hasegawa's Extreme Environment Love Hotel room, the carboniferous one, is currently on view at the work in progress show of the Royal College of Art. The prototypes show how couples would have to carry a suitcase containing higher levels of oxygen that recreate the atmosphere of the Carboniferous period, they would also be surrounded by plants similar to the ones that proliferated in the warm and humid climate: large trees covered with bark and huge ferns growing in swamps.

The designer's work is of course a bit eccentric but it also propose to reflect on how making love inside an Extreme Environments Love Hotel room might give rise to new evolutions and mutations of the human body and sex and give it a brand new role away from our biologically-programmed needs and inclinations.

Breathing mask for the portable Carboniferous room. Image credit: Anthony Dunne

Why did you decide to explore new frontiers in Love Hotels?

Love hotel is a utopia to serve the people's dream and fantasy.

We are able to go to space or have a hyper gravity experience at NASA , but that is only for chosen people, the rich or some elites.

A love hotel, however, is opened to all adults. I could have worked on a 'Fun fair/ amusement park' type of attraction, but these gives us only short time experiences that don't last more than 5 minutes.

I wanted to have an experience longer than a funfair ride, an experience that would last until our body could feel slight changes and adapt to them. You can stay at the hotel for one hour, for a week or a year. Also sex is a hard form of exercise, and a "love" hotel is the perfect place to challenge the limit of our body in extreme environmental conditions.

Also from critical point of view, Love hotel is designed for sexual urge. It is a place for desire and pleasure, probably not for love nor reproduction.

I feel sex isn't motivated solely by life instinct, by the need to reproduce and make our species survive. Sexual urge can make us take some life-risking actions such as HIV infection.

I wonder if our DNA might need to be modified in order to redesign the strategy of reproduction... In other words, why not have some evolutions?

To trigger evolutions, we might want to use a technology to modify our DNA, of course. But before that, we need to study our body potentials with basic elements, invisible factors, such as atmosphere, gravity, temperature, electromagnetic waves, etc. We need new environments, new frontiers.

I chose places where 'we are not able to go to' for a romantic or melancholic reason. We don't have any strong reason to go to Jupiter. Moreover, we are able to have a time-trip to the future (possible in theory, but it's only a one-way trip), but not to the past (the theory hasn't been proved yet, i think). The love hotel would be the ideal place to serve such dreams and fantasies.

Image courtesy Ai Hasegawa and Joseph Popper

What does their body risk if the lovers keeps the breathing mask for a long time?

There is no risk. If healthy people breath 100% oxygen for long time, they would have lungs problem, but this Carboniferous portable room portable supplies only 35% oxygen under usual atmospheric pressure. A real chamber, thus not the "portable" version will be higher atmosphere, but still it will be fine. This real chamber will be similar to Hyperbaric medicine. It would probably be slightly easier to breathe and recovering energy would be faster than usual in this room.

The 20G centrifuge at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

You're also working on a Jupiter room. What will it be like? And feel like?

I hope it will be like a NASA's 20-G Centrifuge. But cheaper version would make it look more like a Rotor in fun fair. A wall become a floor by centrifugal force. Bed is on the wall.

3D sketch of the Jupiter room. Image courtesy Ai Hasegawa

Customer might need to wear a harness to support the weight, they might also need to wear a bone protector, just in case. You have to be careful with the position you chose. If you want to adopt a 'woman on top' position, then your body might be too heavy to climb up. Besides, the man's hipbone might break under the weight. But if you stay for a week or a month, maybe after a while your body will adapt and become more masculine.

In a Hotel room, you also need to have a toilet and a shower. The water in the Jupiter room would fall 2.35 times faster than usual. One day lasts only 9 hours and 55 min in this room.

If you want, you might probably be able to make a baby under the hyper gravity...

Thanks Ai!

Check out The Extreme Environment Love Hotel: Carboniferous Room at the Student Work-in-Progress Show, Royal College of Art, London. The exhibition end on Monday afternoon.

Catherine Hyland, Wonderland, China, C-Print, 1981.2 mm x 1280.8 mm

Last June, while i was confusedly walking up and down the stairs of the Graduate Exhibition of the Communication Art and Design department at RCA in London, i suddenly found myself gaping at three stunning, large scale photos by Catherine Hyland.

One of the photos is part of her Wonderland series which documents what remains of an amusement park conceived in 1998 to become the largest of its kind in Asia. Built near Beijing, the spectacular theme park was left to decay after funding was cut and agreement couldn't be reached over the rights of the land. The other two photos were equally fascinating: one evoked the manufactured landscape of Edward Burtynsky, the other brought you to a much quieter yet somehow uncanny universe.

Inglenook, Iceland, 2011, C-Print, 1981.2 mm x 1119.77 mm

I had so many "why?" "how?" "where?" in my mind that i contacted Catherine and asked her if we could have a quick interview.

Hi Catherine! Could you describe the photos you were showing at the RCA show? What is the story behind them? 

I was exhibiting three large format photographs as part of an ongoing body of work that aims to question the conventional view of the Sublime whilst critiquing the current state of our industrial landscape.

'Wonderland' shows the dilapidated skeleton of an abandoned theme park in China. Adopted by the local residents, it now exists as an unconventional playground within the town. To me it paints quite an intriguing picture of consumerism gone awry. The discarded structures of the half-built theme park have remained disconnected and vacant for over a decade. A spectacular contrast to the locals who continue to use ancient farming methods to tend the empty cornfields left surrounding it. At first glance you wouldn't be blamed for thinking you had walked into some post-apocalyptic scene straight out of Cormac Mccarthy's The Road. There is a strange allure to what the locals are doing here, that creeps up on you in the most unsuspecting manner.

Catherine Hyland, The Finishing Room, Sri Lanka, 2010, C-print, 1981.2 mm x 1320.8 mm

The second image titled 'The Finishing Room' was shot in Sri Lanka where I was attempting to chronicle the new types of Eco-Factories that are emerging in Southern Asia with increasing frequency. What I was inherently interested in was documenting - from the inside, our attempts to rectify a manufacturing system that has already spun out of control.

In contrast the third image 'Inglenook' shows the outcome of an industrial process. Made in response to the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in April - May 2010, which caused enormous disruption to air travel across Western and Northern Europe, the piece hopes to create a seductively sinister husk of the former event. A poetic meditation of the prodigious but overlooked where the mirrored imagery of a natural event is echoed within our man-made environment.'

Catherine Hyland (image) and John Steele (sound), Inglenook

Where is Wonderland exactly? Your photos show a deserted place, is it already open to the public?

'Wonderland' itself is in China, just outside of Beijing. It was left over after funding was cut on another of their legion of newly developed tourist attractions. The project first began in 1998 but was left when developers and local farmers were unable to reach an agreement over the rights of the land. The fragments are now left for all to see and wander around at their will, like some monument to post-boom consumerism. The aim of the Wonderland developers was to create the biggest theme park in Asia. We are left looking at the cusp of an unrealised plan and as a result a far more interesting object, in my opinion.

Wonderland I, China, 2011

Wonderland VII, China, 2011

Wonderland XII, China, 2011

Wonderland VI, China, 2011

Catherine Hyland, Wonderland

I think that like most visitors of the RCA show i was fascinated by your images and intrigued by their location. How did you encounter these places? Was it by chance or did you hear or read about them somewhere?

I used to just drive/walk/cycle around for hours on end in search of something that intrigued me. As my practice has developed I've begun to research places more thoroughly, through the internet, sweeping through the National Geographic or just talking to people about their own experiences. There are so many channels of information out there for us to choose from that it seems to make sense to utilise and celebrate them. After all it's usually the accidents that occur after the research that inform the final images anyway. Nothing compares to the more spontaneous aspect of it, stumbling into that moment that kind of stops you in your tracks. It's a much more overwhelming and special experience that way.

But as my projects have become more complex the necessity for organisation and negotiation has become imperative. Many of the locations I choose exist as functioning places of work, often remaining shielded from public view. Sub-stations, quarries and power stations often exist down narrow lanes and engulfing woods, rendering the quest for them idiosyncratic in nature which is makes them even more enticing, like hidden worlds just waiting for the layers to be peeled back.

Catherine Hyland, Untitled III, Sri Lanka, 2010, C-print, 1981.2 mm x 1166.28 mm

Catherine Hyland, Inspection Room, Sri Lanka, 2010, C-print, 1981.2 mm x 1320.8 mm

And was it easy to get access to them? I'm thinking about Wonderland of course but also about the factory in Sri Lanka. 

With Wonderland my only obstacle was the language barrier, I found myself copying Chinese characters off the internet, a lengthy process to say the least. Passing my unpolished scraps of paper to bus drivers/taxis/general passers-by in the hope that my instructions might make sense. To this day I have no idea what my writing must have looked like or exactly what it said. I imagine it perhaps looked like a very handy 3 year old had written it for me. It was then just a process of faith, hoping that I was heading in the right direction. This to be honest it what made it fun. The Sri Lankan Eco-Factories were much easier to get access to, as I was actually filming a short documentary for the Sri Lanka Design Festival at the time in which we got shepherded about from one place to another to experience the apparel industry firsthand - it was an incredible trip.

It looks like you are already an accomplished photographer so why did you chose to enroll in a Master in Communication Art and Design? What did you hope to gain there?

I had the best two years of my life at the RCA, I chose Communication because it seemed to afford its students the kind of freedom I was after within a course that adopts a complete mixed bag of people in terms of disciplines. I thought that was fantastic, I look around the friends I have gained from studying in this way and realise just how beneficial that can be. Specific genres or mediums become increasingly less important and as a result the emphasis is placed almost wholey on the development of ideas that then come into fruition in completely unexpected, wild and wonderful ways. I think being in that environment is a really precious experience. Although it did make me realise personally just how firmly my feet were planted within the realm of lens based work, something which I'm happy to admit.

What are your plans after graduations? Are you flying to new 'absurd' locations?

I hope so, there is a project I desperately want to do in Japan, I just need to find a way of getting out there.

Wonderland XIII, China, 2011

Thanks Catherine!

Chris Moulin is a cognitive neuropsychologist at the Leeds Memory Lab who has recreated the sensation of déjà vu in a laboratory. Déjà vu is that unsettling sensation of feeling that you have witnessed a situation, although you know you never went through it before.

'Continuity', - shooting on set

Moulin and his team in Leeds are working with sufferers of chronic déjà vu on a detailed study of the condition. Some individuals can develop the feeling of déjà vu to such an extent that it becomes distressing, even causing depression.

Designer Emily Hayes and jewellery maker Karen Mabon had the opportunity to meet and discuss with Moulin. The researcher described one particular case study of a female who suffered from chronic déjà vu. The woman didn't get much out of her house, afraid as she was of being continuously overwhelmed by the sensation of déjà vu. According to Moulin, the only method that enabled the patient to avoid the distressing illusion of familiarity was the paradox of repeating the same day and experiences over and over again.

As he said in an interview, "The most important thing for us, scientifically, is they're not confused by mundane, repetitive events. It's almost like the more novel and the more striking the event is, the more likely they are to get these sensations of déjà vu. That suggests they're not making it up."


Based upon the woman's story and Moulin's research, Mabon and Hayes constructed a film-style set for the chronic déjà vu sufferer, complete with marks on the floors, visual instructions and specially-designed objects.

They also created a very detailed schedule to give a feeling of continuity and help the woman go through the day with as few surprises (hence risks of déjà vu) as possible.

Phone handset with a carved imprint to determine where the hand should be placed

On the photo above, you can also catch a glimpse of a lipstick that comes with a very tall stand, it is gold to glamourise an activity in her schedule of the day, as everything else in her day is so mundane and ordinary.

'Continuity' - afternoon position

When i asked her about the newspaper and whether it was a genuine daily that came with new content every day, Emily Hayes explained me: The newspaper is left open to interpretation for the viewer to decide what she would do with such items such as a newspaper, as this is a problematic part of her life. For the woman to succeed in having a life of consistent continuity and repetition she would need to keep everything the same therefore such elements of everyday life such as a newspaper, which are changing continually day to day, are unpredictable and inconsistent, so would this also need to remain the same? Would she completely detach herself from present life or be ruthless and remain in a non time and non space in order to escape her condition? How far would she go?

Marks on the dinner plate to position the food

Continuity' - evening position

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The comb is attached to the mirror

If this is the cure for the person suffering from chronic déjà vu, will it really lead to a better life?

Is such an experience of life sustainable, meaningful and ever possible to fully achieve?

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