This land is your land

For the body politics assignment for critical objects, I and Sukanya teamed up to work on it together. Our initial impulse was to work with the notion of body, movement and permission in geographical spaces. We came up with a few concepts which revolved around:

  • Lack of free movement across geographical areas for people based on the country they come from.

  • Race, income levels, gender, sexual orientation and other parameters as barriers for access in these spaces.

We initially brainstormed ideas where we thought of combining a wearable device that allows you movement only in areas that you can go to but after presenting these ideas to other people and hearing their critiques, we decided to focus on working with the idea of movement based on where you are born. While the issue of movement is intersectional and spans both the global and the local, the passport is the universal method of encompassing control on individual movement that we have all collectively agreed upon. It’s also interesting to observe that while passports were introduced in its current form during World War 1 for security reasons, they were quickly assimilated as standard procedure. The passport is such a pervasive document that most of us take it for granted and have never questioned it’s existence in our daily lives.

Also, one of the first things that struck us while we moved to a western country is the absolute lack of awareness of people who have American/ EU passports about the sheer difficulty of getting visas and being able to move if you do not have the passport of the right country. One other thing that we observed was the conflation of travel with self-care, personal development and self actualization and how it presents a very privileged narrative as a universal truth.

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To investigate this further, Sukanya wrote a script that would compile the dataset of all countries each nation had access to without a visa/prior permission and then rank them. Instead of directly looking at the number of countries, the script calculated the land mass of these countries and then created a ranking of them. Comparing biomass was more interesting as the number of countries could be misleading and hey, aren’t boundaries artificial constructs anyways? For the final form, we finalized on the following as our framework:

Attributes: Wearable

Device: deadpan, dry

Mood: Mundane everyday

We centered on using an eyepiece as the object of focus. The metaphor of being limited in seeing the world resonated very strongly with us and we were decided to use that in our form. We did a few tests to see the kind of blocking we wanted from our object.

Blocking the lens in a circular pattern made the image sharper. Totally opposite to what we were going for.

Blocking the lens in a circular pattern made the image sharper. Totally opposite to what we were going for.

Blocking the sunglass from the bottom was better than the top as the head instinctively moved down to focus the eye on the transparent part.

Blocking the sunglass from the bottom was better than the top as the head instinctively moved down to focus the eye on the transparent part.

For the form of the final object, we went back and forth on it. Our initial instinct was to make something sculptural inspired by the images below:

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We tried sketching variations of this theme but our framework helped us reorient us. We decided to make the frame into a mundane, everyday sunglass which mirrors the acceptance of the passport in our day to day lives. To make the frame, we tried 2 approaches:

Approach 1) 3D print the frame.

Approach 2) Use frames that have been bought previously.

We did not fix on an approach as we wanted to use resin for our glasses. We spent a lot of time experimenting to get the mold to set without leaking.

However, the end result was very unsatisfactory. So, we decided to do the lens cut out of acrylic in a 3D printed body. Sukanya wrote another script that calculated the precise area of the lens so that we could divide them in accurate percentages based on the country’s access to landmass. For the first batch, we made a set of 3 countries that covered the spectrum of the ranking. We faced some issues with the 3D printer but nothing that sand paper and files could not solve. Some images on our process below:

FInal frame 3d print

FInal frame 3d print

Testing the fit of the lens

Testing the fit of the lens

Trying out variations for perfect fit

Trying out variations for perfect fit

Gluing and sticking the frames

Gluing and sticking the frames

After multiple trials and errors, we could finally nail down the fit and size for the final set of sunglasses below. Can you guess the countries?

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