Enter prototype

I decided to do this prototyping task differently. Instead of iterating an object, I wanted to iterate an experience. We always concentrate on prototyping a task, a component or some kind of user-related aspect but we don’t really think about what a prototype is – which more than just a sample or pre-production; but rather the object that would never be “shown”, the unfinished piece, the work-in-progress

So I came up with an idea, that instead of iterating an object ( a smaller or draft version of what my final object would be) to instead iterate a feeling. As in, a smaller scaled version of the experience. It sounds totally contrary because I’m obsessed with Sublime, how do you scale down what is supposed to be sublime? (apparently, you can)

ta-da, the tripe lamp! I took scraps of honeycomb beef tripe, treated it like leather and stitched it together. Afterwards I heavily scented the area with a mix of artificial pomegranate spray and vanilla essence to “lure” people to come in and view the work. My idea was to see whether the complex fascination/revulsion would play off, as a prelude to the larger underwater lighting piece (which hopefully would be pushed between sheer terror and adrenaline rush and All Kinds Of Good/Bad/Good/Bad Feelings).

And actually it worked; like fairly well. The best results were in people unfamilar with offal and organ, and some of the responses really interested me. I took a pool of 7 “user testers” (is it even user testing, when they aren’t using anything? environment testing perhaps?) Everyone fell for the scent trap; everyone touched it. Only one person (that would be Dave) guessed accurately what the material was. Actually the scent trap was so effective that even after I put away the set-up, I had people walking in, looking around, then walking out several times. A lot of people peered in as well, which is rather fascinating. I wonder which comes first, the scent or the visual? Like some kind of speed test. I’m putting my bets on scent actually, because visual information is a lot harder to digest. (in particular I’m thinking about how people know that food is expired, even before checking for mold)

Some responses [paraphrased from memory]:
L: “It reminds me of Nazis, because during the holocaust they used bodies with tattoos, and made them into lampshades.”
J1: “[she also mentions Nazis]…. the problem with using body or organic material is most people will associate it with the Holocaust. Everything from bone to hair used by them and its something conventionally taught in [American] schools.”
D: “It doesn’t smell like tripe at all; how is it more than an air freshener?”
J2: “It looks really good, like some kind of product. It doesn’t look disgusting at all. You should do an entire series with it.”
S: “It makes you think about the objects you have at home, where it comes from. I didn’t recognise it was stomach lining because it was so highly treated.”
J3: “Where did you buy it from?”
F: “That’s amazing how you made it look like that, I thought it was wax or some kind of sponge. Done on a larger scale, it could look really cool.”

The most common question I got was: “where did you buy it from?” [ans: Chinatown wet markets] and what really fascinated me was people kept touching and poking at it, trying to figure out how I included the scent in (one person actually thought there was a mechanism in the lamp that made it an air freshener). All of the responses had some kind of “automatic” disgust (I got a really good “eugh!” from J3; and S was entirely grossed out) when told it was made out of cow stomach lining. To be honest I kinda expected the response, and was glad that my hypothesis turned out correct? (I guess all that reading theory was useful after all)

I don’t think I’ll make this my major studio, however tempting it is. The point of the exercise was to create a one-off prototype, nothing more. Anyway if you’re curious, here is the process of creating your own tripe-lamps. I suggest forking out a bit more cash ($13) to buy the whole uncut piece instead of being cheap and buying scraps ($4) like what I did.

1.Start by rinsing the slab of tripe with very cold water diluted with vinegar. Get as much of the dirt, hair and particles trapped in the honeycomb. Trim as much of the fat away as you can (it’s the white gooey stuff on underside)
2. In a giant tureen, put salted concentrate (80%water+20%salt) to a roiling boil. Dunk your slab of tripe in, lower the heat until it’s a gentle simmer. Cook it out for 10mins.
3. Leave it to air dry for 5 days OR cheat technique: heat oven to 300F, put your tripe on a wirerack stretched out (if it’s big, secure with safety pins) with a dripping tray below. Cook for 1~2hrs until dry and pliant (imagine leather)
4. Spray with antibacterial and scent it however you wish.

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