Dalia Kvedaraite (she/her)
Throughout my MDES journey at Glasgow School of Art I was keen to experiment with materials and interaction, expand on my theoretical knowledge and critical thinking to create imaginative and speculative designs to explore the themes of surveillance, community, craft, and mental health.
During my BDES Interior and Environmental Design studies at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design I was focussed on designing for social and mental wellbeing, which carried over into my master’s studies via experimentation with mycelium as sustainable material, crafting as a tool to foster a sense of community and exploring the means of representing physical interiority in built interiors through an exhibition.
Studying at GSA allowed me to challenge myself with new ways of researching, experimenting, and working within a diverse cohort. It helped me grow and further develop as a young designer and prepared me for work in the interior design industry.
SHIFT is an exhibition exploring and representing the feelings of anxiety to encourage discourse and empathy surrounding mental health. With the current economic, environmental, and political crisis more people than ever may face uncertainties about the future. Anxiety is a complex disorder that has many types, causes and characteristics, this negative valence emotion that often stems from fear has distinct effects on both body and mind.
This research project sets out to analyse and create a representation of anxiety in a virtual environment and gauge emotional response to such space via biometrics. Using biometrics, analysis on anxiety and theoretical underpinnings about atmosphere a narrative led exhibition will be created to express the feelings of anxiety into interiors and encourage discourse surrounding mental health.
With this project I aimed to explore the capabilities of Virtual Reality as a tool to analyse Interior spaces, to learn more about the feelings of anxiety and to represent key characteristics in an exhibition to encourage discourse around mental health and explore our bodily interiority and how it could be used in crafting Interior spaces. It was important to me to incorporate aspects of technology and interaction into the project as it was something I had a keen interest in that I haven’t had a chance to explore yet.
Due to anxiety causing such negative thoughts about potential outcomes of the triggering situation, there’s often a change in behaviour which leads to avoidance of situations surrounding anxiety triggers. This can for example represent itself in not going out to meet friends or new people due to the fear of negative perceptions and outcomes. Although avoiding an uncomfortable situation seems like a logical thing to do it actually prevents people from getting better.
While there’s medication that can be prescribed for managing anxiety in some cases, most advice points towards cognitive behaviour therapy and self-help through various techniques. Such advice often focuses on the negative thoughts that someone is experiencing, what is the reason for them and acknowledging the thought process behind it. Techniques encourage to re frame the negative thought processes with more positive once and focus on one issue at hand instead of worrying about the future.
Since anxiety affects not only mind, but the body as well, there’s also techniques for relaxation of tense muscles with often is based in grounding yourself, paying attention to the body and positive affirmations. Breathing exercise may help to slow down, focus on the present and help ease panic attacks and exposure to triggers which is important in treating anxiety.
With the ways in which anxiety affects the body and mind, I decided to focus on 4 things in creating a narrative for the exhibition. The first would be a representation of the anxiety triggers that one has to face in their day to day life, for this I decided to make physical obstacles that visitors would need to walk through to go forward. After this, I wanted to focus on the mind, since anxiety presents itself as racing thoughts and the feelings of being overwhelmed, I associated such feelings with having many too many stimulants such as noise or TV screens, and urban environment with many things going at the same disorientating at times. The third space will be about grounding yourself and focusing on the present, I wanted to reflect on the physical effects of anxiety, in this case the body’s temperature. Lastly, since the general advice is to avoid avoidance, I wanted to create a space that represents taking a leap of faith in confronting fears and doing it consecutively to re-affirm the action.
Trigger room which was used in the VR experiment was heavily influenced by the Jewish Museum Berlin. I adopted the use of concrete columns and used it to represent the hurdles that someone with anxiety would experience.
The columns start with exaggerated angles creating obstacles for visitors to get through forward, as they progress the columns start to straighten up creating a glimmer of hope that things will get better if you forced yourself onwards. The irregularity and the weight and coldness of concrete aids to create unsettling atmosphere.
This room marks the start of the exhibition and the starting point of Anxiety Cycle.
The design is inspired by urban architecture of modern cities such as Tokyo, where crowds of people pass each other, lights and adverts overwhelm the eyes from every corner. It's about getting lost in your own mind.
The design represents the architecture of the mind, and getting lost in it due to the negative thoughts stemming from anxiety. It contains different size Light boxes, and boxes with Touch Designer generated outcomes from the biometric data gathered during VR experiment.
Touch activated temperature sensor in a middle of each pod allows visitors to represent their body’s interiority outwardly into the immediate built interiors . Depending on visitors skin temperature the pods take on a different colour represent their unique biometric measurement.
The pods itself are made out of frosted acrylic with LED lights inside. The material translucently allows only the slight shadows of the users occupying the pods to be seen. Although the pod creates a sense of interior within interior the cut outs throughout the design allow visitors to stay connected to the rest of the exhibition.
The steps are surrounded by water that aids to an atmosphere of reflection, it forces the visitors to use the steps to move forward and finish the exhibition. Repetition was key to the design of this space as only the repeated behaviour of confronting fears leads to getting better. The gates emerging from the water represent moments in time of anxiety that pass as we go through life.