Field Experiments

Field Experiments was a three-month long project undertaken in Bali, Indonesia that explored how objects could be embedded with a culture and their people, resulting in a collection of objects that shatter the traditional definition of the souvenir...

From June - September 2013, the multidisciplinary design collective comprised of Benjamin Harrison Bryant (New York City, United States), Paul Marcus Fuog (Melbourne, Australia) and Karim Charlebois-Zariffa (Montreal, Canada) set up a studio in Lodtunduh, a farming community situated on the outskirts of Ubud in Bali. They conducted daily design experiments in masonry, woodcarving, weaving, painting, kite making and batik in partnership with the local Balinese craftspeople.
Bali is a lively microcosm of craft where individual villages specialize in traditional practices: Ubud for painting, Mas for wood carving, Batubulan for stone carving, Pejeng for batik, Bangli for weaving, Pejatan for terracotta pottery and Celuk for metal working. While traditional crafts are on the decline worldwide, Balinese handicrafts are prospering and are routinely passed down from generation to generation.
For Field Experiments, observation of the Balinese experience was the catalyst for creation. The designers absorbed the sights and sounds of everyday Balinese life and rigorously documented commonplace objects, agricultural implements, traditional dress and makeshift items of the local culture.

With an abundance of new materials and cultural and visual influences, the trio played with design possibilities. Play was the means to hone skills, move through limitations, interact and arrive at unexpected outcomes. The designers got lost in the daily act of doing. They made and remade things with their own hands – thinking, learning and evolving ideas. They engaged with traditional forms of play such as stacking, unstacking, balancing, connecting, arranging and rearranging.
Collaboration was the working process used to convert ideas generated through play into considered forms. The trio collaborated together and with a selection of local craft makers building friendships with stonemasons, woodcarvers, batik-makers, kite designers and painters.
In Bali, the souvenir market is often associated with the degradation of authentic local art and craft as more and more artists and makers expend their energy to creating these commercial objects. Field Experiments considers the souvenir with a new vision and challenges the conventional notion of what a souvenir could be. By working directly with the local craft communities without a middleman, and by creating a collection of objects infused with the pulse of Bali, they explored how souvenirs could become more culturally connected.
A selection of these objects will become prototypes for future products. The goal is to bring new credibility to the concept of ‘Made in Bali’, highlighting the skill and ingenuity of the Balinese people.
A Field Experiments exhibition is scheduled in New York for mid May 2014. Part exhibition, part souvenir shop, it will display documented observations, sketches, photographs, the personal stories of the makers and the collection of over 50 souvenirs. A publication of these works is also in production with a foreword by Stefan Sagmeister. The goal is to encourage a more responsible traveler, one that has a greater thirst to engage with Balinese craft and culture.
Field Experiments is a biennial project that will continue to explore traditional craft cultures around the world by immersing the designers in collaborative making with local craftspeople.