The Making of Comfort Object Project
I am already familiar with the use of comfort objects from my own experience. For 20 years I’ve used the same guling I had when I was a baby, and know well what it feels like to own and interact with a comfort object as a child, adolescent, and adult. I also knew that adults use comfort objects because some of my friends do and have spoken to me about them in the past through casual conversations. But can my past experience with comfort object generalize to others? I wasn’t sure it did, so I read blogs and research papers about people’s experiences with their comfort object. My background in psychology helped me navigate and easily comprehend psychology research papers conducted on comfort objects and transitional objects. Meanwhile, my personal experiences allowed me to read them with a critical hat.
After familiarising myself with the history and discourse around comfort object use in children and adulthood, I began meeting up with some friends who had comfort objects via zoom and talked about our experiences with our comfort object. It helped that these people were mostly friends and family members that I was close to because they were willing to open up and share their thoughts so genuinely. During these casual chats I also shared with them what I plan to do and asked for their opinion.
After about a week of reading and chatting with people, I felt ready to create my first google form survey to gather stories from people of their comfort object. I first passed these to people closest to me to answer while asking for feedback if they noticed anything off I should fix. After getting a number of ‘OK!’s, I felt ready to spread this to a wider public via WOT, CAS, and my own Instagram. I posted advertisements on my story for people to fill up my survey. The advertisement details what is meant by 'comfort object', and provided examples. Through putting up these details, I believe that only people who aligned with the project’s definition of 'comfort object' submitted responses to the form. I received very interesting, unique inputs from about 45 people in 3 days.
Deciding which submissions to use.
Since I have made clear what ‘comfort object’ is to everyone before they fill up the google forms, I believe that their feeling towards their comfort object aligns with the definition I presented. I rely on their judgement of their object as a comfort object, and tried to include every one submitted because I believe they are the best judges of the connection they feel with their object, not me.
However, there were around 12 submissions that were not included due to technical issues. These included people who: do not use the object anymore, had lost the object, or did not submit a photo of the object.
Synthesizing people’s answers into an artwork.
After choosing the 33 submissions to be featured in this project, I edited them to fit the artistic direction of the presentation. What I found particularly interesting is negotiating how and to what extent I want to exercise my own subjectivity on people’s answers in the process of creating the final artwork. What makes this project an artwork is that I, as the artist, does the final packaging and synthesis of responses I get. So exercising my subjectivity, in the form of boundaries and rules of how the responses would be used, is important. Here are some boundaries and rules I ended up deciding when thinking of how much interference I’d like to have on people’s responses:
Correct for grammar.
Translation from Bahasa Indonesia to English if needed.
Synthesize interesting bits from their response to create sentences. The phrases they write are kept original, but I added punctuations and conjunction words between the phrases I pick out to make it read more cohesively.
Shorten lengthy sentences but keep its meaning. Only change words and cut words it if I feel like it doesn't change the meaning.
As much as possible, try to convey everything using their own words instead of rephrasing.
Deciding on the rules.
I believe that each answer submitted consists of building blocks for the artwork. I pick out unique building blocks from each answer in a way that it would harmonically convey the diversity and limitation of what a ‘comfort object’ can be based on my own understanding of ‘comfort object’ through experience and research. Since I am retelling people’s stories based on my experience and understanding of a comfort object, it would look different if someone else were to repackage it. I guess that is where this project goes beyond existing as a collection and becomes an artist’s artwork.
However, I felt fascinated by the genuine answers people submitted. Hence, I decided to make an extension of the project in the form of a webpage that allows internet users to access the original interview answers from people - unedited, raw, not translated and certainly not corrected for grammar.
The next step to this project was the ‘labour’ part. I call it labour part because I already have the concept and exact plan to how I want the work to look like + I already have the materials (people’s responses). Now all I need to do is use and learn new technical skills to shape these materials into the plan I have in mind. I won’t go into the details for this part because I think its pretty straighforward, but some things I did included:
Editing out people’s background in their images.
Figuring out how to get the image of people’s object on the physical bed without a background.
Editing the picture of object and caption to make the slides to be projected.
Testing projection and editing it again for font and colour for readability.
Learning how to use Cargo to make the webpage, but giving up halfway because I still couldn’t understand.
Making the webpage using google sites.
Testing how it works on a phone and asking people’s opinions.
Editing according to people's feedback.
Creating a sheet for exhibition display direction.