The Observational Practices Lab
Parsons School of Design


Images: OPL Website

A research-led platform aiming to provoke conversations around observational practices across disciplines.

The Observational Practices Lab at the Parsons School of Design addresses observation as a practice across disciplinaries. The lab is co-directed by two professors at Parsons, Pascal Glissmann and Selena Kimball. They are concerned with the nature of observation, and aim to use their platform to instigate open conversations and critical reflection around the topic. They explore the contingency of observation across diverse practices, looking at the concepts, processes and challenges that occur in different disciplines. The lab conducts symposiums, academic courses, exhibitions, publications and workshops to gather and share research with the public.

Observational Practices Lab encourages collaborative learning and transdisciplinary research, as they are driven by the following areas of enquiry:

How observational practices work and what different disciplines might learn from another’s approach to observation. How different subjects may cultivate a more suitable method of observation. How we can invent new ways of seeing and understanding in our everyday lives, by unlearning what we think we know. How observation itself can create communities.

Object America is a transdisciplinary investigation, initiated by Observational Practices Lab to examine the meaning of “America” through everyday objects. The project was started in response to administration in the US and the public aim to “Make America Great Again”. Methods of observation and comparative research, both scientific and absurd, were used to challenge the participants perceptions and discover hidden narratives.

“Combining artistic research practice, critical design thinking, and experimental pedagogy, we will disrupt habitual ways of looking at everyday “American” objects.”

One workshop run in Berlin explored themes of Senses, Specialized Instruments and Speculation. As a platform for discussion and sharing of practice, it intended to both uncover hidden narratives about America as well as challenge each individual’s understanding of their own creative practice. The participants were asked to bring two items, the first, an object they believe represents the concept “America” and the second, a tool to explore objects such as a simple magnifying glass or a mobile phone. It was also encouraged that participants actively took part in the workshop and helped to shape the day.

Links to the work:


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