The work of Perth-based designer Penelope Forlano explores memories, heirlooms and intergenerational meaning. En_Case (Engraved Casegoods) is a modular furniture piece with a series of patterns laser engraved to form texture on timber. These patterns act as visual snippets of memory; new combinations can be selected from a wide range of patterns to create a personal, customised version.
For this particular piece, Forlano conducted an interview with a family about their personal and ancestral past, going back as many generations as they knew about. Recurring or overlapping themes and stories, including significant places and experiences, were then translated into patterns.
One pattern shows parts of the Hong Kong skyline repeated with intensity and density of detail, to evoke the family’s experience living there. Another is a composite of London buildings, but each has special significance for this particular family, evoking events or experiences they want to remember, like their local shopping street, their home, or places of work.
Another pattern is more abstracted, with elements taken from the New York City Library ceiling, complete with stained-glass and crucifix graphics, simultaneously triggering differing family memories within one pattern.
“The aim was to create multi-layered and multi-voiced meaning to trigger memory and inquiry to explore kinship and eternal values, and encourage multi-generational meaning and custodianship over time,” says Forlano.
The work is part of Forlano’s PhD, which draws on anthropological studies in consumer behaviour, object agency, custodianship and person-object relationships in order to explore intergenerational meaning and value of both private and public objects.
“The research shows that true heirlooms are those that are mnemonic of history and are somewhat transcendent, that is, reflecting higher values and enabling deeper understanding of our lives, such as memories of significant past place, time, person or event, and social values such as connection, authenticity and integrity.”
Forlano has also developed other patterns, mainly of family or kinship connections for En_Case, while other works in the series explore patterns, narratives and kinship memory in public art. One of her recent research papers on furniture as intergenerational objects can be read online here.
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