SVA MA Design Research

SVA MA Design Research, Writing & Criticism1 is a one-year graduate program2
devoted to the study of design, its contexts & consequences.
Our graduates have gone on to pursue research-related careers in publishing, education, museums, institutes, design practice, entrepreneurship, & more.3

  1. Formerly known as D-Crit
  2. About the program
  3. Applications accepted on a rolling basis. All successful candidates awarded a significant scholarship!
SVA MA Design Research

136 W 21st St, 2nd Floor

New York, NY 10011

e.

designresearch@sva.edu

t.

@dcrit

p.

(212) 592-2228

Unfolding the Soul – SVA MA Design Research

Laura Scofield

Unfolding the Soul

Ferdio

The wind is the raison d’être of flags. Our gaze moves along with its infinite folding.

This is an excerpt from Laura Scofield Cardoso’s larger thesis portfolio, titled “Flags Happen: A Critical Discussion on Flags and Design.” This work can also be found in the Class of 2019 publication, Everything That Rises: Thinking about Design in Precarious Times.

“The multiple is not only what has many parts but what is folded in many ways.”
Gilles Deleuze

As I walk through the city of New York, I pass by a multitude of flags which conjure up a sense of intensity. Their movements caused by the wind, their reverberating aura, embody my thoughts. I gaze at these moving images. I touch them with my eyes, I hear their waving sounds with my gaze. 4,600 miles away from my homeland, the presence of the American flag is constantly animating my memory, my identity, and reminding me where I am located geographically, emotionally, and culturally. As it flutters, it plays a reflexive game with me; I perceive both the outside world and my inner world through its image.

Our body is the place of images and memory, and whatever they may be, they guide us and incorporate in us a unique way of interpreting our nature. We grasp the world through images and in the particular way they colonize our bodies. I perceive the outside world and my inner world through a flag’s image. 

This omnipresence of flags inhabits my surroundings. It transforms, stimulating my thinking, my understanding of space, culture, and identity. It interpenetrates and defines me. I allow it. In fact, I indulge in it, nourish my interest and recall Georges Didi-Huberman: “How does the view from above, which is an experience of distance, summon, after all, what should be called an inner experience?”

 

I head to the NYPL and find a comfortable table in front of a colossal window. I look out, and I capture a flag waving back at me. The wind is blowing and impetuously folding it. I instantly recall Gilles Deleuze on The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque: “the baroque trait twists and turns its folds, pushing them to infinity. The world is a baroque trait, a body of endless folds and surfaces that twist and weave through compressed time and space.” Our bodies are also formed by folds; never-ending folds that bend the soul and our thought. 

Leibniz is the first great philosopher and mathematician of the pleat, of curves and twisting surfaces. He believed that there is a correspondence between the pleats of the matter and the folds in the soul, like a metaphor for the topology of our thought: an “inside” space is topologically in contact with the “outside” space, and brings the two into confrontation at the limit of the living present. 

The appearance of the folding flag unfolds my gaze, and beyond its visibility, it runs through the folds of my soul. I grasp and dominate its image, a creature freed in the air and the sky. The flag triggers my imagination; it appears, approaches, and departs to poeticize, to signify, turning into a work of my unconscious. I project my world on the surface of  folding matter. I recall my identity and how I must navigate this universe. With its colors, shapes, sizes, and textures this in-motion object promises beyond what it was meant to. It activates my memory and makes me consume its latent beliefs. I transform the flag into a tool that mediates me and the world. We are merged, by thought and memory. For Deleuze “what happens in the soul represents what happens in bodily organs.”

The wind is the raison d’être of flags. Our gaze moves along with its infinite folding. 

 

In the same book, Deleuze introduces Leibniz’s concept of soul: the monad. It is a single entity-a point-that envelops the multiplicity, the infinity in itself. He describes the soul as an endless series of folds always unfolding. I imagine myself, my identity and my individuality. I think of the flag, and how we correspond to each other. Can we carry infinity inside our own finiteness? We are a labyrinthian issue, a multiplicity where everything is always folded and re-folded, a place where we are never able to see it in its entirety. It is just me and this flag, an inexhaustible resource for imagining the world. 

Imagination is the “queen of the faculties” according to Baudelaire. The one that “touches all the others” with its power to “decompose all creation and, with materials amassed and arranged according to rules whose origin can only be found in the depths of the soul, it creates a new world.” 

Like capturing the image of a flag from afar, observing things from a distance also means looking closer inside. Sometimes I imagine if my own flag could be an expression of myself, an extension of my body, my individuality. Something capable of showing to the outside what I cannot graphically infer about my soul’s infinity. I am a metaphor for the flag; I am a monad too. We both have the appetite to unfold, to become, in the continuum of folding.