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Fluxus Research: Opening and Closing Doors and Drawers


"Unfettered play in search of uncharted insights."

FLUXUS Midwest was formed in the early 1980s at Kent State University.

I photographed every door or drawer knob, handle, or latch I touched
from the time I awoke on Thursday, June 3rd.
until I went to bed on Friday, June 4th.

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Click on any picture below to see the entire photo.


getting the first diet Coke of the day taking some medicine getting some boxer shorts getting harddrive for the Dell laptop 
that has just arrived from being repaired getting  a screwdriver
to put the harddrive back
(1) 9:40 Refrigerator door. (2) 9:45 Night stand drawer. (3) 10:27 Clothes drawer. (4) 10:28 Drawer in office. (5) 10:33 Door to garage.
taking a shower getting some underwear and socks getting a t-shirt and some pants getting some athlete's foot medicine taking the cats out for a walk
(6) 11:05 Shower door. (7) 11:22 Dresser drawer. (8) 11:23 Cupboard door. (9) 11:27 Night stand drawer. (10) 11:32. Back door inside.
cats leaving backyard area cats returning to back yard bringing the cats back in the house opening the front door to get the mail from the mailman getting a diet Coke to take with me
(11) 11:46. Gate latch north. (12) 11:32. Gate latch south (13) 11:59. Back door outside (14) 12:05. Front door inside. (15) 12:11. Refrigerator
leaving to go to work getting in the car opps!  decided to back in house going to work [take 2],
after downloading digital photos
to create enough space 
on the memory card returning to left-open car door
(16) 12:12. Door to garage. (17) 12:12. Car door. (18) 12:14. Garage door to house. (19) 13:25. House door to garage. (20) 13:25. Car door.
closing the car door opening the car door opening the outer door to enter opening the inner door to go in and get some coffee leaving with coffee and a cookie
(21) 13:25. Car door. (22) 13:39. Car door. (23) 13:40. Coffee shop door. (24) 13:40. Inner door (coming in). (25) 13:45. Inner door (going out).
last door to open to leave the coffee shop getting back in the car using the handle to pull the car door shut parking lot at work:  getting ready to open the car door pushing the car door shut in the parking lot at work
(26) 13:45. Outer door (going out). (27) 13:45. Car door. (28) 13:46. Car door handle. (29) 13:51. Car door release. (30) 13:52. Car door.
entering the office building where I work in Troy, Michigan opening the glass door to the section where my office is on the 22nd floor opening a drawer to get a Diet Coke to put in the refrigerator opening the refrigerator to put in a warm Diet Coke and to take out a cold one getting out a phone list
(31) 13:53. Revoling door. (32) 13:56. Glass door to offices. (33) 14:19. Desk drawer. (34) 14:20. Refrigerator. (35) 15:01. Desk drawer.
leaving the office space to go to the bathroom opening the outer door to the men's bathroom on the 22nd floor opening the inner door to the men's bathroom going out the inner door to the men's bathroom going out the outer door to the men's bathroom
(36) 16:12. Glass door to offices. (37) 16:13. In bathroom door #1. (38) 16:13. In bathroom door #2. (39) 16:14. Out bathrrom door #2. (40) 16:15. Out bathroom door #1.
returning from the bathroom time for another Diet Coke getting a knife to cut the skin off a grapefruit opening the desk draw to get phone list, again out the glass door to go to the bathroom, again
(41) 16:15. Glass door to offices. (42) 16:16. Refrigerator. (43) 17:18. Kitchen drawer. (44) 17:20. Desk drawer. (45) 18:06. Glass door to offices.
using a key to open the door to the men's bathroom opening the inner bathroom door going out the inner bathroom door going out the outer bathroom door entering the code and opening the back door to the offices
(46) 18:07. In bathroom door #1. (47) 18:07. In bathroom door #2. (48) 18:08. Out bathrrom door #2. (49) 18:08. Out bathroom door #1. (50) 18:08. Back door to offices.
leaving the office for the evening stopping at the ground floor bathroom opening the inner bathroom door going out the inner bathroom door
(51) 19:50. Desk drawer. (55) 19:52. Glass door to offices. (52) 19:54. In bathroom door #1. (53) 19:54. In bathroom door #2. (54) 19:55. Out bathrrom door #2.
leaving the ground floor bathroom leaving the building through the revolving front door getting ready to open the car door pulling the car door closed opening the glove compartment
(56) 19:55. Out bathroom door #1. (57) 19:56. Revolving door. (58) 20:00. Car door. (59) 20:01. Car door handle. (60) 20:17. Car glove-compartment.
getting out of the car pushing the car door shut opening the front door of a church to attend a meeting pulling open the basement door where the meeting was being held meeting over, pushing the basement door open
(61) 20:17. Car door release. (62) 20:17. Car door. (63) 20:18. Churh door. (64) 20:18. Basement door. (65) 21:17. Basement door.
going back out the front door of the church opening the car door to get in pulling the car door closed closing the glove compartment opening the car door to pick up a pizza on my way home
(66) 20:18. Church front door. (67) 21:20. Car door. (68) 21:20. Car door. (69) 21:21. Car glove compartment. (70) 21:33. Car door.
closing the car door entering the pizza store leaving the pizza store with a pizza opening the car door closing the car door
(71) 21:34. Car door. (72) 21:43. Pizza store door. (73) 21:44. Pizza store door. (74) 21:44. Car door. (75) 21:44. Car door.
opening the car door and getting out closing the car door opening the back door to get the pizza opening the garage door to the house and bringing the pizza in getting a Diet Coke
(76) 21:52. Car door. (77) 21:52. Car door. (78) 21:53. Car back door. (79) 21:53. Garage door to house. (80) 22:42. Refrigerator door.
going to garage to get some bottled water closing door to garage getting the last Diet Coke of the day
(81) 23:46. Door to garage. (82) 23:46. Door to garage. (83) 00:23. Refrigerator door.

Observations

Presented in no particular order or priority.

Opening doors and drawers is not a completely unconscious activity, but it is over-learned and semi-automatic--the logistics of which I believe are controlled by my "silent" cerebellum. Thank you, cerebellum.
Some doors close themselves after you let go of them (e.g., refrigerator doors). Many doors and drawers you need to close yourself (e.g., car doors).
Creating a diary around the door and drawer knobs I used gave me a different way to organize and view my day. Some important activities get left out (e.g., working on a project on a computer at work). Some mundane ones (e.g., going to the bathroom) get more attention or weight than if I were writing a normal diary.
Although I "knew" that opening doors and drawers is a pretty automatic activity, I became very aware of this during the project. Forcing myself to pay attention to opening and closing doors and drawers made the activity seem a little odd, awkward, and "new." It was easy to believe that I was exploring a basic unexamined aspect of my life (or re-exploring it since childhood).
I got the idea for this research project upon awakening on June 3rd, 1999. I immediately decided to do it that day.
This project helped me realize that I don't really look at the knobs and handles I grasp. I am conscious of my overall goal (e.g., go outside, get a t-shirt, take a shower) but it is clear that I don't pay much conscious or focussed attention to the details. I believe that I normally look or think past the activity as I am engaging in it.
Focussing my attention on small, automatic everyday behaviors required some "discipline." And it wasn't always easy to keep the photograph-any-door-or-drawer-knob-I-use-today script in mind. I actually missed photographing several door knobs at the time I used them. I made up for this by going back and photographing the knobs/handles as soon as I remembered (these photos have had their time-stamp removed).
It wasn't always clear to me what I should consider a door knob. For example, I did not photograph the elevator button at work. This is one of the things I had an ongoing internal debate about. I decided not to consider an elevator button as being a door knob because it did not require my grasp or leverage. I'm still not sure if this is the best definition (or distinguishing attribute) to use. For example, if I defined door knob as anything that allowed 1. my body to enter another room or compartment or 2. some part of my body (e.g., hand) to enter a normally closed-off space (e.g., a drawer, a refrigerator compartment), then elevator buttons would qualify (but so would automatic doors).
I think if I had made myself guess how many door/drawer knobs I used during a typical day, I would have guessed something like "thirty to forty"...not the approximately 83 I touched on this fairly typical day.
As is well-known, the act of observing and documenting a behavior or action can inevitably alter that action in various ways. Sometimes I photographed my hand grasping a door knob or handle. To do so, I would hold the camera with my right hand (I am righthanded) and grasp the knob/handle with my left. I believe I almost always use my right hand to open doors and drawers, however.
I was surprised to see how many doors and drawers require 2 separate actions (in terms of physical leverage): opening and closing. I believe that typically my conscious mind "bundles" these two steps together and even combines them with the other actions required to achieve the immediate goal (e.g., taking the cats outside, getting in my car, etc.).
Sometimes it is not clear whether using a door or drawer should be considered one or two separate actions. For example, walking through a door and then pulling it shut often seemed like one smooth, automatic action. I decided it was often unnecessary, inexpedient, and tedious to photograph and then display both actions...but I did do this at least several times (e.g., with car doors).
Initially I photographed the knobs/handles before I grasped them. Then I started thinking it might look more interesting and documentary-like if I photographed myself (my hand) opening/closing the door. Then I started mixing it up. I didn't really realize it until I began working with the photos, but the door/drawer knobs at home are a lot more interesting looking to me than the door handles of cars, offices, and churches.
Doors and doorways sometimes serve as the "borders" or "bookends" of distinct, meaningful activities...and sometimes they do not.
Paying attention to my hands opening and closing doors and drawers 1. increased my awareness of that activity, which 2. interrupted my "looking ahead to the next action in the sequence" mentality, which 3. increased my "being" in the "here and now"--at least for the door knob/drawer knob action.
Redistributed awareness or expanded awareness? Although I increased the attention normally devoted to this basic, automatic activity, it is not clear to me whether I simply redistributed my awareness (i.e., trading-off giving extra attention to door knobs for giving less attention to something else) or whether I actually expanded my overall immediate conscious awareness (that would be cool; also see comments by George Free). Conducting the documentary aspects of the project (e.g., operating the camera, carrying on internal debates about the various issues that arose during the project), may have actually decreased the amount of conscious awareness I normally paid to other aspects of my environment...another possible cost/benefit trade-off.
What can the viewer gain from all of this? There may be some benefits to the viewer in the vicarious experience of this project. It might temporarily heighten your awareness of door knobs and the roles they play in your life...make you more aware and appreciative of the "little things" that make up the "here and now." But it's probably not as good as enacting this project yourself. You might have entirely different experiences and reactions than the ones reported here.
Cost/benefit analysis. Was this worth the trouble (for me and for you, the viewer). For me it's been a lot of work...it started out as a fun, entertaining, Fluxus-ish idea, but trying to make more out of it by adding the "observations" and analysis may have taken it too far.
Unfettered fun? Uncharted insights? Doing the project and thinking about it while doing it definitely had its moments of "unfettered fun" for me. Did I gain any "uncharted insights"...well, I'm not so sure. I don't think I have observed or described anything here that is especially uncharted (either to psychologists of cognition or to other Fluxus folk). Enacting the project did alter my awareness and behavior ...and did so in worthwhile, if transitory, ways.

Other Fluxus Research by FLUXUS Midwest
Fluxus Marketing Research (March 26, 1998)
Ask a Fluxus Question (March 19, 1998)
People You Meet In Everyday Life (March 17, 1981)



© 2006 Allen Bukoff & FLUXUS Midwest