214 SQ. FT. is a Productive Encounter, a project in design anthropology created for Project Hope Alliance, a non-profit
organization that serves the Orange County, CA homeless population through the Project
Hope School and Family Stability Program. It was intended as a reflection on the experience
of homelessness among the working poor, many of whom take shelter in low budget
motels across Orange County. For such families a motel room is an impermanent
home, made homelike through the personal objects that fill it and the quotidian activities
of home-life within its walls.
The project stages a motel room in different public spaces. The installation, roughly
214 square feet, includes the furniture typical of motels as well as found objects representing
the personal belongings of a composite family. Images and personal narratives
of motel-life, as derived from footage from the Alexandra Pelosi documentary Homeless:
The Motel Kids of Orange County, are embedded in the space through multi-media.
Audio and video recordings emanate discretely from objects (lamps, paintings), and portions
of narratives are printed on bedding, inscribed in the wallpaper, and etched on the
furniture.
As part of the Center’s RETHINKING DESIGN SERIES, the installation is a prototype for interrogating
intersections between ethnographic inquiry and aesthetic processes and an
experiment in the use of design to inform ethnography. 214 SQ. FT. is being sited at UCI
to instigate discussion among students and faculty across the disciplines about modalities
of representation and inquiry and the meanings of transience, home, and inequality.