Hello, my name is Sem Panhuizen. I am a Dutch designer. ‘Through These Eyes’ is my graduation project from the master in graphic design, or what is now called ‘situated design’, at the Master Institute of Visual Cultures, St. Joost School of Art & Design ‘s-Hertogenbosch (NL).
I grew up in a multicultural family with six different nationalities. Which means almost everyone has a different background, culture, skin colour and ways of doing things. I am aware of our differences but because I have the empathy for them, I learn from them, see the uniqueness in each individual of my family and that is why I also can focus on our commonalities. I cannot speak for them because I don’t have the same life experiences. What I can do is show empathy towards our differences to see the common good. This will be the focus of my project.
As a designer and with this baggage, I want to make people aware of not only look at their own perspective but allow people to see the bigger picture and from the common good. In social situations, as in my friendships, I notice that having empathy is very important to have a good relationship. We, as humans, are social animals but we still need to learn a lot about having empathy for others. Especially in the current COVID-19 pandemic, we are living in, it only becomes clearer to me how people act differently in a situation and that we have to look beyond our own beliefs, to see the greater good.
“I want you to see that which is not in front of your eyes.”
I chose audio to explore the theme of empathy towards differences because empathy is about listening to others. Because when you listen and open up, you see more than what is in front of you. Also, empathy is about imagining how someone else is feeling and why. This are very abstract concepts and audio helps, in this case, to let the audience visualize it themselves.
“Empathy is about imagining how someone else is feeling and why.”
The story needs to be experienced with headphones to close yourself off. With this audio piece, you can escape from the madness for a little while. Walk around in the environment that you are in and try to only focus on the audio and your imagination. Listen with your ears and see with your mind’s eye.
Birds as characters
The message I want to tell is that you need to have empathy towards differences to see the bigger picture. For me, a symbol of an overlook of a situation is a bird. Birds have a helicopter view. They can see an individual from up close, but also a group. A helicopter view you can use to put something into perspective.
Because of the second lockdown, where live exhibitions are cancelled again, I decided to frame my work as an online project. Audio is a very good medium to use online, see the medium of podcasting which is growing exponential, so I decided to focus on online for now and frame my work as an audio led story in the form of a podcast. As the main platform, I made the website www.through-these-eyes.com. The website is also specially made for mobile so listeners don’t have to sit behind their laptop to listen to it. You can listen to the podcast on this site, but also get more information about me, the podcast and the process of the project. In addition, the podcast is also placed on websites like Spotify, apple podcast and anchor.
Credits go to Julia Munsters for Landry’s voiceover. I would like to thank Ollie Palmer and Rosie Heinrich for their feedback and guidance on this project. I also want to thank Geerte Berkers for letting me film her.