The Handbag Project poses the question, how does the items in women’s handbags present differing version of feminine gender identity? By photographing the contents of different handbags, the items are visualised in a way that shows patterns and repetition, while still taking the audience into an experiential and affective space.
Data Visualisation emphasises visual knowledge, reveals patterns and organises complex data in a comprehensible format. It then mounts an argument with visual evidence. Photographing women’s handbags will show patterns of commonality as well as the diversity of female behaviour. According to Beh and Lombardo (2014) in Correspondence Analysis : Theory, Practice and New Strategies a graphical display of data can provide insight into a particular topic through a quick and visual representation. For instance, women across the spectrum may carry sanitary items, phones or wallets in their bags, because these items are often considered ‘essential’ for the majority of women. However, based on personality, interests, culture or place, a woman may carry items that are entirely unique to her. Minimal information will be given along with the bags, such as the woman’s occupation and age. The project will map the similarities and the differences, and invite the audience to participate by submitting photos of what’s in their own bags, adding to the data.
Although this photography archive is, to some extent, data visualisation, it is empirical in the human sense of the word. It is personalised through the exploration of the women who participate, connecting what they choose to carry with why they choose to carry it. Categorising items systematically through the technique of knolling also visualises data in an easily comprehensible method, such as New York designer Lauren Manning’s project Food Consumed.
Beyond just ‘documenting’ the items visually, the i-doc asks questions, provides snippets of audio-interviews and provides a level of interactivity that draws out opinion-oriented ideas of gender identity. It literally ‘unpacks’ the handbags while unpacking the women’s ideas of their own gender.