Designer, ethnographer, trend-forecaster, author, artist. Paula Zuccotti Every Thing We Touch project recently included an exhibition at Dubai Design Week earlier in November, where she assembled a piece based on a day in the life of Dubai chef John Buenaventura, founder of modern tapas restaurant Cuisinero Uno.
Each of Zuccotti’s pieces is built around the same compelling thought: what would your day look like if you recorded every single thing you touched in a 24-hour period? What story would it tell?
“Some people see the photos as their portraits, others are their X-ray,” Zuccotti explains.
While the story each subject tells may be very different, Zuccotti’s exacting process is the same every time. Her first step is to reach out to a participant, typically chosen based on her own curiosities. “Profession, culture, costume, religion, tribe, generation – I’m curious to see their physical footprint,” she explains, “But that’s just the entry point.
“I work closely with them in the period prior to the photo, ensuring that their whole day is properly captured.
“It’s easy for people to assume they have to give you their clothes, sunglasses, phone, laptop… Not so much to realise that they also touch tea towels, cling film, supermarket receipts, parking ticket… So I put huge emphasis on being incredibly mindful of logging step-by-step interaction throughout the day,” Zuccotti continues.
For Buenaventura, the whole experience was “very exciting”. “The final piece was mind-blowing. It was an eye-opener. It makes you see your life in one photo,” the chef says. “I learned that I spend 85 percent of my life dedicated to improving my craft and making other people see the beauty of life through the food we prepare. Being a professional chef and restauranteur takes a lot of time and patience, and I wish the general public and guests would see the amount of work and love we pour out into our craft.”
“People tend to reflect on things such as, ‘You made my day look so much more interesting than it is!’”, says Zuccotti. The message the artist ultimately wants to get across with each project however, is the universality of the fabric of daily life. “I love bringing real life stories of people from one place to another. We rarely have access to follow someone’s daily life and appreciate how they do things, whether different or similar to us,” she explains.
“Secondly, it is about Future Archaeology: to create a time capsule of our physical footprint today for future generations to learn about how we conducted our daily lives. Many of our everyday objects are endangered, and I wanted to capture them before they disappear. Alarm clocks, music in physical form, radios, remote controls, money…
“Many things we know about past civilisations are gathered through insights from objects of theirs that we’ve found. These taught us about the way they ate, worked, studied, expressed themselves… Will our objects do the same for us?”