Aprajita Chowdhury Explores the Emotions Behind Collected Objects

Posted inSVA Branding: 100 Days

100 Days is an annual project at New York City’s School of Visual Arts that was founded by Michael Bierut. Each year, the students of the school’s Master’s in Branding Program spend 100 days documenting their process with a chosen creative endeavor. This year, we’re showcasing each student in the program by providing a peek into ten days of their project. You can keep an eye on everyone’s work on our SVA 100 Days page.

The creation, consumption, and exchange of objects is a pursuit to display a distinct self.

New York brand strategist Aprajita Chowdhury explores the intersection of culture, anthropology, and branding by investigating the “lived” lives of objects and the systems of beliefs that surround them. She collects stories from people across ages, cultures, and geographies to inspire epiphanies around object relationships through exploratory writing and hand-lettered headlines. “100 Days of Object Cultures” tenderly inspects how mundane objects transform into significant and social signals.

Follow @objectcultures on Instagram to contribute and join the conversation. You can contact Aprajita about collaboration or promotion at chowdhuryaprajita@gmail.com, or visit instagram.com/aprajitachowdhury.

The power and perils of cute culture

Object submission by Rudi

Rudi expressed how the tone and levity of the Buddha’s robe is warm and calming every day. The moment she saw this object, she couldn’t bear the thought of going home without it.

The appeal and ubiquity of forms of “cuteness” have proliferated across cultures. Emotionally and biologically, “cute” and “warm” things elicit natural caregiver responses. Over time, cuteness is commoditized in language, branding, and aesthetic experiences. It gathers a familiarity that resonates with most. A power move, or a peril?

Ensnaring joy and lost familiarity

Object submission by Madhavi

Madhavi bought this unbranded viewmaster from the DUMBO flea market in Brooklyn. When she saw it, she felt like she was seven again. Today as a designer in a new city, she knew she had to invest in it for its rarity, nostalgia, and the analog joy it brought her in a life full of screens.

Sometimes joy and memory travel knock at our door at random moments, unlocking myriad familiar recollections. They’re the flashes of lost joy as time, space, and context evolves. So then we grab them piecemeal to intentionally reactivate the familiarity, rarity, and delight.

Protection and prayers

Object submission by Yuvraj Khanna

Yuvraj’s mom gave him this lord Ganesha idol after a priest casually mentioned that Ganesha will bring her son security. While moving countries, Yuvraj brought this figure along to feel safe as it watched over him.

We carry a plethora of inheritances, from rituals to materials. Modern day forms of idolatry make us feel like we are choosing to keep them for others, or bringing along a sense of security and lineage. It brings with it some lesser squabbling, lesser questioning, and lesser eyebrow raises.

Standing by, standing with…

Object submission by Joash Youtham

Joash’s note was a love letter for his car he calls Goldie. For the last 13 years, “Goldie” has been the place where he learned, explored, and where friendships grew, or love blossomed. While others see cracks and withers when they see the car, he sees a multitude of memories and signals. It’s a reminder of where he came from and how far he has come.

This description strengthened the idea of the difference between the history of a thing and using things to tell the history of something else, often, our lives. Objects and our personalities are indivisible. They support us, and we create the lived life of that object. The ones that see us through the most are not separate entities— they’re intrinsic to us.

Will whimsy save us from mundanity?

Object submission by Marsha Shnayder.

Marsha loved the aesthetic and fun the bells brought. They use it to punctuate moments with joy through tactility and eccentricity.

Some save the eclectic and whimsical for home: their safe playground for assertion. For others, it’s a social signal of self-expression: an unapologetic freedom that brings conversations and amusement. A desperate want to preserve and bring wonder to the life we witness. Is it an intentional language game to escape the ordinary?

Perfect match: Shared responsibility and secure attachments

Object submission by Nishit Chowdhury

Nishit, an officer in the merchant navy, said that until I asked him this question, he never realized this bond was imperative to him. In a space where safety and responsibility are at risk, the walkie talkie is the key object for all his communication.

We often develop secure attachments to objects that carry massive, shared responsibilities. These often unnoticed object connections constitute necessity, and might often be taken for granted… similar to our relationships?

New luxury: Objects that do it ASAP (as slow as possible)

Object submission by Amlanjyoti Bora

When Amlan goes back home from a fast-paced, independent life, this mosquito net brings him tremendous comfort. The process of putting it up every night and folding it down every morning is a form of meditative pause he needs.

In a screaming world, slowness can be the highest form of freedom and luxury. There’s a strong will to engage in the beauty of intentionally choosing the slow and inconvenient. If the precedence of digital and technological objects is intrusive, using these objects is a form of defiance.

Does it really end with us?

Object from a flea market stall owner in Brooklyn

I found these postcards at a flea market in DUMBO from an owner who has been selling them for decades. The postcards are 50+ years old and include a range of stories across transitions, relationships, family, and travels.

Some objects are remnants of stories that transport us back to living them again. These symbols turn into personal treasures, or perhaps collectible treasures over time, making them emotionally and tangibly valuable. Objects left behind are trails that carry our tales forward, to ensure they don’t simply end with us.

Ornamenting objects to claim them more

Object submission by Shaurya Oberoi

Shaurya passionately shared how his bottle is a steady companion, sustaining bruises and accessories (like this one from Pushkar, India) over time. He feels strange relying on it to be grounded, but is embracing it while it lasts.

Shaurya’s description made me think about how scratches and withers of time aren’t enough to make us feel like our objects belong uniquely to us. Ornamentation is a superimposed personality we physically attach to them. Think stickers on laptops, pins on clothes, fridge magnets, iPhone cases, and more stickers for those iPhone cases. It’s an added character role, a mood, a dialogue, if you will— to guide our attention, expression, and aesthetic. Attaching labels gives us the illusion of control.

Custodians of nonstop nostalgia

Object submission by Dhruvil Shah

This is Dhruvil’s breakfast bowl. He received it as a return gift at a friend’s party when he was barely one. He has used it for 20 years for milk, cereal, and beyond. He’s emotionally attached to it because it’s the most iconic object from his childhood.

Time and again, we use products to remember and make sense of what happened, or how far we have come— a longer-lasting form of nostalgia nestled in improving upon the past, while sweetly holding on to it. The withers, fades, cracks, and dips don’t impact our fondness; they are proof the object remembers us…