Make things Sacred Again

This is the diploma project of Te-Yen Hsu in her study of master degree at Design Academy Eindhoven.
It contains the thesis —— Make Things Sacred Again: notes on the religious dimension of design, and a design project—— O.M.G.

Make Things Sacred Again: notes on the religious dimension of design
Master’s Thesis | Contextual Design |Design Academy Eindhoven
April, 2022, Eindhoven, NL | Format: Newspaper, 36 pages.

Good news and serious deep shit should always be thrown away easily. 🕳️

In belief systems, how do people experience the sacredness through the materiality of objects? How do these sacred things come into being through the process of design? Does the original idea of design - as an act of creating - also reflect a religious attitude? What is a religious attitude and what does “sacred” really mean? These questions both fascinate and confuse me.

Carrying the questions with me, I started to explore the reification and materialization in religion, especially Taiwanese folk religion. The thesis thus became a personal reflection on modernity and my interest in humanity through understanding the history and material culture of religion. I found that the concept of “religion”, this forbidden topic in small talks, is very dif- ferent from how it is presented, categorized and observed in modern secu- lar society. By digging into material culture, I realized that we cannot know who we are, or become what we are, except by looking in a material mirror, which is the historical world created by those who lived before us and con- fronts us as material culture, and that continues to evolve through us. Through these findings, I have a clearer vision on how spiritual and material life have influenced and contributed to each other, thus intertwining to form a real world historically and continuously. Material culture can’t be created without design, therefore, I try to reflect what I found on the world of design.

Divided into three chapters, the thesis follows a brief narrative of religion-idol-creation, presenting the dialogue between sacred objects and design, religious attitude and design, and attempting to answer the simple yet profound mystery of “what is design and how it can be”?


multimedia installation | dimension variable |
3 channels videos, ceramics, screens, synthetic hair

O.M.G. reconstructs the allegory of sacredness in everyday objects by exploring the interplay between religion and design through immaterial and material cultures.

Hsu’s research confronts religious attitudes and the concept of the sacred, adopting Mircea Eliade’s interpretation thereof. Eliade has emphasized that epiphany is inherent to being, permeating the mental, economic, spiritual and social lives of humans and their societies. Furthermore, we cannot be certain that any given phenomena – objects, movements, mental functions, games – have not become sacred in some era of human history. Hsu believes that this sacred manifestation stays with us, arguing that the religious nature of early civilizations spawned design. In other words, design and religion are connected in that they both posit that the visible and invisible world mutually permeate each other. Hsu approaches this interconnection from the position of a designer and maker, imagining how and why our ancestors started to design.

Following traces left by previous cultures in the form of mythologies, legends and artifacts, Hsu creates a bricolage of the ontological nostalgia of human-made objects. She uses the human body as a medium for the performance of a sympathetic magic between ancient and modern times. Taking the law of similarity – the effect resembles the cause – as a guiding principle, Hsu postulates a speculative narrative in which the body is the archetype of technology and modern objects. She builds a multimedia installation with sculptural objects and a video that mashes together popular culture both past and contemporary: from ancient mythologies to TikTok trends. Through her project, Hsu aims to design a new perspective on everyday objects, a reality formed by organs extending historically and transcendentally.

Female in Earth, 2022, 100*95*90 cm

No Shoes On the Rug , 90*200*2 cm. 

Copyright © 2023 Te-Yen Hsu. All right reserved