Jenna Witzleben

MFA Thesis Blog

This blog contains experiments, project and reading reflections, unanswered questions, and more relating to my year-long thesis as part of my Master's design program. From Sept. 2016 to May 2017, I explored rewilding human beings and the environments we inhabit at multiple scales including investigation around individual fears of nature, regional food production systems, and global overpopulation. The final works of this thesis can be found in my portfolio.

Speculative Objects - Round 2

A lot has evolved since my last post. For my first update, I shall recap the second versions of my speculative objects and branding.

This sidewalk greenhouse is part speculative design, part street art. It takes the stance that we should be fostering the growth of wild plant life, as opposed to trampling it or spraying it with chemicals. While not extraordinarily practical due to safety issues, it questions our current interaction with the wild that is trying to emerge and suggests that maybe we should have to alter our actions and paths in order to allow nature to grow. 

Human depaving efforts have seen great success, particularly in cities like Portland. However, many of us in cities like NYC lack the capabilities and authority to take action on our own. That’s where Environmental Stealth comes in. This league of robots emerge at night to covertly attack the pavement. Each has a specific function that it performs under the cover of darkness.

 
Pierce drills holes through the cement, revealing the dirt below. 

Pierce drills holes through the cement, revealing the dirt below. 

Blade spews bits of grass and dirt to coat the bleak sidewalks.

Blade spews bits of grass and dirt to coat the bleak sidewalks.

Scion deposits seeds behind it in hopes that growing plant life will break apart the rigid ground surface.

Scion deposits seeds behind it in hopes that growing plant life will break apart the rigid ground surface.

Sustain is a line of pre-grass stained fashion. Often a barrier, particularly for adults, to intimate interaction with natural environments is the fear of getting dirty. We don’t want to sit on the grass because we don’t want to tarnish our pristine garments. This design aims to question our judgement of grass and dirt stains as “ugly” and prompt for a reconsideration of fashion design to facilitate, not hamper, interaction with environment.

One of the biggest absurdities in our modern society is the overuse of the umbrella. Two small droplets fall from the sky, and suddenly everyone is hiding under their pieces of nylon fabric. Instead we should learn to celebrate the element that is central to human life on earth. Spring Showers are pop-up enclosures for showering in the rain. Simply bring it outside during precipitation and expand to establish your privacy and claim your space. These enclosures easily stow away for small urban apartments.

There were a few key learnings from this week's exercises. I experienced the tension in speculative design between pushing boundaries and just being a one-liner. These designs need to maintain enough realism or future realism to not come off as a joke.

Particularly in terms of the dress, I started experiencing the conflict between completely transforming current perceptions and adhering to current ones. The dress is so far removed from our current definitions of attractive aesthetics that is becomes ineffective. No one would want this dress. These types of designs need to provide a pathway or gateway into a new mentality. I spoke about this with designer Danielle Trofe at the Myeclium Workshop at the Lowline Lab. She uses classical materials like wood and metal along with the mushroom material to give users something recognizable to latch on to.

If I were to remake the dress, I would start with a gorgeous base - a dress that is far more beautiful and dramatic than the one I selected and I would be much more intentional about how I add the dirt and grass stains to it.

After a week or two of further consideration, I feel that the shower is the most exciting and promising of the four designs. I have been learning more about the commodification of natural resources and the illegality of collecting rainwater. This shower enclosure for rain storms not only is a somewhat realistic way of getting people physical interacting with natural systems, but it can also function as a subversive act against corrupt systems.

Jenna Witzleben