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.

Thesis I: Week 1

We're in week 2 of the semester and thesis work is underway. For our first task this past week we created 100 Sketches, 3 physical prototypes, and started working on the brand of the overall thesis.


While ideating on my sketches, I came across an amazing article: Lucy Purdy boils down the motivations for my thesis to a clear and succinct two paragraphis:

"‘Wildness’ plays a fascinating role in our cultural psyche. On one hand, we’re spellbound with the idea and our cultural storytellers repeatedly play with the theme. Films such as Into the Wild and the 2014 box office hit Wild serve it up to us on the big screen. Images of forests, wolves and other wild animals proliferate in advertising, while adventure travel is surging in popularity. Yet our society, from its obsession with health and safety to the highly controlling approach of modern agriculture, also teaches us to be afraid of wildness.

Simultaneously, against most definitions of true satisfaction and happiness, consumer society has failed us. Technology has connected people like never before but also deprives us of truly deep connection. Ideologies proliferate that paint our instinctive nature as being in need of constraint. Our education systems and industrial economy mould us for productivity but the world also has record mental health problems. Our current socioeconomic model, although it has brought progress by many measures, is being exposed as deeply flawed. On achieving materialism, our reward is a new collection of unmet needs."

I also had my own discoveries while sketching. For example, I eventually got to a place with my ideas that went beyond getting humans in touch with nature, but considering social behavior changes around "rewilding"; breaking down of "proper" behavior in the way we eat, move around, and occupy space.

While I don't always find myself with many great ideas after the "100 sketch" exercise, this round was particularly successful. Here are a few of my favorites:

 - Grass Stained Dress (so you don't have to worry about sitting on grass)

- "Please walk on grass" signs

- Subversive robots to depave, plant seeds, and spread grass/dirt

- Mud sunscreen

- Dirt Fun Dip

- Soil salt

- Window rain collector and urban bird house

- Pop up shower enclosure for rainy days

- Animal augmentation for humans (still not quite sure what this means yet though...)

- Human plant pot

- Subversive helminthic therapy disguised as nite crawlers

- Sidewalk greenhouse for protecting the plants growing through the cracks

"Spring Showers" - Enclosures for showering in the rain

"Spring Showers" - Enclosures for showering in the rain

With limited time, I didn't get to make all of them, so I focused on the robots, the rain shower, and the sidewalk greenhouse.

There were some construction learnings from making each of these. The rain shower, constructed of two stacked pop up hampers, wasn't strong enough to stay fully popped up on it's own, so I had to attach shoulder straps. The black on black branding for "Depave NYC" and "Environmental Stealth" was less successful than I had hoped. Using glossy vinyl or a different type color would have been better. The robots wheel systems could use an upgrade as well. 

"Depave NYC Sidewalk Greenhouse"

"Depave NYC Sidewalk Greenhouse"

"Environmental Stealth" depaving, seed planting, and grass depositing robots

"Environmental Stealth" depaving, seed planting, and grass depositing robots

Finally I did some work on titles and brand for my thesis overall. I have three title options, each with different type treatment. And I've started to develop an overall palette of dark greens and blues, maybe mixed with some tans/pinks. I prefer this cooler/darker palette over bright blues, yellows, and greens as I'd like to represent the fact that much of this body of work is uncharted territory and the rewilded world is still very unknown and mysterious.

Jenna Witzleben