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.

Rewilding Challenge: Day 9

Today's challenge was about water. Due to my terrible participation in my challenges for the past few days, I knew I had to redeem myself. So I decided to go out to Hudson River Park and spend time with the Hudson River.

And what a perfect day for a water challenge it is. The weather is some combination of rain, sleet, and snow, and so all of the sidewalks are covered in slippery slush. It was part of the rewilding adventure just getting out there and overcoming my impulse to find respite. 

But upon arriving at Hudson River Park, magically all the tension of walking in the rain faded. Though the water continued to seep through my jacket and leggings, taking the first few steps into the park transformed my bodily emotions of tension to peace. Perhaps it was the progression away from the noise of the automobiles, or perhaps it was seeing the piles of snow under the trees. Either way, I felt the "switch" that so many of my interviewees talked about. 

Progressing through the park out to the pier, I was delighted to find geese foraging in the snow and seagulls swooping past. My journey became even wilder and exciting when I got to walk on an unshoveled pathway coated with snow. 

Upon reaching my destination at the end of the pier, I reflected on the questions in the course prompt. The most applicable of which was about cleanliness. I know the Hudson River is not clean. I have heard countless news stories about it and even witnessed it first hand last summer when I found capri sun pouches and condoms in the water while kayaking at pier 96. And yet during my journey today I saw ducks swimming and diving in these waters. It filled my heart with sadness that we could be so wasteful with such a beautiful and essential element. How can we amend this - for our own benefits and for the benefits of all the species that live here or could live here?

I started to wonder about the rain still falling on my head and dropping into my coffee cup. Did this come from this polluted waters? How do we know? Other than the scientific method, how might we find out? Does traditional knowledge have ways of determining this? Or are these issues of pollution exclusive to modern times and therefore weren't a problem when traditional knowledge was dominant?

 Upon my exit of the park, passing by the geese once again, I wondered what about this thesis work made me so much more appreciative of nature that I used to overlook. Was it in part my transition from living in a beautiful natural area to living in the city? Was it simply through reading my books? At what point did I recognize the importance of each individual life form and how can I bring this shift to other people?

Jenna Witzleben