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 2

I recently began the We Are Wilderness course, the 30 Day Rewilding Challenge, in hopes to "practice what I preach" and extend my research outside of books and articles. The challenge for Day 2 was about listening. I set out to listen to the sounds of "nature" in the Highline Park in Manhattan. It's one of the few areas around that has a little less concrete cover and a little more grass. I first found a nice spot with a patch of grass and some trees to sit and listen. But 10 minutes in I felt I hadn't heard anything. I thought to myself that I heard more birds by the tree outside my building on 21st street than I did in this dedicated "nature space". All I could hear were humans and their machines: stomping, talking, buzzing, smashing, crashing, honking, etc. So I walked down the park a bit to see if I could find a better spot.

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I eventually found a bench across from a bush with a group of birds. I sat and listened to them chirping for the remainder of the half hour. I was satisfied, I felt like I had found what I set out for. But on my way down the steps back to street level, a new type of sound entered my ears. I looked up and saw a "silent" flock of birds flying away. But the thing is - they weren't silent. Ever so faintly, I heard them. The swoosh of wind from their synchronized soaring grazed my ears just enough to be audible. 

I realized that animal and plant sounds aren't necessarily exclusive to "talking" or "chirping" or "growling." There are a multitude of noises and "languages" that living creature can produce. The key is for us humans to be quiet enough, long enough, to actually hear them. Can we quiet our footsteps, our mouths, our machines, and let the other creatures fill the space with their sounds instead?

Jenna Witzleben