For me, and I believe for many other designers, nature has been a prime source of inspiration to seek for solutions to simplify complex challenges of our systems. However, Myers’ essay posed a more poignant perspective of how plants “teach us the most nuanced lessons about mattering,” about life and about death. It was insightful, and somewhat confronting to understand that “we are only because they are.” The relationship between humans and nature is indeed more profound, a further suggestion that humans are no great creatures, but mere animals in the larger ecosystem of existence.
Heidi Axelsen’s lecture today was highly captivating and insightful. She discussed how designers can organise interdisciplinary projects and the motives and values that often underlie the works they develop to benefit non-human species. Heidi works with social processes and public art with architects, community groups, and artists. Through interdisciplinarity, she leverages the possibilities of art and architecture that lifts the profile of the many works she creates with her partner. By marrying the conceptual softness of art with the hardness of and utilitarianism of architecture, her works thrive upon the hybridity of disciplines to respond to the wicked problems of cities. Her advice on breaking down silos and enhancing skills of collaboration to become mutable and chameleon-like while maintaining who you are really was insightful to hear. A lot of her projects, for instance ‘The Visitors’ are codesigned with locals who have the information and tacit or lay knowledge to contribute to contribute to, as their experience is a form of knowledge equal to, if not beyond that of experts. This project in Blue Mountains explored alternative ways for humans to interact with botanical worlds where the narrative is for plant agency movement; “we need them, we wear them, we use their bodies to house ourselves, like unwanted visitors we take much more than we return…” She explores what the world would look like if we were plant agents, referencing Natasha Myers; “we must learn not just how to collaborate but conspire with plants/if not, their undoing would truly be our undoing.” (lecture slides)
So, over the last few weeks, I have gathered a decent understanding of what it entails to exist in the Anthropocene, and how we humans led ourselves into this age. However, in suggesting the forms of violence and destruction shaping the lives of plants and their people in the Anthropocene, the need to alter our “ways of thinking, making and doing” has never seemed more urgent than after reading Myer’s essay. The case study “The Visitors” proposes how design can instead alter our interactions and engagement with the plant world, to become collaborative “agents for plants,” as Myers calls the ‘Planthropocene.’ Hence, the key insights I derived from Heidi’s lecture were;
- Designers can be motivated by making things better, attractive, desirable, or to question social and political realities.
- Design has the potential to engage with realities and deeply investigate alternative social relationships.
- Design is a practice of questioning.
- Designers can be detectives of possible futures.
Meyers, N. 2017 Photosynthetic Mattering: Rooting into the Planthroposcene, Moving Plants exhibition catalogue. Rønnebåeksholm, Denmark.
Axelsen, H. ‘The Visitors’ < http://h-h.work/The-Visitors> and <http://rundog.art/thevisitors-heidi-axelsen-hugo-moline/ > accessed April 18 2018