Skip to content

Posts from the ‘RISD Maharam Fellows’ Category


Everywhen* 2: The Wiki. Yukon Ice Patch – Kevin Hubbard, MFA Digital + Media, 2020

One of the easiest ways to describe the Yukon Ice Patches is to explain what they are not. Ice Patches are not glaciers. Glaciers are massive bodies of ice that move slowly over land. Ice Patches are large stationary accumulations of snow that compress into ice over thousands of years. According to a 2004 scientific journal there are eighty-five such ice patches in southern Yukon. Sixty-five of which have been ground surveyed, in part. Occupying a study area of 18,000km2, many of the sites are accessible only by helicopter. As for why the ice patches are important—the first question most commonly asked of anyone involved with the Ice Patch Project—the answers are many.

FIG. 1. Study area showing archaeological ice patches in the southern Yukon. From: The Archaeology of Yukon Ice Patches: New Artifacts, Observations, and Insights, 2012. P. Hare, C. Thomas, Timothy N. Topper, Ruth M. Gotthardt

Established in 1997, after sheep hunters Kristin Benedek and her husband Gerry Kuzyk found an arrow near Kusawa Lake in Southern Yukon, the Yukon Ice Patch project was formed between the Government of Yukon and the six Yukon First Nations on whose traditional lands the patches are located. Ranging in age from a late 18th-century musket ball to a dart shaft more than 9000 years old, the patches have revealed more than 200 archaeological artifacts and 1700 faunal remains. Artifacts that have become visible only because the ice patches are melting – a direct result of global warming.

Now residing in the collections of the Government of Yukon Archaeology Program, these artifacts of archaeological significance indicate ‘a tradition of alpine hunting that spans most of the Holocene epoch and provides evidence of traditions from ancient technologies of throwing arts to bows and arrows and musketry’ (Hare et al. 118). Of special importance, these artifacts mostly used for hunting caribou indicate an abrupt technological replacement from throwing dart to bow and arrow in the last 1200 years. Revealed when the covering ice melts, the artifacts are found atop thousands of years of accumulated caribou dung, many feet in depth.

In 2004, the substantial remains of a leather moccasin with drawstring was retrieved from the Gladstone Ice Patch. The size of a contemporary men’s size five shoe, the moccasin was made from three pieces of hide, sewn together using sinew thread with traces of what is thought to be ochre painted on the heel. 

Leather moccasin. Image: Government of Yukon.

Through the retrieval of objects and faunal remains Iand-use patterns and caribou patterns can be documented. Prior to 1997, it was difficult to identify specific areas of resource harvest that formerly relied upon ethnographies and oral histories. 

The ice patches occupy the traditional territories of six Yukon First Nations: The Carcross/Tagish, Champagne and Aishihik, Kluane, and Kwanlin Dün First Nations, and the Ta’an Kwächän and Teslin Tlingit Councils. All of these self-governing First Nations are partners in the Yukon Ice Patch Project. Far beyond ‘representing’ something, according to authors Sheila Greer (Champagne and Aishihik First Nations) and Diane Strand (Champagne and Aishihik First Nations), for these First Nations the ice patches are a tangible connection to the past that communicate intangible cultural heritage, an opportunity to strengthen culture, enhance citizens’ understanding of their history, and a vehicle to express First Nations values regarding cultural resources (Greer and Strand 136).

Beyond markers of a physical past, artifacts connected to caribou hunting—animals which are now found only in a limited area in the southern Yukon—are vital to the history and culture of local first Nations. Caribou are frequently mentioned in traditional stories set in the long-ago time when animals and humans could talk together. (Hare et al. 9) .

Together, the collaborative Ice Patch Project Group consists of Yukon and First Nation governments and research institutions. These are the principal partners: Yukon Government Department of Environment; Yukon Government Department of Tourism and Culture; Carcross/Tagish First Nation (CTFN); Champagne and Aishihik First Nations (CAFN); Kluane First Nation (KFN); Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN); Ta’an Kwäch’än Council (TKC); and Teslin Tlingit Council (TTC). In the past decade partners have included University of Alberta, University of Alaska, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, the Henry Wellcome Ancient Biomolecules Centre at Oxford University, Geological Survey of Canada, and Icefield Instruments Inc. In addition, many Yukoners have assisted with fieldwork – visiting the ice patch sites. And many others have assisted with laboratory studies.

As for what this project is, and what it may become…Everywhen* it is not a means to communicate already well documented facts about the Yukon Ice Patches, the Ice Patch Project, or the groups involved with the IPP. Rather, the aim is for it to be an evolving, process driven, exploratory artistic investigation of the individuals and their procedures in relation to the Ice Patch Project work. For the most part, the details l have shared here, the inclusion of others’ research, and the direction to other sources of information will constitute the totality of this reiteration of fact. Going forth, Everywhen will delve into the nuances of overlapping story, opinion, conflict, histories, and desires. In this way, Everywhen will be a cultural artifact of a particular undertaking inextricably tied to place and time. It will be an artifact of today.

*Note: currently the title Everywhen is a placeholder working title; one of which I am still ambivalent. Some sources cite the term ‘everywhen’ as originating in a 1956 essay by Australian anthropologist WEH Stanner in relation to the concept of Jukurrpa as related to the belief systems of Indigenous Australian Peoples. This is in addition to the commonly known anglicized versions of ‘dreaming’ or ‘dreamtime’, which are also contentious terms.


In-Person Arrival at the Cemetery · Hannah Suzanna · MFA, Digital + Media 2021

Untitled Afterlife Study 26.08.20 by Hannah Suzanna · Condensation on my window where I stayed in Gainesville overlaid with an image of beauty berries. A print of this image is for sale on where all proceeds will be donated to hurricane relief in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to go to the cemetery at all due to the pandemic, but everything came together in the last few weeks of the fellowship. I ended up being able to get free housing from a friend of the cemetery (thanks Mary!). I stayed in a mother-in-law unit on the edge of a beautiful turtle filled pond, 20 minutes from Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery (PCCC).

Cemetery Lane is the only road going in and out of Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery. Photo by Hannah Suzanna.

The first day I arrived, I participated in a burial. Being a helper at a funeral instead of one of the mourners was strikingly different, of course. It was not my grief. I followed the lead of the cemetery staff members as they helped to load the shrouded body onto the burial cart, assisted the family to the plot, helped to lower the body into the grave, and with aid from the loved ones buried the body.

Families can move fallen branches and plants from the site to create a biodegradable grave marker. Referred to as a “nature sculpture,” there can be no writing on these identifiers. Photo by Hannah Suzanna.

The cemetery was quiet while I was there, in comparison to having two burials per week since February (higher than their usual frequency). There was one burial the day I arrived and one the day before I left. I was able to help dig a grave the morning I started my drive back up to Providence. 

Me, digging a grave. Photo by Carlos Gonzalez, edited by Hannah Suzanna.

Everyone at the cemetery was incredibly supportive. They consistently provided me with images, helped me to collect audio samples, collected bones of wildlife found on the site, and allowed me to interview them. I was able to talk to a board member who had a family member buried in the cemetery and the head of Alachua Conservation Trust, who collaborates with the cemetery to restore the land. I talked with Freddie, the executive director and one of the founders who, when he was dissatisfied with his body disposition options, created Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery. He told me about the origin story of PCCC. The first burial was a woman, Kathy Cantwell, who was involved in the cemetery planning and was an active community member in Gainesville. Carlos told me about the different areas in the cemetery, the wetlands where burials are prohibited, the shady woods which is the domain of mosquitos, and the bright meadow where black-eyed Susans bloom and bats fly at night. Sarah gave me the no-nonsense details how how things were run, how the cemetery has to work with families, how the locations of graves are recorded.  The cemetery staff, board, and collaborators helped me more generously than I could have ever asked.

Cypress wetlands at Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery. No burials are permitted within 75 feet of the water. Photo by Hannah Suzanna.

As for where this will take me next? I recently found another site of interest—the abandoned parking lot by Urban Greens Co-op. I met up with a friend to test a H1 recorder and we ended up wandering to the lot. He regularly would pause by and comment on other crack-filled plains of asphalt, so on this nigh I interviewed him about why he was interested in the sites. He said it was dystopian and a sign of natures ability to transmute, from man-made structures popping up constantly to sprouts breaking through once smooth cement. Later I went back and filmed the wind blowing through plants.

The abandoned parking lot at sunset. Photo by Hannah Suzanna.

I think there’s a relationship between Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery, The Raven’s Roost, and this abandoned lot. I think I’ll have to consult my colors and my tarot to figure it out.

Here’s a silly preview I made to introduce myself to the new members in my department:


A Personal Investigation into Death · Hannah Suzanna · MFA, Digital + Media 2021

Seal or sea lion carcass found on beach in front of my dad’s house. Photo by Hannah Suzanna.

In addition to investigating death through the environmental lens of the site, I also spent time interviewing my dad about what he wants for his own death. This conversation was hard, but not because of anticipatory grief, or because we haven’t broached the subject of his death before. Quite the contrary. My dad would make light of his own death while I was growing up, in order to address the reality without, hopefully, making the topic something I feared. He’s told me to taxidermy his body and mount his head on a plaque like a talking trout trophy so that whenever someone walk’s by a phrase, pre-recorded in his voice, we be shouted at them. Currently, he would like to be rolled off of the path between my family’s home and the beach to decompose naturally and be eaten by animals. He doesn’t care too much though, being cremated and scattered in the ocean with our other family members’ remains would also suffice.

Photo of my oma in front of our house, The Roost. Photo by Martin Garrett.

The challenging part when thinking about death in my family always is about logistics. Which is sad, as one part of my brain can separate out the importance of someone dying from the importance of interpersonal squabbles. However, a strange (and disturbing) part of grief in our society has to do with property ownership. Our family’s house, The Raven’s Roost, is a quonset hut with its own strange mythology. It was a WWII aircraft hanger 40 miles inland before, so the story goes, Edgar Allen Poe’s nephew moved it to it’s current location on the coast. My great grandparents, on my Opa’s side, purchased it when their landlord decided to sell in the 70s. As the primary property of a family without a large income, figuring out how to maintain and care for both the land and the house can bring up a large amount of stress.

My dad retrieving rope washed ashore with help from Kona. Photo by Hannah Suzanna.

Down the hill though is a different world. The path down to the Pacific goes past blackberry brambles and ferns, under trees and beside creeks. It opens up just above the beach to an area called “The Flat Space” a clover covered valley filled with wildflowers and multiple artichoke varieties that a friend of my dad’s gave to him. 

Photo of The Flat Space. Photo by Martin Garrett.

The whole family loves this home, and yet it seems sometimes too unwieldy, like the family dynamics are too strained to come together to take care of it. To make it a comfortable place for my Oma, my dad, and probably my uncle, to age and to die. And will it be manageable for my cousin’s and I to keep once it’s in our hands or will it be too full of it’s own holes, too much tax, too overrun with mouldering books and old mattresses? 

Everyone tells met to separate myself from this stress, that it’s far off, that it’s not my responsibility, that it’s just the material world. These arguments make sense, and I can apply them to other areas of my life, but my connection to this upside-down halfpipe of a home is incredibly strong.

Me on the beach in front of The Roost. Photo by Martin Garrett.

Beyond the personal, understanding the societal context of death is also important — particularly recognizing that racial disparities occur around death, as well as in life. Due to bodies being treated poorly by white funeral directors, Black funeral homes became a trusted source within Black communities. No matter what someone had faced during life, these funeral homes would treat the body with the respect it was due. Outside of working with the cemetery and my own personal investigations, I also participated in a book club put on by The Collective for Radical Death Studies about mass death and social justice. Some focuses included memorialization (Who is it for? Who does it benefit?) and the politics of grief (the interplay of grief and activism, and different reasons why grieving would be shared publicly or kept private). 

While I was helping with PCCC’s presentation, another university student studying conservation cemeteries, and who attended one of our events, gave two source about disparities within death toward Black people and Black death rituals:

The Disappearance of a Distinctively Black Way ​to Mourn
By Tiffany Stanley 

‘Ours is a Business of Loyalty’: African American Funeral Home Owners in Southern Cities
By Beverly Bunch-Lyons 

Additionally, there is a video called:
Why Are Black & White Funeral Homes STILL Separate?
By Caitlin Doughty in conversation with Dr. Kami Fletcher, president of The Collective for Radical Death Studies 

It is also important to note conservation’s racism, particularly toward indigenous peoples, which is highlighted in the article:
Environmentalism’s Racist History
By Jedediah Purdy 


Outreach for the Cemetery · Hannah Suzanna · MFA, Digital + Media 2021

Google Maps Search of Hospices in Alachua County, FL.

For Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery (PCCC), I called hospital chaplains and hospice organizations in Alachua County to see if they would be interested in a staff presentation about PCCC and different body disposition options that many people are unaware of. The cemetery is in an interesting place where more people are tuning into their presence, both due to rising awareness of environmental death practices and due to an increase of death planning as a result of COVID-19. This is leading to them getting more reservations for burial plots at the cemetery, but not the same rate of increase of burials (although burial rate has gone up as well). If the reservation rate stays high, particularly for people who will be alive for 30-50 more years, the cemetery will cease to be a resource for at-need burials. This would be unfortunate because, in addition to being environmentally supportive, PCCC offers the most affordable burial option in the area — only $2000 for the plot and burial. Even with funeral home expenses, someone can have a burial for easily less than $4000 which, while in my opinion should be covered by social programs for everyone, is still strikingly lower than the national average $8000–$10,000.

Costs of Services at Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery. Slide design by Hannah Suzanna. Image by Melissa Hill, provided by

Because of this, the cemetery wants to reach local end of life organizations who are working with individuals and families who are likely to have a death soon. However, cold calling for a staff presentation was ineffective. In talking with one of the cemetery’s board members, who also is a lead nurse in a local hospital, she explained that medical workers are being asked to manage their usual tasks as well as new COVID-19 protocols. Scheduling an additional meeting for staff is unrealistic. However, through doing the outreach more organizations became at least passingly familiar with Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery, which will hopefully translate to more of their clients becoming informed about the cemetery and make it easier for the cemetery to connect in the future.

Shrouded body on burial cart. Image provided by

The most effective form of outreach was inviting people who had already expressed interest in the cemetery to one-off presentations, virtually hosted by PCCC itself. Those invited included funeral home workers, cemetery volunteers who also work in medicine, board members, university students researching conservation burials, and community members. At the end of the presentations we expressed interest in presenting for more groups, and received leads for future outreach. If I had had more time there I would have worked with them on adapting this presentation for continuing education units required to maintain medical licenses such as nursing. This would have required adding a layer of granularity regarding where different body disposition options were available locally, as well as more precision around pricing and environmental impacts for lesser known options (such as donating to a forensic body farm or liquid cremation). 

Still from Freddie Johnson’s presentation, What’s a Body to Do? This iteration was presented on August 20, 2020. Slide design by Hannah Suzanna. Image provided by

Recentering an Abolitionist Framework – Satya Varghese Mac, BFA Sculpture, 2020

Since the second week of August I’ve been able to work in person twice per week on certain work that cannot leave the SRLP office. Since staff are on a staggered schedule, I have been able to take safety measures including working in a private separately ventilated room. 

Though it absolutely changes the relationship to my work and the scope of my involvement, working in person while adhering to important safety measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 limits my ability to build connections with my supervisors, other staff, and community members. This work is so community and consensus based that this has been a challenging aspect of our reality for the entire organization. 

Socially distance news interview at the SRLP office

My supervisors have graciously offered me numerous professional development resources including sending me to the Groundswell Fund’s Grassroots Organizing Institute virtual convening where I took part in workshops about digital organizing, mutual aid, updates from movement organizations around the country, and training on direct action.

As a part of the Shelter Organizing Team’s Campaign for Safe Shelter, I have been working on our correspondence with stakeholders to follow up on demands for improving the conditions for trans and gendernonconforming (TGNC) people in shelter. As with any organizing strategy, at some point you must take a step back and reassess the efficacy of your action. Moving past one year of correspondence with city agencies, the Shelter Organizing Team is reassessing and noticing that staying at the table and keeping a passive engagement is not bringing the results that we need to end the systematic harm perpetuated against TGNC people.

My involvement has continued on the report based on the work and experiences of the Prisoner Advisory Committee, and  I have been able to contribute in a writing capacity by helping to re-evaluate and re-write the policy recommendations to make them align better with SRLP’s abolitionist and non-compromising agenda. 

With all of this work, I find that my perspective and training as an artist with a RISD education has served me most in my eye and intuition for narrative. We are working with the very personal realities of trauma, resilience, and lived experience, and it can be difficult to hold the individual and their narrative experience when trying to reach policymakers and potential allies. Although the realities may be incommunicable, it is my responsibility as a storyteller to begin to bring these realities out of the abstract.


“Interwoven Journey” -Valeria Ramirez Ensastiga MA NCSS ‘21

This is the final week of my internship with THP – Mexico. I have had learnings in all senses: from working completely online for the first time to knowing how to talk about the preservation of traditional knowledge without idealizing its fossilization. I am definitely grateful to the RISD Maharam Fellowship, which has allowed me to live this extraordinary experience even in the midst of the pandemic.

Although the recommendation when writing nonfiction for children is to avoid mixing with fiction, we decided that it was important to respond to the indigenuos ‘oraliteratura’ (which is the fact that orality and the use of storytelling is the natural mode of transmission of knowledge among indigenous and rural communities). Thus, the final product is a tale that explains different aspects of sustainable development, coupled with some activities specifically designed to invite the children and their families to reflect about how to achieve a more ecological life.

The story narrates the encounter between Zazil, a girl who lives in a rural community in the jungle, and a jaguar with her cub with the aim of  showing the interconnection between humans, other species and their natural environment. In each of its 12 sections, one different topic is reviewed, explaining the current situation and the necessity to achieve a local sustainable development. Some of the topics are: water, waste reduction, indigenous languages ​​and non-discrimination, traditional food and health, among others.

After several reviews by both, the THP team in Mexico City and some of the youth community leaders (catalysts), the result was two booklets. The children’s booklet contains Zazil’s story, and the catalyst booklet includes the tale plus 4 other sections. The first of these sections contains suggested activities to help children reflect more on the topic covered in each chapter. The second section is a table with data on the topic at the individual, community and global levels. The third section suggests an exercise of deep reflection for the child (and her/his family) to diagnose her (their) own current situation and thus, create a beginning in visualizing changes at the individual and family level that can be carried out to contribute to a sustainable development.  Finally, the fourth section is a list of tips that people can easily follow and share with others in their community. The THP-Mexico team also plans to use the illustrations in this last section to spread the tips through WhatsApp with the other adults that the organization works with.

The illustrations are simple shapes and the selected colors allow the image to be easily understood even though they are printed in black and white, because I figured that some of the young leaders would do the physical distribution within their communities and, for now at least, they will pay the cost of printing, making black and white printing a better option for them. The THP team is looking into funding other alliances to translate the material to some indigenous languages and to do a good quality printing of the material when the pandemic is over. 

This last week I’ve been dedicated to finishing the illustrations and polishing some editorial details that the THP team has observed. Maybe after testing it in the field THP, will need to make some adaptations according to the feedback they get. For now, I am very happy with the results that were obtained because I believe that these will help the catalysts to appropriate the content; transmit it to the children and; also, to spread it within the families of these little ones.


Week 10 & 11: Finishing Transient Stillness and Choreography of Light – Yunni Cho, BRDD 21′

<Transient Stillness>

Transient Stillness is focused on the poetic and abstract nature of daylight and its beauty. It started with my own personal observation of the sky in my neighborhood due to the physical restrictions I faced with the current pandemic. The project was realized by simply trying many different methods to document what I saw and how I felt in response to each and every moment I had with daylight. The result of those experimentations is this book.

Rather than focusing on the objective information or the universal truth, my project communicates a very personal – in fact, quite narrow – point of view towards daylight. By sharing my own perception in this way, I hope to share my appreciation and passion for natural light with others. The use of different techniques attempts to recreate the four visual properties of daylight, analyzing each layer separately. In real life, all four properties occur almost simultaneously to create our vision, which often makes us forget the value of a single property on its own. Through the separation of the properties, I wanted to show the beauty that is unique to each property, allowing the viewers to rethink and evaluate their own perception of light in a similar manner.

This project is about sharing my personal thoughts and experiences. But it can also serve as a guide to follow. For each technique I used, I included a few reference pictures of the daylight conditions I depicted in order to show the whole process of my analysis. I hope these pictures make the drawings more approachable and accessible to understand how they were produced, as they show a snapshot of what I saw at that particular moment. 

We see daylight almost everyday, and yet we rarely find time in our busy lives to appreciate its power and beauty. As this project shows, our natural light constantly changes its form, color, position in space, and movement. In other words, every moment of our daylight is unique and special. 

My ultimate goal for Transient Stillness is to allow one to find more beauty and appreciation in their daily interactions with light. Along with my drawings and pictures, I also included a few quotes from other architects, interior designers, and lighting professionals to provide a wider platform and range of  perspectives to discuss natural light. This project has not ended yet. Indeed, this is just a beginning to start a longer discussion about daylight by inviting others to reflect and share their versions of daylight. Transient Stillness will change and evolve as much as daylight itself.

<Choreography of Light>

In my research, I came across essays on public narrative written by Marshall Ganz in 2008 for Harvard Kennedy School. In this article, Ganz talks about how to effectively create a shared story through a story of self, us, and now. He states that through the narrative story of ‘self’ and ‘us’, one can build a sense of community. Similarly, through the story of ‘us’ and ‘now’, urgency gets formed and ‘purpose’ arises from the story of ‘self’ and ‘now’. I think his logic on public narrative is a perfect fit for the Choreography of Light

A story of self emerges from our lighting – what has shaped ‘me’ – as it reflects one’s individual perception of their surroundings. The chapters on lighting design for architectural spaces shape a story of ‘us’ – about our shared values and experience – forming the connection between lighting and spatial experience, shaping the community of place. The chapters on the excessive use of artificial light in a city and the problem of light pollution is the story of ‘now’ – about strategies  and actions – asking for a solution to urgency. 

By borrowing Ganz’s method to organize different chapters, I wanted to achieve simplicity. I organized each chapter in the same order using the same medium. Every chapter starts with a source picture, which is then digitally analyzed to show different layers of lighting, followed by an essay about a broader theme, and ends with citations and notes from my research process. Through this straightforward organization, my aim was to present relatable and accessible content for a wide audience from diverse backgrounds. Sharing stories about light from many different vantages, this project attempts to engage in ongoing collaborative research about our usage of light in various environments through non-academic pedagogies.

In creating this project, I received immense help from Ulrike Brandi, a well-known lighting designer and a professional based in Hamburg, Germany and Luca Salas Bassani Antivari, an architectural designer and lighting specialist from Mexico City. Despite our time differences and working schedules, we were in constant contact with each other through video calls and messaging. I would like to thank them for their contributions and generous support.

<Virtual presentation / meeting Notes>


B1-Sensing the Senses: Design for Sensory Overload Mitigation in Public Spaces- Chetan Dusane- MID ’21

May be ‘The Scream’ is an aftermath of Sensory Overload!

!t was a FaMily of 5ive; mother, fat#er, two preTeen daughters, and a younger s0n. The park was over_full and lined with medDling, loud hawkers, and auto-rickshaw drivers, as us<ual. The parents whisked the Children around to find the perfect spot, or rather, just some sp0t to sit. After squeezing through the crOwd to settle down on a patch of grAss, it was time to get some snacks from the bAYing and moBBed hawkers. StriVing hard to order the snacK and harder t_o get it, the father then finds the faMily to see the wife struGgling to rein in the childr:en. The stru?Gle continues to ward oFf the stra/y dogs and l@@k after the chiLdren who are scu{rying around to get in [ong, disorderly queues for the merry-go-rounds. The h<nking vehicles outside, clam@uring people, inap#ropriate lights and stray animals, make the place aberrantly ten$e. The husba/^d sco[ds the meek wife for something, with the argument ending with a slAp across the eldest daughter’s f@ce for no apparent fault of hers. The family )eaves in a huff, )eaving be%ind the unfinisheb snack$, only for the stRays to $camper around with another groUp trying to shOO them aw_ay and ‘grab’ the spot, and the hu$$tle continues…

(imagine having constantly scrambled experiences in daily life just as the words in the paragraph above!)

This was when it struck me! The irony of our experiences as urban Indians with most of our public spaces. The very spaces meant for the facilitation of services and life in general, turning into arenas of sensory abuse.

I could not help but wonder about our daily experiences as the citizens of the world’s most densely populated city, Mumbai and retrace a typical day in it. The harried ticket vendors in packed public buses, frigid auto-rickshaw drivers with blaring music, flustered traffic police personnel in the perpetually noisy and suffocating traffic jams; fazed, overburdened, indifferent public officials; the often scurrying and disorderly citizens, catching a suburban train running six times its capacity or frustratedly waiting at the same traffic light multiple times as queues outrun the green light or hustling daily to get a bite at an overcrowded roadside shack or the perpetual competition even to fulfil basic necessities, compelled me to study the effects of such constant distraction and sensory abuse of an average citizen.

Glimpses of Daily Life in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region including Panvel City

Such overstimulation of the bodily senses due to stimuli present in the urban environment can lead to Sensory Overload (SO). It has been linked to stress, anxiety, bouts of anger, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), etc., among the urban populations. It can have adverse effects on the performance of individuals in urban settings. Most importantly, it made me wonder whether it makes us desensitized and unempathetic as people. This pervasive phenomenon, I feel, eventually affects the very ethos of the community. This disquiet towards the phenomenon of SO proved to the genesis of this project.

The local government bodies in India responsible for public spaces, like the Panvel Municipal Corporation (or PMC, the collaborating agency in this work) do not have an active mechanism to identify, link and tackle the various factors within an urban setting which cause SO. An enquiry into the matter revealed that PMC and other local governments, in general, deal with SO grievances only through actions like installing signs or imposing fines and not by understanding its root causes. This modus-operandi generally leads to non-standardized methods of problem identification, establishment and solving. The solutions drawn from such processes are reactive, non-replicable and non-optimal, without a robust framework.

The plan is to develop a deeper understanding of the SO, to establish its underlying causes in urban environments. I aim to build a problem identification and establishment framework, as a tool to comprehend SO, its multi-dimensional attributes and their interrelations, in select public space(s) in the rapidly developing and densely populated city of Panvel in the state of Maharashtra. A city, which now falls under the bustling Mumbai Metropolitan Region, with the saturated crowds from the neighbouring Mumbai city escaping here for some relative respite. This work will be an attempt at introducing Design/Systems Thinking in the corporation’s process of developing overload mitigation measures and policies for public spaces across the city.

Location of Panvel Municipal Area on the Map of India

Currently, my work involves studying the human senses and their interactions with the built environment. The Indian context, however, presents challenging but exciting opportunities in this regard owing to the additional layers of complexity due to cultural, traditional, lingual, financial, and environmental diversity of the region. Initial conversations with the people there, provide a sense of their unawareness regarding their exposure to SO. Only through diligently framed and vetted (as unbiased as possible) questionnaires, do they recognize some of its effects like exhaustion, stress, irritability, disinterest in professional and personal life etc. I expect these interactions to lead to the identification and establishment of the various factors responsible for SO and the most affected public spaces in the context of Panvel. Further, efforts are underway to find out the overload limits of various senses. Through this study, the elements of the built environment that contribute to SO will be analyzed, contextualized and effort will be made to visualize their hierarchy.

The Seven Senses under Study

One of the significant learning until now is the fact that SO is a highly contextual and personal phenomenon, quite dynamic in nature depending on various psychological, anthropological and environmental factors. It calls for a holistic approach to investigation. Secondly, I have realized a need for due consideration and thought to define an overload of a particular sense, the urbanness of a region and the ways senses interact with one another, and the environment.

The inability to be physically present on the field to record practical experiences and the hectic schedule of PMC because of the COVID-19 crisis management works are the hindrances to the data collection process. Moreover, there is a shortage of data in the Indian context to help quantify the sensory stimuli. Nevertheless, I continue to review the available literature and collect data through online questionnaires as an alternative to field study and in-person interviews. My next steps would be to try and connect with PMC as much as possible and find connections and patterns within the data generated from various resources. The progress is sluggish given the circumstances, but I remain positive and motivated.


WEEK 8 & 9: Now is the time for strategic planning and execution – Yunni Cho, BRDD 21’

As discussed in my previous blog, I had spent some time reflecting on my progress and testing different methods for presentation. The previous two weeks were about finalizing deliverables and presentation methods. I first finished making time lapse videos of making the ‘color’, ‘position in space’, and ‘movement’ sections for Transient Stillness in addition to the previous section on the ‘form’. I am very satisfied with the format of a video for showing the process of how each drawing and picture was created. The time-lapse technique allows me to tell a somewhat long and complicated history of making in a shortened period of time, which could be a very effective tool for communication. 

In addition to this time-lapse video, I included ‘body’ pages to the ‘Transient Stillness’ book design, which are five selected drawings from each section alongside with the source picture of the sky. I photoshopped all the pictures to be black and white for the section on ‘form’ and ‘position in space’ to match the style of the drawings. And for the section on the ‘movement’, I included three screenshots from the original time-lapse videos that were used to create three divided sections for each of the images.

Similarly, for the Choreography of Light, I wanted to find a way to organize all the contents and unite the chapters in a cohesive manner. Choreography of Light started with an intention to create an open, accessible, and friendly forum to understand and analyze light around the world. More specifically, this project is focused on understanding  the coexistence of natural light and artificial light. Each photo chosen for a chapter serves as a starting point to discuss important issues around the use and power of light. And through a collection of photo-analysis of different urban light conditions, the project aims to find the right amount and balance of bright and darkness needed in our cities and beyond. 

Last week, I came across a literature on public narrative written by a professor. Marshall Ganz in 2008 for Harvard Kennedy School. In this article, he talks about how to effectively create a shared story through a story of self, us, and now. He states that through the story of ‘self’ and ‘us’, one can build a sense of community. Similarly, through the story of ‘us’ and ‘now’, urgency forms and ‘purpose’ arises from the story of ‘self’ and ‘now’. And I thought his logic on public narrative could be perfectly applied to the Choreography of Light

So far, I have five chapters in total – four chapters on exploring lighting usage in a house, office, museum, and an urban night-scape, through which I discuss the problem of light pollution and the power of light in an architectural design. I also have a chapter on light and perception, questioning how different light intensities and angles could alter our vision. Light and perception shows a story of self – what has shaped ‘me’ – as it reflects one’s individual perception of their surroundings. The chapters on lighting design for a house, office, and museum form a story of us – shared values and experience – as it talks about the connection between lighting and spatial experience, shaping the community of place. The chapter on the excessive usage of artificial light in a city and the problem of light pollution is the story of now – strategy and action – as it asks for a solution to urgency. As my chapters could follow Ganz’s structure of an effective public narrative, I would like to try organizing my chapters with the same strategy by telling the story of self, us, and now. 

As we are approaching the final month of the fellowship, we created a sharable remote server between my laptop and the office in Hamburg, Germany. Through the VPN connection and the Microsoft desktop software, I now have access to all the files from Germany and can easily share and save my documents on Ulrike’s computer. This remote connection allows us to work more efficiently and take advantage of our time difference by using the same computer in different time zones. 

In our previous group zoom meetings between South Korea, Germany, and Mexico, we proposed that dusk and dawn periods have different colors and durations depending on the latitude and longitude. Both Ulrike and Luca shared time-lapse videos they took in their countries, and I combined them with mine to create this short video to start the comparison to test our theory. It is just a beginning to an ongoing research project, but we are already noticing apparent differences just by looking at the videos.

Before I end this blog, I wanted to share my notes from an exhibition I visited on July 25th, Watching Together hosted by Jeju Museum of Art. The presentation aimed to explore and contemplate the future of Korean art through a display of various multidimensional art. Every single artist from the show made a very careful use of light in their work, and many different light sources were installed in various colors, intensities, and scales. Although these works were very different to my projects in terms of their style and format, I found some commonalities between some of the works and my projects in the language of light. And the exhibition was very moving and inspiring.


Wrapping up, and reflecting on my time at the farm, Eli Kauffman, BFA Painting 21′

Still of James introducing the farm from the virtual tour video.

I have just completed my last few days down at the Green Phoenix Farm, and am following though on a few last minute elements of the project that need finishing touches. In the past two weeks I have spent less time working on the murals, and much more time editing the virtual tour video. Though it is now completed, Wasatch Community Gardens has yet to post the video, because we are still evaluating the best context to show it in. The intended impact is on potential donors and volunteers who show an active interest in learning more about the farm, but there is possibility for the virtual tour to have a larger impact. Overall I am pleased with the film and feel that it depicts the lively energy of the farm as best it can. James, Julie, and Cher did a wonderful job speaking on camera, and their personalities showed through even in the shorter clips.

Top: Still of Cher and myself walking through the farm. Bottom: Still of Cher feeding the chickens.

Over the past week many members of the team including Cher and Julie have had to miss work for personal reasons, so unfortunately only a few members of Wasatch Community Gardens have seen the final film so far. Though it was well received by them, I am still hoping to show the rest of the team at some point and see what they think. Because so much of the team was absent from the farm recently, it has been a quiet end to my time here. Though it hasn’t been the ending I expected, reflecting on the past 9 weeks I can proudly say that in collaboration with Wasatch Community Gardens, I have been able to accomplish all of the goals set out in our proposal.

Top: A photo of the first mural now that the crops have grown in around it. Bottom: The other side of the Solar Shed, completed last week.

Compared to when I started the fellowship, I now know so much more about what it means to make public art and work with a community to create visuals that are significant to them. The murals I have been able to do on the farm are nothing like the paintings that I make in my personal practice, but learning that those can be separate has been a positive. I have also learned so much more about planting, harvesting, and plant identification. These new skills will affect my artistic and personal growth more than I even expected initially.

Photo from harvesting Mizuna seeds in my section of the farm.

Though I will still be able to occasionally go volunteer or visit the farm, my time there will be much more limited. I am still looking forward to the possibility of working on more public art on Wasatch Community Gardens’ educational campus in the future, but that wouldn’t happen until construction is finished a while from now. After having gotten to know the Green Phoenix Farm so well, I am still amazed at their impact and how many people from different areas of the city they are able to feed. I have so much admiration for the work that they do and their consistent dedication to it. I can only hope that my artistic contribution will help to better reflect their mission and personality to visitors of the farm in the future.

Weekly shares from the farm waiting to be picked up by community members.