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Posts from the ‘RISD Maharam Fellows’ Category

13
Sep

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 p4swla.com 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:

13
Sep

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
https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/01/black-funeral-homes-mourning/426807/ 

‘Ours is a Business of Loyalty’: African American Funeral Home Owners in Southern Cities
By Beverly Bunch-Lyons
https://ncr.vt.edu/docs/53.1.bunch-lyons.pdf 

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
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4-0iAzFIcI&ab_channel=AskAMortician 

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
https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/environmentalisms-racist-history 

13
Sep

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 prairiecreekconservationcemetery.org.

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 prairiecreekconservationcemetery.org.

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 prairiecreekconservationcemetery.org.
10
Sep

We all must re-evaluate and reflect – 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.

16
Aug

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>

7
Aug

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.

2
Aug

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.

1
Aug

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.

 

28
Jul

Virtual Arrival at the Cemetery · Hannah Suzanna · MFA, Digital + Media 2021

Imagine you’re in north-central Florida. It feels like it has been over 100ºF out for weeks. It’s humid. It’s tick season. Someone you love was just admitted to hospice. All of a sudden you are navigating death planning, which… said mildly, can be challenging—a perfect concoction of tricky-to-figure-out logistics piled generously on top of all-the-emotions-at-once. However, if you are in the southeast of the United States there is a body disposition option available that is not easily found everywhere—conservation burials.

Map from Alachua Conservation Trust.

Conservation burials go beyond the standards of natural burial—no vaults, no embalming, only biodegradable burial materials—by promising to forever protect the land where burials take place. Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery (PCCC) is a non-profit community cemetery that borders Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. The 93 acres that sit between Micanopy, Rochelle, and Gainesville, Florida, look nothing like a standard U.S. cemetery.

Walking down PCCC’s Kathy Cantwell Trail you would think you were in a state park—that is, until you noticed mounds of recently turned soil cocooned in pine needles, some of which are covered in carefully laid flowers. In partnerships with Alachua Conservation Trust and Alachua County, Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery restores land by removing invasive or overly-hearty species to preserve legacy species such as live oaks and hickory trees. Unlike standard contemporary cemeteries, PCCC is a place where wildlife and humans abound. There are deer spotted on graves, gators in cypress ponds, people walking through the meadow or seeking shade in the woods, and community members who come to help staff dig graves. 

Burial. Photo provided by prairiecreekconservationcemetery.org.

Of course, that description is representative of the cemetery before COVID-19. The cemetery seems to be operating as usual for the most part—with fewer people allowed on-site, fewer attendees permitted at funerals, and only staff allowed at burials if the deceased died from coronavirus. There are still eagles flying and large banana spiders making equally large webs. My summer looks markedly different than what I imagined. Instead of being in Florida helping to dig graves, maintain the land, and doing in-person outreach to organizations, I am in Providence. 

I started work at PCCC three weeks ago and was nervous because my plan to be in Gainesville, FL in person this summer had been swiftly eradicated by COVID-19. I wasn’t going to meet my supervisor Freddie, the executive director, or the other staff members, Sarah and Carlos, in person. How would I connect with them? Would the experience “work” without me being physically present to dig graves and assist with burials? I worried I would get stuck in an eddy of administrative tasks and lose my link to the stories of people being naturally buried close to ponds filled with cypress and gators; to the story of my dad hoping (to the point of expecting) that he’ll die on the path between the family’s Quonset hut and the rocky shore of the Pacific. For the first five days, I had a spike in anxiety—the kind that clouds my day, leaving me overwhelmed by the uncertainty of new situations, and putting me right to sleep. This was not the beginning I had wanted. However, through the staff members’ graciousness, I have become grounded—even if my soil is made from zoom meetings and phone calls instead of clay, nurse logs, and earthworms.

Photography at Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery for the End of Life Extension Curriculum.

I am now conducting virtual outreach for PCCC. We are trying to figure out how, in the middle of a pandemic, to reach out to end-of-life organizations. We want people to know that there are affordable, sustainable burial practices that offer the ceremony of their choice. However, our primary goal is to provide details on each option so families can make the best choice for whatever their situation may be. 

That’s when I think of my dad. 

My Dad, Christmas 2018 · Hannah Suzanna

When I told my dad about PCCC, he asked if he could get buried there before quickly backtracking—wanting instead to naturally decompose on our property. Many people who hear about Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery wish they had known about the cemetery when a loved one of theirs died. If you haven’t researched your end of life wishes, it is easy in our country to believe that embalming is legally required and expensive caskets are the only option. However there are many body disposition options, of which the nine conservation cemeteries in the U.S. are just one— body composting, alkaline hydrolysis, and donation to forensic anthropology sites are a few alternatives.

I am hopeful that this summer I will find effective avenues of outreach for PCCC, so people can choose body disposition options in alignment with their values. I am optimistic that I will continue to learn more about different ways to take care of dead bodies and the environmental, social, and financial implications of each. I’m curious about how being more open to different death practices will impact my thinking around what I want for my own body and what will happen to my family’s bodies. Where’s the form to make the small canyon, below my dad’s house, where the vultures feed, a conservation cemetery? That’s where my dad wants his body. I wish it was that easy.

Color Gathering: screenshot of cypress and gator pond during virtual PCCC tour. 2020 · Hannah Suzanna

I keep seeing myself as the third point in a triangle, opposite to two places I have not gone this summer—my dad’s house, Raven’s Roost, in Humboldt County, California and the cemetery in Alachua County, Florida (although I’m still holding out hope for a site visit at the end of August). There’s this thread that I can’t quite grasp yet, that is spun from bodies lovingly decomposing into the earth and blackberry brambles and soul-deep humidity, that connects the three locations. This summer will also be an attempt to expose these connections by looking at COVID-19 cases in all three locations, interviewing people in Florida and at home, and collecting colors from each place and examining the stories those hues tell. Maybe the overlap in color will reveal the relationships I am searching for.

Color Prototype No. 1, Index, 2020 · Hannah Suzanna
Color Prototype No. 1, Detail, 2020 · Hannah Suzanna

Project Links:
Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery
My General Research
Color Analysis Spreadsheet
Color prototype No. 1

Additional Death Positive Links:
End Well Live with Ladybird Morgan, RN, MSW, Executive Director of Humane Prison Hospice Project
#RadDeathReads

23
Jul

When is a crisis when it has no beginning or end? – Satya Varghese Mac, BFA Sculpture 2020

Sylvia Rivera (left) whose legacy the Law Project commemorates, and Marsha P. Johnson (right) a mother of the movements for trans and queer liberation

With the confluence of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the recent Black Lives Matter Uprising in response to the onslaught of police killings of Black and Black trans people, the beginning of my time at SRLP has been illuminating about the work of collective organization in a time of crisis. The reality is that these crises that the nation is reckoning with are only outer layers to the perpetual crisis of transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex (TGNCI) peoples’ daily survival and self determination, specifically when their identities intersect with blackness, and/or the realities lived by indigenous people, people of color, people with disabilities, and low income people.

Black Trans Lives Matter protest in Brooklyn NY opposing violence against Black trans lives and the killings of Layleen Polanco, Dominique Rem’mie Fells, Riah Milton, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, and too many more lives lost to the hands of the carceral system, the police, and a society built on transphobia

My work with SRLP is co-supervised by SRLP’s Director of Membership, Sasha, and Director of Outreach and Community Engagement, Kimberly.

With Sasha, I have had the opportunity to interact directly with SRLP members engaging in the community organizing and leadership development opportunities provided by the Movement Building Team and the Shelter Organizing Team (online for now).

Currently, the Movement Building Team is focused on developing the leadership of SRLP’s membership through member-led panel discussions. Based on the group’s interest and experience we began planning two panels: Disability Justice for TGNCI People, and Ending Violence Against Black Trans Women.

Instagram post of SRLP’s Shelter Organizing Team protest against unsafe shelter conditions

Meanwhile, the Shelter Organizing Team is working to change the conditions for TGNC people in shelter and experiencing housing insecurity – a task that is directly affected by the pandemic. In a meeting with NYC’s Department of Homeless Services, I learned that there is a deep disconnection between the city office and the on-the-ground experiences of unhoused people. In a meeting with the Legal Aid Society of NY I was able to hear more about the history of the right to shelter in NYC, and the urgent need for reform to make shelter conditions livable, and to make shelters accessible to TGNCI people.

With Kimberly I am working on projects related to the Prisoner Advisory Committee (PAC) and a forthcoming report on the lives and experiences of TGNCI people in NY state prisons. The PAC is a group of SRLP members who are incarcerated and advise the organization of the needs and experiences of incarcerated TGNCI people. This link with these incarcerated members is crucial in making sure SRLP’s work is done with not for the people it serves. 

Through this work with the forthcoming report I have been doing my own research on the current prison reform and abolition efforts in NYC and nationwide including the HALT Solitary Act which refers to the Mandela rule asserting that prolonged use of solitary confinement is torture, and the Sepulveda Bill which aims to amend correctional law to allow for the early release of certain people in order to lower the impact of COVID-19 on prison populations. I am also researching SRLP’s past initiatives and actions to put together an understanding of the collective’s strategies and message.

The work has fallen into a rhythm that I hope will pick up as I begin the process of relocating to NYC to transition from fully remote to partially in person work. I am hoping that being in a place where my expressed purpose is to dive into the work with SRLP will accelerate things.