Early in 2019, artist and Blast Theory resident Marina Wainer ran a project with the students of the Product Design course at the University of Sussex. The project resulted in several group collages about the future of nature and short videos that expand on the content.
The work contributed to the ‘future’ section of the first year module on “Narratives of Design in Modern Culture” led by Ann Light. The four videos are works linked by the question “What if nature had rights?” and were produced in collaboration with Violeta Marchenkova.
Context of the project:
Former Blast Theory Resident Marina Wainer: “The conceptual environment I wanted to anchor in this work was to explore how in a context of profound transformation, the world evolves and takes shape in a strong and complex relationship between Man, living and non-living. The first question brought others: what relationships are we developing with other species, the natural elements, AI? How can these forms of life or existence feed imaginations, build stories, inspire processes? My idea was to work on an interactive fiction around representations of natural elements as if they had legal status. In recent decades, some ecosystems have been recognised as ‘people’ in many countries around the world. A radical shift concerning nature’s right to exist for itself.”
Take a look at the student’s videos below, each with a short description from Violeta Marchenkova.
More details of Marina’s work can be found on her Blast Theory blog, here.
“I think the idea of phones here is really interesting. Incorporating them into our experience of wilderness and (what we call) nature is great, especially the shot of the zombifying videos on devices against the backdrop of moss and grass. The need for permissions draws attention to the plight of nature, but turns everything into yet another contractual relationship.”
The Last Tree
“This video tips into one of the greatest challenges of facing an ecological crisis: that people keep waiting for “the right kind of information” to start acting; all of these studies and scientific research seem to not be enough to cause a global scale reaction. So I thought it was really cool that they enacted this dystopian scenario: like, we might as well be facing the death of our last tree and then still flick the channels and do nothing,”
“This group focused on Marina’s research project and analysed the implications of legal identity being assigned to nature. Violeta comments “I really loved how in their collage all the images are the same size – people, plants, animals, buildings all take the same amount of space – which (maybe, unintentionally) challenges anthropocentric ideas,”
Ignorance Is Bliss
“The collage is really imaginative and had some beautiful visual contradictions, so it was a delight to craft a narrative out of it, though I ended up not using most of the gorgeous shots with projected fire,” says Violeta. It was an interesting choice to use cutouts of retro (maybe 1960s) figures; with a backdrop of natural disasters it created a strong sense of tragedy, a stylized drama like David Lynch’s films. The narration sounded more like a description of a current state of the world, rather than a speculative fiction about 2051. Mistake or not, it generated a curious paradox: “the dystopian future is already here and now”.