Masks for the Anthropocene
06.30.2015, 4:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

mmexport1435117389464-1v0ggrjXiaoxuan Fu, Dragon Tree Mask (green tea, rice tea, flour and corn tassel)

Design, make and perform a mask to bring awareness to issues related to environmental change and/or possibly alter the behavior of those who use/wear it.

A group of ten students were charged with this task as their final project Masks for the Anthropocene The project was part of a recently completed five-week intensive taught by FOP co-founder Jamie Kruse for the course entitled Sustainable Systems. Sustainable Systems is a first-year required course at Parsons School of Design that introduces and prepares first-year students to work with “wicked problems” as artists and designers.  It does this through sequenced field trips to locations around New York City, lectures, fieldwork and applied scientific methods and encourages students to develop creative skills that support diversity, adaptability and resilience in the face of ever-changing conditions.

The mask project gave students a chance to materialize some aspect of at least one of the themes developed in the class. The themes included: intentional observation, climate change, wicked problems, storm surge, sixth extinction, social resiliency, guilt/denial of climate change, impact on air, water, plants, animals, waste, long-term/geologic thinking and the materials of the Anthropocene (such as plastic and nuclear waste).

Might a mask be able to materialize/translate a theme into an object or character of the Anthropocene that can be experienced? Might a mask invite someone wearing it to behave differently — to become more resilient or provide protection or encouragement in relation to a contemporary environmental problem, such as a nearly extinct animal, a person living near Fukushima, someone living in Evacuation Zone 1 of New York City, or someone dealing with poor air quality in Beijing? What happens to who and what a person “is” when they wear a mask designed with such questions in mind?

Students performatively documented their projects — that is, they activated the masks and interacted with other people or things in the world. Student-designers carefully considered their choices of materials and contextualizing narratives.  The resulting masks were incredibly diverse. All of the students were international (from China, Colombia, Korea, Mexico, Taiwan and Saudi Arabia), and several of the masks focused on issues affecting their home countries.  As a result, the mask offer a global tour of sorts, of regions and materials that are being altered by the Anthropocene.

The project summary, design brief and documentation of the masks can be seen here.  The course blog, Art + Design for Changing Conditions, documents additional course projects, design briefs and curriculum.

image-28r3u7v-768x1024-v1gyix-768x1024Sara (Qihan) Dong, Mask for the Anthropocene

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