Lichen in Love

Graduation project at Design Academy Eindhoven
Social Design Masters 2016
Gijs Bakker Award Nominee

Project is the outcome of 1 - year long research about
a relationship between a human and a nonhuman other.
Project questions our uniqueness as a specie and imagine
a possible shift to more inclusive and open towards non-humans
mindset by proposing a non-utilitarian and nonhuman-centred
approach. A case study organism is lichen - symbiotic creature
inhabiting various natural and man-made surfaces.
‘Lichen in love’ is a speculative scenario where lichen isn’t
approached as an object or commodity, but as a friend and
a subject of a fascination. A set of designed objects reflects
an intimacy and blends boundaries between two distant
organisms. From a scientific balloon that escorts lichen to a saf
e place far away from humans, to an oxygenating mouthpiece,
or a mirror that sheds light on this symbiotic life form.
The objects are accompanied by a set of love letters showcasing
a new and impassioned relationship with a nonhuman.
Read Love Letters and Thesis

1st Transition is called Lichenized Machines.
It’s the most elementary step in approaching non-human
like lichen, because it encourages empathy, curiosity and
non-utilitarian thinking. Designed objects explore the problems
troubling lichens in the Anthropocene - a term proposed by
scientists as a name for a new geological period in which human
become a dominant factor in shaping live on Earth.
Objects question our uniqueness as a specie and ability to
define and solve complex problems of other creatures.

In 2008 the European Space Agency sent 2 species of lichens -
Rhizocarpon geographicum and Xanthoria elegans to the outer
space in order to test their reaction to hostile conditions.
The samples returned to Earth in 2009 and the results were
published in Astrobiology journal. Lichens did a great job - they
went into doormat waiting for a better conditions to arrive,
and came back on Earth alive. In the same time many species
of lichens in being threatened with extinction due to
anthropogenic pollutions and climate change. 
Lichenized Scientific Balloon is an imaginary object allowing
lichen to escape to the outer space, where lichen can hibernate
up to few months and survive.

Lichens as same as humans are being affected by ozone hole.
Some species of lichens produce special pigments as a protection
against UV radiation, other species not and their delicate bodies
suffer a damage. However, even when lichen produces a special
pigments, the production costs her a lot of energy and therefore
it makes her vulnerable. Human skin produce a protective
pigment called melamine, but besides that people came up with
number of additional sunscreens in order to avoid harmful
radiation. This Protective Glass works in analogous way.

The 2nd Transition is called Vibrant Bodies.
Here human approaches lichen with the willingness 
to give something away to her. Lichen is a strange
and distant creature but she is alive and embodied
as same as us, therefore she reacts on subtle changes
in the environment. It gives a possibility to connect
human and lichen in a playful and empathetic way.

Breathing Tube facilitates the exhaled air on lichen.
Human breath contains small amounts of nitrogen
and carbon dioxide which lichens need. Exhaled air
is warm and humid which is a great way to please her.
(photo below: Nicole Marnati)

To go beyond anthropocentric worldview means to make 
an effort in understanding and adjusting to non-human beings.
This object is a special mirror which reflects only particular
wavelengths of light that allow lichen to photosynthesize without
being exposed to harmful UV light.

Series of drawing supporting a non-utilitarian and inclusive thinking below
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