“Beware of its beauty, pull your eyes away from its dance, for death will befall those who gives a fool’s glance.”
For this project, Kylie Clarke and I developed our World of Wearable Arts 2017 entry – See An Enemy – a colony of sea flora that has evolved in response to a post-humanistic climate that has seen the ocean’s suffer from pollutants that have killed most of the sea life that we know today.
To inform our project, we gathered inspiration from six key areas – post-humanism, minimalism, bioluminescence, sea anemones, climate change and materials.
Marchesini (2014) states that “technoscientific progress brings into question both anthropocentric epistemology and anthropocentric/humanistic ontology, which considers the human being as a self-constructing and self-sufficient entity.” (p.75)
According to Haraway (2006), due to the all-encompassing technological advancements, humans will become “theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism”.
Phillip K Dick imagined such a world in his classic novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), later made into the cult movie Blade Runner (1982), which “constructs a world in which humans are living on a devastated planet…” (Palmer, 1993, p. 51) which they co-inhabit with humanistic androids.
It is our belief that the post-humanistic world is one where non-human life will also need to evolve to adapt to the stresses that technology and rampant consumerism have created through pollution and climate change.
See An Enemy is a being of this change, evolved to have a shell that houses and protects the internal flora. The shell acts as shield of protection, as well as a form of trickery through its refractive properties that makes it hard to tell where the colony resides. It also provides capabilities to trap food that is scarce in the oceans of the post humanistic world.
As Stribley (2015) states, “Minimalism can be described as the stripping away of all unnecessary elements and focusing on what needs to be there. In this sense, minimalism encourages purpose.”
Even though our design evolved over time, from the outset we desired to produce a costume that used minimal materials and that had a simplistic shape, to contrast the outlandish designs that are typically seen at the World of Wearable Art.
Our final design achieves this, using only 2 main materials – plastic and synthetic wigs – and taking the form of a simple cone.
Bioluminescence “is light produced by a chemical reaction within a living organism” (National Geographic, 2013). This reaction makes certain flora and fauna glow, such as fireflies, some jellyfish and glow worms.
The intensity of the glow varies “depending on the habitat and organism in which it is found.” (National Geographic, 2013).
Some organisms use it as a defence mechanism “to confuse attackers” (National Geographic, 2013), while others use bioluminescence “to lure prey or search for prey” (National Geographic, 2013).
Created using fluorescent synthetic wigs under ultraviolet lighting, Sea An Enemy portrays a bioluminescent quality, both as a defensive and offensive mechanism. In an ocean where prey is scarce, the glow of Sea An Enemy attracts food through its colourful glow. At the same time, the glow, coupled with the refractive properties of its outer shell, protects it from being easily pinpointed by predators.
4. Sea Anemones
An obvious play on the name, See An Enemy’s main inspiration is the variety of sea anemones that grace our oceans.
Sea anemones feature hundreds of tentacles that allow them to sense where they are in their environment, and come in a variety of vibrant colours (Bio Expedition, 2012).
A “close relative of coral and jellyfish, anemones are stinging polyps that spend most of their time attached to rocks on the sea bottom or on coral reefs waiting for fish to pass close enough to get ensnared in their venom-filled tentacles.” (National Geographic, n.d.)
Our “hair suit”, made of several fluorescent synthetic wigs in yellow, pink and green, was made to mimic the flowing tentacles of sea anemones as they wave with the oceans current.
The predatory nature of sea anemones inspired the story of Sea An Enemy, and the performative nature of our costume.
5. Climate Change
In a hundred years’ time, “rising temperatures will… cause oceans to acidify more around the globe…. meaning nearly all coral reef habitats could be devastated” (Mosher & Kramer, 2017).
See An Enemy’s structure is an evolutionary response to these changes to its habitat. Colonies of sea anemones will cluster under a protective shield that regulates and neutralises the acidity they now find themselves in.
Our research of materials to use within the construction of Sea An Enemy resulted in great inspiration and direction for our outfit. A total of five weeks was spent searching for the right materials, and the discovery of a plastic table cloth with refractive properties gave us our biggest breakthrough when in the early stages of design. Without the discovery of this material, the current iteration of our costume would not be a reality. In fact, this material started our imagination and gave us a direction for other areas of research that could be incorporated.
Bio Expedition. (2012). Sea anemone – animal facts and information. Retrieved from http://www.bioexpedition.com/sea-anemone
Dick, P. (1968). Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1st ed.). Mariner Books.
Haraway, D. (2006). A cyborg manifesto: science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the late 20th century. The International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments, 117-158. doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-3803-7_4
Marchesini, R. (2015). Against Anthropocentrism. Non-human Otherness and the Post-human Project. NanoEthics, 9(1), 75-84. doi:10.1007/s11569-015-0220-7
Mosher, D., & Kramer, S. (2017). Here’s what earth might look like in 100 years – if we’re lucky. Retrieved from https://www.sciencealert.com/president-trump-has-announced-his-intent-to-withdraw-from-the-paris-climate-agreement
National Geographic. (2013). Bioluminescence. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/bioluminescence/
National Geographic. (n.d.). Sea anemones, sea anemone pictures, sea anemone facts. Retrieved from http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/sea-anemone/
Palmer, C. (1993, March). The last post: science fiction and the posthuman. Arena Magazine, 51-53.
Scott, R. (Director). (1982). Blade runner [Motion picture]. USA: Warner Brothers.
Stribley, M. (2015). Minimalist design: 25 beautiful examples and practical tips. Retrieved from https://designschool.canva.com/blog/minimalist-design-beautiful-examples-and-practical-tips/