In the Anthropocene era — our current geological age where human activities have been the dominant influence on the environment and climate — primeval elements have been increasingly a point of political contention. Toxic air, corrosive soil, black water, and environmental violence have been mediated with different degrees of consistencies and success in policymaking. If public policies alone can’t resolve the crisis, it rests upon human capital to confront the environmental change through the agency of design to extend human survival.
‘Volatile Ecologies’ is a design expedition examining the environmental degradation in the industrial waterfront of Buffalo, New York, through the lens of scenario planning and prototype making. Since their use in the 1910s, these sites have been contaminated for decades with oil spills, benzene run-offs, coal tars, ammonia liquors, wastewater, and toxic airborne emissions. Bringing together design thinking, technology, and material culture, the exhibition depicts an alternative future of the heavily polluted environment through design apparatuses and speculative drawings. With each viewing from the perspective of air, earth, and water, the apparatuses and the world they inhabit explore ideas of reparation, production, and cohabitation across spatial and temporal scales. From an air filtrating wearable to a pneumatic parasite, sentient landscape machinery to new urban surfaces, the prototypes offer material evidence and suggest the results of changing working relationships between artists, architects, designers, engineers, scientists, politicians, and other stakeholders. As visitors traverse through this exhibition, they will discover and explore narrative, practices, and aesthetics — scientifically informed and materially substantiated.
In a world of quickly changing environments, ‘Volatile Ecologies’ does not offer solutions but a platform for conversations by providing observations and speculative alternatives on the table.