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Sarah Umphlett – Source the Mother of ‘Material Ecology’

    I have designed, directed, and assembled an immersive experience in the basement of the Cumming’s Art Center at Connecticut College. Walking down the many stairs to the installation there is a distant soundscape that slowly consumes your attention and fuels your theatrical nature; to immerse yourself in chaos. Once you open the doors you become a part of the installation; absorbing the sound, interrupting the projection with your shadow figure, and therefore redesigning the space. You are an actor and a responding organism that plays a major role in the construction and completion of the act while ‘technology’/projections form around you. As Neri Oxman, ‘the mother of Material Ecology’, would say, this allows for “humans and nature to design and construct as equals”.

    This underground tunnel functions as a vector, a living organism, as the projections work as nutrients and feed life into the space. Mycelia’s natural orientation and having the installation in the basement works well and is logically placed allowing for an understanding of an underground networking system. The hallway becomes a character that echoes the sounds of the beating and pounding of a needle into fabric. The use of pounding, stabbing, and cutting, as well as the robotic sounds of the laser cutter, exaggerate the process of building and designing the dress I had put in the space. The dress form wore my digitally fabricated mycelia wrapped and pinned dress. Literal use of the laser cutter is present with fabric designs of mycelia that are sewn onto the dress and with paper designs of mycelia that hang around as part of the installation.

    The utilization of the sewing machine/ laser cutter sounds in collaboration with the soundscape of the process of designing the dress, juxtaposed with the natural organic shapes that are projected through the tunnel (that are also edited heavily to look pink) allow for a harsh, in your face experience. This phenomenon magnifies nature, digitally manipulating it to work well within the environment we all design.

    Basement of Cummings Art Center – Connecticut College