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Saturday, June 10 • 3:30pm - 5:00pm
Becoming a Flower

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“He is happiest who hath power to gather wisdom from a flower.” —poet Mary Howitt (1800s)

Becoming a Flower is an interactive activity-based workshop that seeks to center other life forms in our making as a way of knowing differently. Such an endeavor explores how to bridge the disconnect between regenerative ecology and design, historically understood as a human-centered project. The workshop methodology is informed by participatory design as a practice

We begin with a land acknowledgment grounding ourselves in the site—Lenapehoking, the traditional and unceded homeland of the Lenape people, past, present, and future—and concurrently, the Rose Garden at Pratt Institute. The Lenape, meaning “real person” or “original person,” had a profound relationship to their surroundings, as almost all indigenous cultures did. The connection to the land was crucial to co-existence. The idea of a separation between nature and humans is a modern construct. “Lenapehoking (homeland of the Lenape) is the land; it’s the waters, the rivers, the lakes, even the ocean, all of the cosmos, all of our connection with the earth, the waters, the sky, the animals, all life, the mountains, the ancient ones, the ones that have the ancient memory, all of these things, to the Lenape have a spirit.”

Considering that the flowers around us are not only flowers but carriers of information, participants are invited to take a short sensory amble through the garden to relish in the bountiful presence of vegetal beings. June is the month for rose blossoms! While moving around, we will explain the role of flowers as the reproductive organs of plants and how bees, crucial in the pollinator role, encounter them. Bees who see in ultraviolet wavelengths perceive UV patterns around the mouth of the flower. The patterns act as a guide, steering bees toward the nectar and pollen. More commonly, these visual signs, rather than scent, direct the bee’s pollination. These markings signal a message, shaping the bee’s behavior.

Next, we will perform a collective reading of a short essay, “Flowers,” by Emanuelle Coccia from The Life of Plants: A Metaphysics of Mixture. Coccia ponders how a flower, fixed yet ephemeral and unstable, “opens up to the possibilities of mutation, of change, of death”—a metamorphosis of the self to encounter the other.1 We will discuss the flowers’ biology and associated terminology referenced in the reading, followed by a moment to reflect on the ideas through highlighting and annotating the text.

It is within this context that we embark on our ‘flowers/posters’ exercise, using markers and scissors to collage found text and images from a random collection of current magazines and newspapers. In addition, we will provide print images of roses and the rose garden itself to allow participants the opportunity to work with visual stimuli related to the site. Participants are welcome to create simple drawings from observation as well. Ample time will be provided for each of us to generate individual responses. We might consider the following as we work and in our final discussion: Like the flower, what signals will you circulate? What types of attraction might your message inspire? And, how might nature herself act as a guide in the development of metaphors or provocations in the fliers we make?

While collaging, we will share Nathaniel Russell’s book, Fliers: 20 Small Posters with Big Thoughts, for formal and contextual inspiration of how such a design artifact might function in the world.2 We understand the directive of this exercise to include this incomplete list of possibilities: as an IRL meme grounded, like the sessile plant itself, in a specific, local place; as handmade ‘circulars’ that are designed to be circular, to create loops, and to expand our circles of kinship; as an intervention hung amidst other demands ‘to buy homes for CASH,’ ‘fix your credit,’ or liquidate jewelry.

Participants are invited to create six copies of their individual posters to post around campus, nearby utility poles, and beyond, and/or to exchange with other contributors.** We’ll employ low-fi graphic design methods to ‘pollinate’ our ideas throughout the local community.

Indeed this workshop is conceived to explore how we might hijack accessible design forms and reimagine their affordances. We understand such a curriculum as a contribution towards the effort of expanding the project of design beyond the demands of current belief and economic systems built on human exceptionalism. The workshop is for those interested in non-human perspectives, communication design, general plant enthusiasts, artists, etc.
Total Time for the workshop: 90 minutes. Participants leave with their copies that they can disseminate on campus or beyond following the workshop.

We conducted the first iteration of this workshop at the Pratt's Center for Teaching & Learning Fall Forum, “Building Futures of Sustainable Presence,” in the Rose Garden at Pratt Institute on September 22, 2022. Please see attached images for outcomes from that event.
Qazi, Hajira. Power & Participation: A Guidebook to Shift Unequal Power Dynamics in Participatory Design Practice. Carnegie Mellon Univ., 2018.
Coccia, Emanuele, and Dylan J. Montanari. The Life of Plants: A Metaphysics of Mixture. Polity Press, 2019.
Russell, Nathaniel. Fliers: 20 Small Posters with Big Thoughts. Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2017.

*The garden is mobility accessible and includes level hardscaping. There is seating available under two tented areas for all participants.
**We request the use of the color copier in Print Services, located in the Machinery Building, so that each participant can make duplicate fliers to share and post.


Maria Gracia Echeverria

Pratt Institute, United States of America

Saturday June 10, 2023 3:30pm - 5:00pm EDT
Rose Garden 207 Ryerson St, Brooklyn, NY 11205