hirudinea lampyris

If our work becomes a catalyzing force for people to imagine things they would not have been able to imagine otherwise and act upon that imagination, then that’s powerful, and for me, this is a slow form of critical activism.

– Anab Jain, Calling for a More-than-Human Politics

hirudinea lampyris uses a counterfactual narrative to reset the world that we live in. Positing a catalyst at the height of Taylorism, the Factory Riots of 1911 imagine an uproar against the publishing of Fredrick Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management, and it’s allusion to imagination and idle thought being useless and frivolous. The collective shift away from the reverence of efficiency moves society towards a re-evaluation of thinking, making, and producing in general. Because of this, environmental destruction is scaled back and many species, unknown and extinct in our world, become champions of this world. 

In this fiction, the Firefly Leech (hirudinea lampyris) is introduced as one of these champions. The leech is hematophagous, and through a chemical reaction between the hirudin in its saliva and the hormones in the food that it eats, the Firefly Leech displays the emotions state of its last prey through bioluminescence in its skin. Through non-invasive metabarcoding, biologists are able to identify the host species the leech last fed on, and are able to get an empathetic profile on the ecosystem that it lives in. 

This project relies on a collection of props, including a physical prototype of a robotic swimming leech, publications, digital sharing material, and a short narrative film. I believe that the use of props is important in telling stories through design, as tangible objects act as stepping stones into other worlds. Once a story is told, making meaningful connections towards our current reality is necessary for the work to function as design.

Our sense for and ability to imagine is intrinsically tied to our hope for a future. Fiction is a way to open up our imaginations, design offers a way to stay open. 

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2021 ECUAD DESIS Radical Sustainability Award
2021 John C. Kerr Chancellor Emeritus Award for Excellence in Design

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