Edition of 10
48 x 25.5 Inches, Framed
Mixed media collage printed on archival paper
About the artwork
"Nature is a brilliant engineer and builder. It knows how to create seashells that are twice as strong as the most resistant ceramics human beings can manufacture, and it produces silk fibres five times stronger than steel. Nature also knows how to create multipurpose forms." – Neri Oxman
Hailing from the North eastern state of Meghalaya in India, the Khasis community are famous for having evolved a synergistic technology of weaving living architecture by braiding tree roots of the Ficus elastica, a rubber tree into architectural structures, like bridges, platforms and stairs. The nature of the landscape breathes the Khasi’s culture into being. They exist in kinship and communion with the living beings with whom they share the land. They act as co-designers with the environment’s constitutive species and their practices offer us alternative ways to think of dwelling. Now a root bridge can take anywhere from 10-40 years to build and become structurally stable, advances in synthetic biology and genetic modification might be one way of growing bridges in shorter time spans, and is a motivation to seek a collaboration between scientists and indigenous practitioners.
The threshold between cultural and scientific knowledge lies at the centre of Prathima Muniyappa’s practice. By learning from indigenous practices she surmises that there are radically different ways of production, consumption and extraction as we learn to listen to the language of nature.
About the artist
Prathima is a designer, artist and conservator in the space enabled research group at MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts. Her PhD thesis focuses on enabling agency and self representation for indigenous people in the conservation of indigenous knowledge. Her research investigates alternative cosmologies for their potential to contribute to the emerging discourse on techno-imaginaries in the realm of space exploration, synthetic biology and extended intelligence.
Prathima’s work (exhibited here) explores the myths of the cosmos, studying ancient wisdom about cosmology, learning from tribes across the world, whether it's in the Lichnananthay people of the Chilean Atacama or the Maasai of Kenya. She is learning from the incredible Khasi community in Meghalaya whose practice of building living root bridges provokes us to imagine alternative ways to conceive of architecture, as structures that are grown rather than built or assembled. She is moved by the interconnectedness of all living matter and this theme is deeply embedded in her work.
Prior to MIT, she has completed her masters in Design Studies in Critical Conservation at The Graduate School of Design, Harvard, under a Full Bright Scholarship. She also holds a B-Des from National Institute of Design, India, and is a Young India Fellow 2013-14