Our first reaction was to concentrate on consuming less. But then some clever guys figured out that this meant we were only extending matters a bit, so we combined our drive towards consuming less with a recycling initiative, inspiring cradle-to-cradle production techniques, new circular economies, and so on. It didn’t last long before those same clever guys started making similar remarks. Recycling is fun but it won’t stop the Earth from being ransacked, because we continue to use-up the same limited natural resources, just at a slightly slower pace. The current solution is to keep on consuming less and recycling more. But we also have to seek out new resources. To this end, we have invested heavily in new sources of natural energy and have started to experiment with a variety of organic life forms, such as using fungi to replace diminishing stocks of natural materials. Though nothing can replace the human as the ultimate resource, because we can’t deplete ourselves as long as we continue to walk on this planet.
BEAM ME UP
It might still take a while before you’ll be able to install this system at home. Initial experiments have only dealt with alpha waves, but there are also gamma, beta, theta, and delta brainwaves, all of them transmitting different aspects of one’s state of being. The more accurate the measurements, the more detailed such a system can be. Additional research based on brain-pattern recognition expands the possibilities even further. If you think about a forest, for instance, an image of a forest will appear on your wall. New scientific developments by Barco and Philips about ways to ‘paint’ LCD screens onto different kinds of surfaces could also become a great facilitator.
THE GIRL WITH THE HAIR
On the completely opposite end of the spectrum, regarding using the human body as a depletable resource, one can find Dutch designer Sanne Vissers. During her MA course in Material Futures at Central St. Martins in London, she visited nearly every hairdresser in the city, collecting all the cut hair. Not for the purpose of making wigs or hair extensions, but for transforming this so-called useless waste material into thread and yarn, as an alternative to naturally-harvested fibres and cottons.
During her Bachelor’s degree studies at Willem De Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, Vissers had already experimented with the transformation of hair into visual patterns and sculptural forms, but at that stage it was still a purely artistic and poetic engagement. Her research at Central St. Martins made her aware of the sustainable and innovative opportunities of hair as a bountiful resource. It might indeed be useful to look for alternatives to cotton, as worldwide production of the fabric involves up to a quarter of all insecticides and one-tenth of pesticides worldwide, and it takes an average of 8000 litres of water to produce one kilogram of it.
Hair is perhaps the most natural raw material available, as it grows continuously, for free. And besides the portion that is harvested specifically for wigs, it doesn’t get recycled. The most important parameters of hair are that it is a very strong fibre that consists mainly of keratin and it’s extremely elastic. Both of these characteristics are really important if hair is to qualify as a possible replacement for cotton fibre. By using the ancient craft of spinning, Sanne Vissers managed to transform cut-hair into thread.
In theory, this ‘hair thread’ can be used like any other kind of yarn to produce all sorts of textiles, but for the moment, Vissers’ research is mainly focused on the production of rope, due to its strength and elasticity. The potential of her approach is up for grabs, but some issues still have to be resolved before ‘hairy’ clothes will be hanging in the shops. One of them is that thread made of spun hair still feels very itchy when used in textiles that are brought into direct contact with the skin. Vissers is therefore looking for collaborators to solve this problem and to further develop the wide-ranging prospects. She’s also aware that she has to develop a system for organising the local collection and sorting of hair. Feel free to get in touch with her if you wish to be part of this.
The team at EMRG working on Valence, the brainwave visualisation project, consisted of Tom De Smedt (artist and software engineer), Lieven Menschaert (social scientist and data visualiser), Ludivine Lechat (graphic designer) and Lucas Nys (research coordinator).