The Non Linear Narrative master programme at the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) merges investigative methods of journalism and forensics with processing technologies of computer science and visual arts into a contemporary, progressive design approach: the non-linear storytelling. It takes the entanglement of relations in the global information society as a starting point, in order to identify and interrogate complex socio-political issues and communicate them to a broad audience.

The programme repositions the graphic design discipline in the changing professional landscape and extends it with new responsibilities towards society. This year’s graduation show presents under the title Please Elaborate, the final projects of 12 young and emerging designers. To elaborate means ( ) to interpret, to experiment, to comment, to expand, to develop, to work out, to compare, to amplify, to improve, to enlarge, to complicate, to specify…

Spanning a range of media, exhibition formats and disciplines, the show pieces cover a multitude of subjects in order to unravel and demonstrate their complexities. As such, Please Elaborate is not only the title of the exhibition, but also the question the recent graduates often asked themselves in the process of making their works. In doing so, they responded with thoughtful and engaging comments to contemporary issues of gender equality, post-truth politics, sound pollution, global warming and neurodiversity. If you aren’t able to see the show in person, the exhibition will be also translated into a digital experience on this website and a series of video interviews. Stay tuned via nln.kabk.nl

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Constanze Maier (?)
Do You Hear Me?
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Constanze Maier - Do You Hear Me?
Can the artificial initiation of avalanches be used to expand on the emotionality of nature?
Do You Hear Me? is an immersive installation inspired by an on-site design research experience in the Austrian alps, as well as an experimental extension of the thesis “The Ontic Tonic” on embedded design through situated empirical research. As part of the on-site research, the designer participated in an avalanche safety training which included being buried under 1,5m of snowpack for 15 minutes. During an avalanche accident, the buried victim is sonically isolated–which means that they can hear almost all activity from the outside–while the rescue team is incapable of hearing any sounds from the person under the snow. The project draws from this phenomenon of sonic isolation and provokes the boundaries of our often distant relationship to the climate. The installation seeks to interpret individual aspects of an avalanche experience by activating a body-space discourse via an experimental encounter. It strives to break down the rigidity of observing from afar while excluding the body by immersing the visitor, thus questioning the ambivalence of the outside and the inside.

It is easy, getting in here. They said it’s only for a short while, I’d be safe, so what. But… well it is tight. And I mean tight not in a way that there is still some play, I feel like I am trapped, and my neck is bent in this really uncomfortable position and the only thing I can think of is: “Thank god I’m not claustrophobic”, am I?

So I try to give in to the moment. Close my eyes. Ok wow wait. No. no. no. no. Not so sure about that idea anymore. This is high alert. The pressure on my limbs and the weight on my back is getting so heavy that my lungs become more compressed with every single breath I take. As if someone is trying to forcefully squeeze my torso into a stone corset pulling me tighter together each time I try to resist the straits.

The only comforting thing is light. A creepy yet soft monotone bright white shade which lets me forget which direction my body is orienting to or where I am looking at: up, down, right, left? Even if I could do anything – any-thing! – wiggle my feet – or please – turn my head, I wouldn’t even know anymore where to dig.

“We cannot hear her, but she can hear everything we say”.
See, I know I’m going to be safe, it’s gonna be alright… right?
I try to inhale a bit deeper and yell at them “I’m here!!”
But there is no response.
“Hello?!?” I add…
“Do you hear me?!?”… Nothing.
Ok. Now this is getting scary.

The inability to move causes the cold to slowly start creeping through my body right into my bones. My blood vessels are squeezing tighter and tighter together, relentlessly trying to push warmth to the center of my body. First my calves, then on the back of my knees, radiating into my tights and across my buttocks up my spine and on my lower back, then through my arms, across my shoulder blades and eventually and worst: straight into my chest.

The thing is, once you notice something, you can’t un-notice it. I mean of course I know that physically the cover is stable. So I keep repeating to myself “I’ll be safe. I’ll be fine… right?”, “I’ll be safe. I’ll be fine… right?”, “I’ll be safe. I’ll be fine… right?”, “I’ll be safe. I’ll be fine… right?”

Stability is a fragile concept. What determines if something is stable after all? Only when you think you’re “safe” things can collapse at any moment. Leaving you unprepared, shattered. “That’s just how things work”, they say. “Grounding is key”. But what if you can’t trust what’s underneath it all? We all carry it inside of us, our spine built of individual pieces, vertebras stacked on top of each other like tiny blocks and if one fails, you can feel the impact spreading throughout your entire body. Pockets of instability. Hidden under layers. Layers and layers and layers of different conditions which when triggered in the right moment in the right time, can make a weak one fail and cause the perfect picture, the perfect surface, to collide. Leaving nothing but chaos.

So, stability… trusting in it always comes with a certain risk, doesn’t it? You don’t know if, you don’t know when and you don’t know where it might all crash down on you and which one of those pieces to actually pick up first.

Sometimes it’s easier to get in than to get out, isn’t it? And between all the things I am not-so-sure-about anymore, the one thing I know for certain is that being my own savior is not gonna work this time. My very own survival is literally out of my hands. There is no control, there is no movement, there is no connectedness in any sense.

Isolation is a tricky bastard. I mean after all this is a bunch of snow: precious tiny crystals, mesmerizingly beautiful little flakes, all individual in their shape… and yet I am in complete mercy of the unpredictable raging chaos they could turn into within seconds. So between this all who am I even? What do I even know anymore?

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The precious killer has caused a fascinating fear for as long as humans have lived and travelled in the mountains. The alps are count for more than half of all avalanche deaths worldwide, more than 120 a year. Most people have no idea about the power of an avalanche. Moving on snow requires just as much intuition and experience as science and preparation.

Most avalanches are wild forces, unpredictable, a ticking hazard. They hit without warning. Still, scientists and experts aim is to predict, maybe one day to control, the avalanche. Dealing with such a significant hazard by forcefully bringing the snow down in a controlled manner and eliminating the hazard altogether. A helicopter and 25kg bags of explosives often seems the only way of mediation between nature and society. There’s a strange way of power and control you get from doing this work. One simple action and all of a sudden you release this mass of potential energy and in a split-second you’ve changed the landscape.

Avalanches become part of the price we need to pay for our joy in the mountains. “Nine people died in three days during which more than 100 avalanches struck Austria, authorities said Sunday, as heavy snowfall followed by warmer weather made for unusually dangerous conditions. In most cases those who get caught in avalanches trigger the avalanche which catches them. “In other words we met the enemy and the enemy is us!”

Why are we still reluctant to acknowledge the microscopic strength of their individual components, the snow crystals? Once snow crystals have fallen they create invisible layers in the larger snow pack. Very frozen snow crystals have almost no bonds amongst each other creating loose weak layers, whereas the more melting their physical status becomes, the more bonds they form resulting in strong and dense slabs. But even within the steady snow pack, the shapes of the snow crystals can constantly change.

Do you hear me?

Sometimes it’s not humans but the matter that asks questions and has a story to tell. “In 2021, 10.6% of all weather stations recorded record temperatures. It’s easy to blame global warming, but extremes have not only become hotter and drier, they’ve also gotten wetter, snowier, windier and colder.”

On one side, snowpack around the world have been declining for decades. Nearly every glacier on earth is receding. Besides arctic sea ice large areas with seasonal snow such as the alps are responsible for reflecting up to 90-95% of incoming solar energy straight back to outer space extend at record lows causing the earth to absorb more energy and warming the planetary surface. On the other hand side compared to the mid 20th century the amount and intensity of disrupting snow storms has more than tripled.

With more amplified weather conditions there will be fewer days of frost on the surface of the mountain leaving no time for the snow to settle on the surface. This results in big differences in the structures of the various snow layers and therefore highly increase the risk for avalanches.

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At this point I might just give into gravity. Sometimes it’s pulling me down. All this knowledge. About the planet, spheres, about changing weather systems, layers of snow, about climate change, the anthropocene, about the fact that – in fact – we know nothing at all.

Do you hear me?

I’ve never been superficial. I don’t work that way. Most times I move subtle, both in movement and stillness. What is so wrong with that? Why is it only “good” when you know exactly what you get? Why does everything have to be straight into your face all the time? Why do you have to control every single inch of absolutely everything? Huh?

There’s more to me than just my top layer, I’m not just my seemingly homogenous surface. Yes, even when I’m in a bad mood I look pleasing – but still, I’m a bad mood. And if you paid real attention you would know that there’s more than one side to me. That I need some room to breathe.

So why is everybody constantly trying to take away parts of me and mould me into shapes I would naturally not assume? Time after time. Over and over. Again and again. I’m not one to be domesticated! Are they afraid I could flourish? That I could go wild? What’s wrong with being wild? What’s wrong with not fitting into pre-directed forms? Stability is a fragile concept. And space is a treacherous one.

Do you hear me?
I’m loosing patience…

But you don’t care about anything other than yourself, do you? You rely on my reflection spectrum fingerprint but closed roads bring no profit. So you ignore red flags and still trespass me. Ironically, since everybody is constantly talking about consent… well… yeah… thanks for asking before crashing my back and then putting me behind fences.

Why do you not believe in me?

Maybe I’m not safe after all. I mean it hurts. Everything hurts. My entire body is shaking from pain, from the cuts, all of these cuts. I can’t even locate them anymore.
Voices everywhere. Everywhere. Everywhere. Everywhere.
And I don’t know how much longer I can take it. You have to be panicking! Why are you not panicking??

Is this even still my story?

Do you hear me?

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