Material-aesthetic collaborations: making-with the ecosystem
Miranda Smitheram & Frances Joseph
This article reflects on the conceptual frameworks central to the project Phenomenal Dress and aspects of its methodological approach and realisation. Through a localised, practice-led process, informed by material thinking, posthuman theory from Māori perspectives and processes of ‘making-with’ we collaborated with the environment through relational entanglement. Engaging with nonhuman phenomena, cultural and scientific experts, we developed mediated materials and textile surfaces as new forms of dress. These were not functional, fashionable products, they were matter flows, formed at a junction of diverse perspectives and collaborative processes. This process recognised dress as material-aesthetic activations, opening pathways towards co-emergent understanding.
Through this approach, the ecosystem was recognised as the primary collaborator, repositioning human and more-than-human relationships. This strategy was informed by mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge and ways of knowing), through perspectives of kaitiakitanga (stewardship) and deeper relationship with the lifeworld through acts of sensing, noticing, making, and following. The methodology was grounded in an ontological shift away from human-centredness, focussing on matter as vital collaborator and place as habitat where interconnections between things could be explored and articulated. These conceptual framings are discussed in relation to artefacts and assemblages produced through this collaborative process.