Week 5: Bois Durci and The Homeless Vehicle

Bois Durci immediately stood out to me due to my interest in epidemiology and the idea of working with blood. This was a Victorian era technique and is no longer used. The reason it stood out to me so much is because of the delicacy in working with blood. Due to bloodborne pathogens, working with blood isn’t as simple as other mediums, there are regulations and laws that restrict how it is used. The technique itself is interesting none the less. Bois Durci is a mixture of finely ground wood and blood albumen specifically. Albumen is a carrier protein in the blood, in fact, it makes up majority of the egg white we eat. The denaturation of albumen is what causes the egg to cook the way it does, and in thermodynamics is exactly why it becomes impossible to uncook an egg. Once the protein is heat denatured, it can never be renatured. The Bois Durci pieces are without a doubt eye catching and was used to make items ranging from clocks to inkwells to dishes.



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(Sugio, 1999)


Today, this technique would be highly regulated in the United States by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Blood is now considered to be a toxic and hazardous substance. Interestingly, this weekend I watched a documentary on HIV/AIDS in the 80s. The situation was devastating. There was complete panic when it came to the nation’s blood supply. In my opinion, since the disease was first seen in gay men, the response for finding treatments, tests, and ways to administer safety regulations was drastically decreased than it would have been if it had been more prevalent in the heteronormative population. It was a time when prejudice perpetuated a lack of proper response by our government to ensure public safety from a public health crisis. After some time and the hard work of AIDS awareness advocates, the government did begin to strengthen its response to the virus. The guidelines of working with blood that can be found on OSHA’s webpage are undoubtedly a result of the HIV/AIDS. OSHA regulates every aspect of the use of blood including containers, transport, splashing risks, and exposure. (OSHA, 2018)


The Bois Durci

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(Sirkin, 2013)


So, as we learned by the Victorian era Bois Durci, bioplastics aren’t new. They aren’t out of fashion yet either. Lego is launching sustainable pieces made from sugarcane. Their goal is to produce all their pieces with bioplastic within the next 12 years and state that they are “technically identical” to those produced by conventional (petro-based) plastics. This is a huge step in the right direction. It would be ideal if Lego inspires many corporations to make this switch.


Sugarcane Legos

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(Morris, 2018)


Our discussion of speculative design led me down an inter-web rabbit hole. It piqued my interest in many ways. To be completely honest, the video we watched in class scared me to my core. I am not sure what I think about some of the futuristic ideas that we conceive. Some of these ideas, I think, take us far away from a place I can imagine suitable for humans. The video sparked a memory of the book Cloud Atlas in which the waitress clones were served drinkable nutrients that were the puree of their old friends. Whenever I hear ideas of envisioned ideals of ways we may be able to live, I get scared. I wonder if one day these ideas, which at first thought were to breed goodness and evolution, will lead to some destructive consequences like the clones in Cloud Atlas drinking their best friend. 

Considering speculative design, I found an article on an installation in New York City in the late 80s. Artist Krzysztof Wodiczko’s homeless Vehicle Project not only brought awareness to the homeless population, but was a deeply political and human contemporary art exhibit that used the arena of the city as its showcase. He stated that his piece was to probe “the symbolic, psychopolitical, and economic operations of the city.” He gave homeless people these vehicles. The vehicles were removed from the streets by police enforcement after some time, but what in interesting piece! They were designed so they could be used for sleeping, washing, and bathroom needs, so they were fully functional. Reading more into this project, it seems that it had many layers, like peeling off the layers of onions. I definitely suggest looking into it as my recapitulation does no justice. These vehicles served to show that life could be lived out of them, differently than we typically see ourselves living. Though I am not sure it entirely fits the bill of speculative design, it is surely a piece worth reading about. I would have loved to see it with my own eyes in the streets of NYC.


Homeless Vehicle

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(Hebdidge, 2012)


Works cited