Natalie Jeremijenko is an artist. She is also the director of the Environmental Health Clinic at NYU, a space where environmental issues are approached as health concerns. In her clinic the (im)patients leave the consultation not with a series of pharmaceuticals but instead with a prescription for actions that could have an impact on their surroundings.
Jeremijenko surprised the audience at the Social Cities of Tomorrow with some examples of her experimental practice. For instance, when a study showed that in Canada the majority of traffic accidents involved pedestrians, Natalie Jeremijenko invited us to move away from the ground and to imagine a city where flying could be an alternative (and safer) mean of urban transportation. For this event she created (in collaboration with Usman Haque) a series of temporary fly-lines that enabled citizens to fly across the Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto and experience their city from the unexplored dimension of height. In another occasion when citizens of New York were unsure of the existence of living fish in the East River, Jeremijenko gave the fish a chance to make themselves visible. Together with her team she started Amphibious Architecture, a digital-meets-nature project which consisted of the installation of led sensors (half way under, half way above water) that lit up with the movement created by the fish swimming trough them. The sensors also monitored water quality and on request “texted” information about the river. The led sparkled constantly, giving the fish a visible form above water and citizens a way to acknowledge their presence. However, Jeremijenko was after an even more straightforward relationship between the fish and humans: she works on encouraging citizens to feed the fish with food that is adequate for them and that would make their lives better—opposing a more traditional “don’t intervene” environmental approach in favor of an action-oriented relationship.
Finally, in Natalie Jeremijenko’s words, experimenting will help change the scope of what is possible and of what can be expected. Blurring the boundaries of imagination, science, art and urban planning seems to be Jeremijenko’s inspiring answer to the social cities of tomorrow.