Reflection on the photographs titled “Moving around the terrestrial globe”:

“I did not understand it at that moment; it was simply the impetus for moving around the terrestrial globe. My perception of the terrestrial globe shifted in two years, from an object that activated a sense of wonder and discovery, to learning about of its cartographic function, and finally to an understanding of its place in the history of colonialism. I only understood my impetus to create those photographs and my movements around the terrestrial globe as I began to read and engage with existing literature on the topic.

Self-portraits have become a way to embody the sensation of shapelessness and to visualize the energy of complex dynamics. There is a transition from a blurred body in motion to chaotic energy lines to the body, reconfiguring itself into a tornado. The body's ability to become a tornado, captured in a photographic gesture, also transforms the knowledge system and embodies this perpetual transition from order to disorder and backward.

Although this knowledge was unknown at its origin point in my mind, the photographs represent a movement representing a confrontation with this incongruity that what appears as stasis is not static and suggests an interrogation of its geometry. This unconscious movement later translated into the question of how we acquire knowledge of the Earth and its living systems.”

In an essay titled “Globes and Spheres: The Topology of Environmentalism” in the book “The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill,” Tim Ingold distinguishes and articulates two views of the environment: A): as a lifeworld and B): as a globe. The lifeworld comes into being through a life process and is experienced from a center, whereas the image of the terrestrial globe is divorced from this aliveness, creating a separation. Ingold establishes that It is culturally accepted that a terrestrial globe is a spherical model of Earth whose function is mainly cartographic.

This type of thinking dates back to ancient Greece. Unlike flat maps that use a map projection to distort space, globes are the only representation that does not. Ingold quotes Immanuel Kant to support his argument: "Although Earth appears flat to one's senses, experience teaches one otherwise." Ingold argues that through the image of the Western schooling system, we are taught that it represents the actual image of Earth. Yet the outlines of the terrestrial globe, onto which continents are painted in a mosaic of contrastive colors representing the territories of nations and cities, oceans are painted blue, and grid lines of latitude and longitude are drawn and designed couldn't be further away from the liveness of Earth itself.

Ingold describes this design as being colonial because it suggests a surface that awaits to be occupied. He asks, "how did we culturally come to accept that the image of a terrestrial globe, also named "the environment," is the true embodiment of the planet Earth?"


A Pond Becomes a Forest questions the terms by which we come to our knowledge systems, and asks how we interpret and know nature. This thesis argues for direct encounters with natural forms and the processes that create them. It represents a search to understand ecology through profound attention. It proposes new ways of perceiving and interacting with the natural world.

The central character is a bibliophile who discovers a world through books. After years of immersion in words, an imaginary study room emerges, a location that represents her knowledge accumulation. After she directly encounters nature, however, her worldview changes, and she transforms into a budding ecologist. As she begins a patient process of observing natural life cycles, a new order of perception unfolds.

Through prose storytelling and empirical research, A Pond Becomes a Forest combines often disjunctive forms of writing as a method of argumentation. Unlike a more static academic paper, this thesis develops non-linearly, blooming outwards across a network of events, associations, meditations, and chance encounters. The writing gathers ideas and approaches to cultivate curiosity, capturing not only how the protagonist tends to her ecological self, but how we all might imagine doing so.

RISD MA in Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies Thesis

Excerpts can be found on the Digital Grad Show website


The genesis of the writing process (or how the thesis began through a series of chance encounters followed by a stream of consciousness)

It may be difficult to understand how an encounter with a seed inspired a new way of thinking. “I cannot consult my books anymore,” I told myself when I saw the sunflower seedling emerge from the soil.

I arrived in the sunflower field following the apocryphal myth of Heraclitus’ words, “Nature loves to hide.” There is more to the story. I arrived in the field because I followed the dragonfly.

My study room, where I collect knowledge of the natural world, cannot locate where nature hides, neither the books nor the terrestrial globe found at its center.

I am opposed to the shape of the globe - after all, Earth is an oblate spheroid, not a sphere. The belief that our planet’s shape is a sphere has been cultivated since the time of the ancient Greek philosophers. The concept of this shape dominated most scientific thought and mine as well.

The shape of things influences our mental structures.

My first perception of the globe was its form. Since the globe depicted Earth, I innocently assumed the Earth itself is a sphere. When I think of the moon, the shape of dew forming on the dragonfly’s eye, the shape of nectar droplets forming on the sunflower’s seed head, or the shape of a dandelion’s clock, spheres reveal themselves in my mind’s eye.

And so I wonder:

How is the formation of the moon different from the formation of dew?

How is the shape of a water droplet different from the shape of a nectar droplet?

How is the growth of seeds in a dandelion different from the growth of seeds in a sunflower?

How is the birth of a bee different from the birth of a tornado?    

The answer is nowhere to be found in my ordered accumulation of knowledge. As my initial assumptions become visible, I want to understand the genesis of my beliefs. And it would be the readers’ assumption that what I wish to understand is the genesis of forms in nature.

In 1678, Isaac Newton published the “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy” known as “Principia,” in which he introduced the three laws of motion and first described the idea of gravity. A peculiar fact he included was a calculation suggesting that Earth, in its revolution, takes the form of an oblate spheroid, its poles slightly flattened. In other words, he predicted that the shape of the Earth is a “nearly perfect” sphere.

If I step outside the shape of the Earth, what I perceive as a smooth surface is irregular, asymmetric—constantly changing. This leads me to believe that my perception of nature in any given instant is a conjecture. So what do I see if I step outside the shape of my knowledge system, given what I now know?

A terrestrial globe that is not Earth

A dandelion’s life cycle

A sunflower’s growth pattern

A pond becoming a forest