Serena Pollastri is an International Lecturer in Design in the ImaginationLancaster department at Lancaster University, specialising in Food Futures and Biodiversity. Serena’s work is practice based and explores the concept of place and critical information visualisation. Developing her project on understanding and exploring place, Serena’s most recent project explores Morecambe Bay and the creatures that live in the bay; how they interact with one another, the possibilities of experiencing the stories of these creatures and studying them closely whilst embracing the messiness and ambiguity of this research practice.
Serena’s research is practice based, as Serena does not believe in sitting at a desk and thinking about the outside; she believes in order to respond to the outside, one has to be outside. This is where the concept of placebegan within her research and has taken her works outside more frequently to explore the place and spaceshe is studying. From a methodological perspective Serena is working with critical information visualisation, however, this is frequently used to make models of things and display fact. Serena’s research critiques this approach and studies the minute things that escape from the attempts at making models with this concept. Serena began doing this by looking specifically at urban futures. She was initially unimpressed with how future cities are designed and depicted, without regard for whether this design is going to work or be efficient and how the messy way in which we live in cities was not represented in these futures.
Following this, Serena’s research practice began looking at biodiversity. In this practice, Serena goes out into the placeof Morecambe Bay and spends a lot of time on the beach with others who are researching similar topics, looking at the creatures living in the bay and trying to understand the rhythms of the beach; what’s there, who lives there and looking closely at what she finds there. In another area of biodiversity, Serena’s research branches out into food futures and how these food futures appear to be prescriptive currently. This produces the question of how to involve other traditions and ways of knowing when it comes to designing food futures. Serena’s interests involve the processes of information visualisation and how to question whose information, what type of knowledge, how we can design processes that help us understand the areas that are uncomfortable for us to try and model, and what do these artefacts look like? As Serena’s research is practice based, she ends up designing objects not limited to machines, objects or posters in response to her research development and findings.
In June, Serena attended the Art & Mobilities Network Symposium held by Cemore and whilst there she began talking with others in attendance and realised how important to her research and interests it is for her to be in placeand that if she wants to discover different ways of knowing and experience, then you have to be outside to do so. To Serena, Cemore has a strong identity of mobilities research in Lancaster yet it also branches out into other interdisciplinary areas of research, forming a loose network with a strong centre.
“When it comes to engaging with climate change and environmental complexity in design, we as designers are not very good at looking at complexity and making models from this, but we as designers and artists are much better at exploring the embodied and subjective experiences and how this impacts the place you are in, your perspective of place and the way in which we experience place. In order to explore this, you have to be in place.”
Serena Pollastri, 2019.