Ravensbourne Postgraduate | Fernanda Valério – Within the Orbit
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Fernanda Valério – Within the Orbit

Fernanda Martins Valério, of MA Wearable Futures, considers the stark reality of climate change and the devastating impact of human activity upon the balance of the planet.

With seven billion of Earth’s inhabitants consuming at the same rate as the United States, for example, a number of important minerals would be gone in less than 20 years. “Even at current rates”, Valério notes, “two-thirds of the world’s population might face severe water shortage by 2025. The environment is in immediate danger, despite denial from major political forces”. The facts are sobering but are statistics the best way to visualise and prompt change? Valério’s project reminds us of Frederic Jameson’s famous assertion that it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.

Imagine we must, then. Instead of the coldness of de-humanized techno-dystopian futures, Within the Orbit is a project of speculative fiction which integrates the promise of new technological futures with the values of non-growth economies, aiming to create a museum of the future which will activate the imagination and engage the public in critical debate.

Within the Orbit centres on the region and society of Virtua, a fictional place promoting principles of sustainability, digital dematerialization, intergenerational equality, distribution of wealth and knowledge, and communal belonging. Valério’s speculatively fictional world looks as if it could have been imagined by Ursula K. Le Guin or appreciated by Donna Haraway, but is based upon eco-economics theorist Kate Raworth’s ‘Doughnut Economy’ model. Raworth’s proposition takes on the dilemma of an ever-expanding economy as the only viable model for prosperity, to challenge the current language of economics and establish an agenda where the needs of all are met within the means of the planet.

Within the Orbit addresses how previous models of growth do not take into consideration factors such as material flow, renewal of natural resources or social welfare. Instead of rising lines, concentric circles present the boundaries within which humanity may prosper and these shapes and forms influence the visual representation of Virtua’s artefacts, fashions, cultures and technologies.

One of the most beautifully presented aspects of Valério’s project is in how Virtua’s reverence for ritual and ceremony is explained. “When a connected citizen dies, all data ever collected by their implants is harvested and stored within small glass tokens made with their ashes. These keepsakes are distributed among friends and families of the departed. Body and data are preserved together epitomizing both as integral parts of a person’s identity”. As citizens of Virtua participate in the Ingress, the Accolade and the Departed – stages celebrating birth, social engagement and death – there’s a place for the ancient even on the cusp of unprecedented change.