Unprecedented bushfires, melting ice caps, rising sea levels – with news reports sounding less like random catastrophes and more like daily headlines, it’s no wonder so many of us experience ‘eco-anxieties’– chronic fear of environmental doom. In response, ‘Materialising Yokais: Monsterising Our Eco-anxieties’ is a participatory workshop kit, designed to help individuals make sense of their relationship to the environment and their eco-anxieties.
This project uses yokais (a Japanese class of supernatural entities, or monsters) as a device to consider and give form to eco-anxieties. Universally, humans tell tales of monsters to try and explain what we can’t comprehend (things that go ‘bump’ at night), but we also use them to instil socio-cultural values (don’t do this or a monster will come and get you). Applying the device of yokais to the climate crisis and our environmental values helps us better comprehend and articulate the uncertainty of our future.
We can start asking questions such as “What monsters from 2020’s environment will we tell children in 2050?” or “What environmental objects, concepts or consequences will we choose to mythologise?”
Developed through 22 weeks of design research, participatory workshops, design experiments and user testing, the workshop is organised into three parts: Discover, Create and Monsterise.
In Discover, participants begin by brainstorming objects, phenomena and memories associated with their eco-anxieties. To guide them, a set of prompt cards lead them through this thinking.
In Create, these brain-stormed eco-anxieties are turned into yokais through drawing and visualisation. A fold-out zine is provided to guide them towards drawing eyes to add character to their visualisations. Participants can use the zine to guide their drawings if they're struggling, or even cut out the eyes from the back side of the zine to stick onto their yokais.
In Monsterise, participants are guided to create stories for their yokais, giving new perspectives and voices to their eco-anxieties. A set of concertina flashcards give participants prompts to rethink their eco-anxieties as yokais, characterising them and giving them stories.
This cycle – Discover, Create and Monsterise – transforms participants' initial fears and anxieties into monsters and stories; a tangible way to reflect on eco-anxieties.
To make this kit more realistically accessible, digital slides are also provided in the Kit in order to access instructions in further detail. These can be accessed via the QR codes in the Kit.
After collecting over 181 yokais from user testing, 30 yokais were re-illustrated and made part of the branding of this project. Below are 5 of the yokais and their respective stories. For more yokai stories, visit here.
Ultimately, this project is one of the many ways we can begin storytelling into our collectively unknown future in the Anthropocene, by encouraging individuals to slow down, reflect on their environmental values, and their relationship with the environment.
‘Materialising Yokais: Monsterising Our Eco-anxieties’ was produced as part of the Design in Visual Communications Honours degree at the University of Technology Sydney, under the supervision of Zoe Sadokierski. Special thanks to Zoe Sadokierski, Jacqueline Lorber-Kasunic , Adrian Chin Quan, Mulanne Phan and all workshop participants. (Navira T, Janey L, Grace F, Hannah S, Eugenie D, Danielle Z, Julie N, Tianjiao W, Adam F, Anita G, Andrew W, Emily C, Sharon G, Crystal Z, Cindy C, Amy X, Jana M, Jenna W, Emilie Y and Ally M.)
For further information and collaboration opportunities to run this workshop, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!