Trace Material explores the convergence of our lives and the lives of the materials that surround us. Each season we dig into a material you might find in your interior environment to discover what it can tell us about our history, our culture, and our bodies.
In many cultures, fungi have been associated with death, decay, or mysterious magic. So much of the work of fungi goes unnoticed because it grows in the shadows, but this season we see how much we can learn about this magical kingdom and explore the potential it holds for the future of healthy materials. Fungi can be used for food and medicine, they can break down toxic materials, they can be grown into fabrics or molded into bricks and we dive into all of these applications this season.
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A little over a century ago, plastic was born out of a test tube in a chemist’s garage and, in just a few generations, this material has grown to define our world. This season, we bring together diverse perspectives to tell the complex and nuanced story of plastics in the US. Through materials like PVC and products like Tupperware, we explore how plastics have transformed our bodies, our culture, and our environment.
In America, hemp has a storied past and a contested future. In the first season of Trace Material, Parsons Healthy Materials Lab digs into the complex crop. We visit a Kentucky plantation to investigate hemp’s connection to slavery, speak with a cannabis historian about Nixon’s war on drugs, and hear from environmental activist Winona LaDuke about hemp’s potential to right some of the social and environmental wrongs of our past.
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