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Can You Feel Us?

Cofounders Lune Ames and Petia Morozov share how NJ densities and felt works by Felecia Davis model emotional, interconnected storytelling.

Video still of 5 Textures by Felecia Davis
Video still of 5 Textures by Felecia Davis

Dancing, deer hunting, self-driving cars, displacement, detours, drag, and more… This blurb of seemingly unrelated things, especially to the opening day of the New Jersey Turnpike, graces our Issue 1 cover as an invitation for connection.

Throughout 148 pages, a 1950s utopian dream of smooth, tension-free highway driving becomes a new jurisdiction for policing and surveillance as well as a little-known biodiverse haven for coyotes and black bears. The interstate’s debut design is reconfigured a thousandfold by how we use it and tell stories about it. The opening day of the Turnpike is, in a way, every day.

When we notice this interconnectedness in something as familiar as our commute, we see how our own daily routines and assumptions shape our communities and environments. We recognize ourselves as active participants all along, and Dense is about telling that story.

This interconnectedness requires us to radically alter the way we tell stories. Rather than weaving stories together with a chronological thread, we look to the Garden State’s compactness as a different model. Turns out that condensing all kinds of experiences, migrations, and conditions helps us to hold more space for the contradictions and complexities that we encounter. It becomes about what stories ask of us, and how the feelings they rouse in us are part of the stories, too.

What people touch changes how they feel and occupy their environment. Felecia Davis

Instead of a woven tapestry of history, this storytelling is more like the textile we know as felt. Felt isn’t made by weaving but by compressing fibers like wool, fur, or rayon. Like these fibers, stories come together in varying densities and reveal different relationships. Felt has guided the storytelling in our debut issue through textile work by architect, associate professor, and artist Felecia Davis. “What people touch changes how they feel and occupy their environment,” Davis says.

Despite the sensation of flipping through the magazine’s pages or the emotions we feel while reading its stories, touch is often left out of storytelling. Davis foregrounds touch in her work, where felt is not metaphor for interconnectedness but rather a storyteller in its own right.

In 5 Textures, five ivory felt textiles come alive, folding and contorting as they’re tugged by threads in all directions. The fibers respond to the tension together⁠—not in perfect unison but more like phragmites (reed grasses) blowing in the Meadowlands breeze.

Like felt, when we’re told a story, the emotions and sensations they evoke aren’t separate from the story.

Felt is touched and also touches back, reaching through to us and connecting us to unseen histories and worlds that have, in a way, been with us all along. It’s always a dynamic exchange.

Like felt, when we’re told a story, the emotions and sensations they evoke aren’t separate from the story. They shape the story back in how it's retold or lived out. If we’re willing to notice that, we can make change happen on multiple scales⁠—from in our bodies to in our communities.

Davis’s work grounds us in how interconnectedness is emotional and embodied. It requires vulnerability and honesty because everything is subject to change⁠—we are subject to change, and we do, whether we’re willing to or not.

What’s at stake if we don’t notice these connections is what drives the project of Dense. With each issue to come, we’re asking: What new futures can emerge when we recognize our feelings as part of the story, too?

5 Textures by Felecia Davis

Felecia Davis re-imagines how we might use computational textiles in our daily lives and in architecture. Her knitted Flower Antenna was recently exhibited at Museum of Modern Art, in collaboration with Black Reconstruction Collective. Commuting home on the NJ Turnpike, she loved racing her car next to planes taking off at Newark Airport.


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