Nathan Dennler: Polish and Present

Without giving too much away before the presentation, I wanted to document the meaning behind this term’s work, the design choices I have made, and further directions I would like to explore in this space of “Celestial Identities”.

The Motivation

The motivation behind these pieces was to explore what the concept of identity is. I wrote a bit about this back in the proposal post, but the purpose of designing the astrological signs as people is meant to show how identity is a fluid property of the self. You can control how others perceive you and how you perceive yourself. Much like how the astrological signs are carefully constructed (yet formally based in nothing), you can carefully construct your own life to exist as you desire, or simply let your environment form your concept of self; you can mold yourself, or let your surroundings mold you.

To play into the theme of personal identities, I hope to create an entire set of all 12 astrological signs to embody 12 unique archetypes that any person can assume (or reject). I wanted to make these archetypes essentially a “husk” that the viewer could project themselves into. To accomplish this, the face of each design is partially or totally obscured to establish a sense of anonymity. This anonymity then lends itself to the user as their own “outfit” to try on. My goal, in the end, is that the viewer of this project begins to question their own understanding of themselves, and from this inner turmoil, develop a stronger understanding of who they are and what their purpose is in this world. I hope that these outfits do not push strongly in any direction, but instead, just produce an inner turmoil to be resolved.

The Design

Cancer – The Lamenter

I personified Cancer as an introspective and romantically tragic entity. The color scheme for this piece was blue and gray, both as a nod to Cancer being a “water” sign and because blue is often associated with sadness in Western culture. The outfit was meant to show some similarities to naval sea captains in color and material to evoke thoughts of the shifting ocean and the tragedy of a loved one lost at sea.

The jacket is representative of the “shell” Cancers wear to hide their inner feelings. It’s made from a mostly opaque material so the Lamenter can hide the lights they wear. The lights are linked to the Lamenter’s heartbeat, and as such, reveal information that the face and words cannot (heartbeat elevation when particularly strong emotions are being felt cannot be controlled the way you suppress facial expressions or words). The tragedy of the Lamenter is that they cannot completely conceal their sorrow, no matter how hard they try; Despite the jacket, their front is completely visible. Despite the turtle neck covering every inch of their neck, it is made from a mesh that can be seen through. With these windows present, the question becomes does the Lamenter really want to hide what they feel?

Leo – The Socialite

Leo, on the other hand, is personified as the life party–an effervescent entity. The Socialite flits from conversation to conversation, befriending everyone they meet. The color scheme for this outfit is yellow, since Leo is a “fire” sign, and yellow is a happy, bubbly color. This outfit is meant to be reminiscent of a disco diva, conjuring up images of euphoria and insouciance.

In contrast to the Cancer, the Socialite does not go through any great strides to conceal their identity–they wear a plunging neckline and wear their pulsating heart outside their clothes for all to see. The most obvious part of this costume is the globe of lighted flowers surrounding their head. This both attracts people to it because it is so anomalous, but for the same reason, it also turns people away. Trying to fight this polarization of the people they interact with is the main struggle of the Socialite. As much as they want to befriend everyone, they also push many away with their personality.

Side Note: While I was attaching the flowers to the headpiece for this one, I must have accidentally crossed some of the wires, as there was a short when I tried to power the LEDs. Instead I borrowed an LED strip from a friend that can make all of the LEDs glow one color. Originally, I had programmed different designs to play to indicate different emotions like mania (rainbow, randomly scattered), anger (red slowly rising), sadness (blue slowly descending), euphoria (yellow of random intensities). Instead these will be static colors due to the new LED strip. On the bright side, here is me wearing the helmet.

Further Concepts

Before I go into each sign and some preliminary ideas for how I would come up with an outfit for it, I think it is important to define the different characteristics of the signs. Each sign can belong to one of four elements (Fire, Earth, Air, Water) and one of three “temporal” (I don’t think these formally have a name, so I made this up) qualities (Cardinal, Mutable, and Fixed).

“Elemental Qualities”
Fire – Fire signs are labeled as “exciting” they embody the adrenaline rush you feel when you see a flame. They do things extravagantly but can quickly burn out. Basically, think of a literal fire when you think of these signs
Earth – Earth signs keep you “grounded” (you may have noticed by now there is a fine line between symbolism and a pun). They tend to be very consistent and pragmatic. They tend to be good at practical tasks
Air – Air signs are “flighty” (bear with me), they move from activity to activity, and are difficult to pin down. They are interested in everything and are often viewed as knowledge-seekers.
Water – Water signs are the most melancholic. They are often dreaming, imagine what could have been, or attempting to uncover deeper meaning from seemingly innocuous actions. They are tied to emotion, in particular – the tears that are produced from extreme emotions.

“Temporal Qualities”
Cardinal – Cardinal signs occur at the beginning of each season. They usually are more assertive and function as leaders. Like they start off the seasons, they tend to start projects and are labeled “initiators”. In terms of the WPI term system, these signs are representative of the first two weeks of the term.
Fixed – Fixed signs occur in the middle of each month and are the “workers” of projects, and pick up the foundations laid by the Cardinal Signs. They are often trustworthy and stable. These signs represent the middle 3 weeks of the term.
Mutable – Mutable signs occur at the ends of the seasons. They are the wisest and are the most like social chameleons, changing their personality to adapt to situations. Following the project analogy, they take the “rough draft” produced by the Cardinal and Mutable signs, and apply the finishing touches and polish the project into a final cohesive unit. This is the last 2 weeks of the term.

Here is a table with all the signs on these axes:

Aries – The Champion

Aries is the first sign of the zodiac and represents the ages 0 – 7, an age of boundless exploration through trial and error. Aries is a cardinal fire sign, which means they instigate a lot of high-intensity activities. They are likely to stand up for what they believe in. I imagine a triangular hat that obscures the face and lights up as stress hormones elevate (such as cortisol). The body would be something reminiscent of a Roman Legionnaire with a lot of deep red fabrics

Taurus – The Rock

Taurus represent the ages 7-14, a time of nostalgia. They are very practical and reliable, since they are both an Earth sign and a Fixed sign. A Taurus will weather the harshest storms and stay by you. I imagine long horns protruding from the head that wrap around the face before extending two feet away in opposite directions. They would wear a green floor-length gown and a cape covered in moss. The bottom of the gown would exude a soft green light, unchanging.

Gemini – The Scholar

Geminis represent the ages 14-21, a time of self-development and experimentation. Geminis are mutable air signs so they are constantly trying to communicate their finished ideas. They are constantly on the quest for knowledge and understanding. They would wear a mixture of different styles and prints as they experiment to find what they like best. Their head would be covered by many books suspended around them. Lights would randomly light up different patterns as they connect ideas together.

Virgo – The Practitioner

Virgos represent the ages 35-42, the age of professional growth. They are Mutable Earth signs, so they initiate practical projects. I imagine the Virgo wearing a jumpsuit and a hard hat. The hands would provide light for the tasks being performed, but only when it is dark enough for it to be practical.

Libra – The Mediator

Libras represent the ages 42-49, the age of falling into a rhythm. They are harmony seekers. They would wear a blindfold, and a plain black symmetrical dress. They would have two lights in each hand to signal whose turn it is to speak.

Scorpio – The Cyprian

Scorpios represent the age 49-56, the age of mid-life crisis. They tend to be sensual and seek out emotional experience. They would wear clothes that are largely sheer and lights that outline natural contours of the body.

Sagittarius – The Wanderer

Sagittarius represents the age 56-63, the age of dissolution of self-consciousness. Sagittariuses are mutable fire signs, so they are uninhibited from their drive to go out and experience different things. They are explorers ready to find new areas to understand. I imagine a cowboy hat and bandanna obscuring the face. They would wear a poncho that has LEDs embedded to make a celestial map.

Capricorn – The Monk

Capricorns represent the age 63-70, the age of hardening thoughts. Capricorns are a cardinal earth sign and are disciplined in their drive for achievement. They believe that hard work pays off and self-sacrifice is the ultimate form of achieving goals. The Capricorn would wear a monk’s robe with a hood that covers the face and a soft, slowly pulsating glow from inside.

Aquarius – The Inventor

Aquarius represents the age 70 -77, the age of humanitarian desires. Aquariuses take on a more advisory role as they attempt to solve the worlds issues after they have gained much wisdom. The Aquarius would wear goggles lit with bright white lights that would shut off as the wearer blinks. They would wear essentially a tool rack with different mechanisms and items that might be useful.

Pisces – The Dreamer

Pisces represents the age 77-84, the final years. Pisces are a mutable water sign, and are often dreamy and meditative. I imagine a Pisces wearing a scintillating veil that comes from a cloud surrounding their head. They would wear a tight dress under a lot of loose, sheer coverings. They would be completely glowing, without the light source being evident.

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