Fall 2017
Washington University in St. Louis
Radical Design: Making Civic Experiences
Andrew Friedman, Marleigh Friedman, Ashley Holder

Phoenix Ceremony

In contrast to a typical design prototype (with a T) which seeks to try out a solution in order to improve it, a provotype (with a V) uses designed artifacts to provoke visions of alternative futures in order to open different possibilities. After students developed alternative worlds and the things that would exist within them, they were asked to perform a scenario within the world in order to invite others in and provoke thinking about how things might be different.

Andrew, Marleigh and Ashley’s project imagines a world without policing, where we prioritize preventative and restorative responses to violence and conflict. They titled their project “Mental Health is Public Health; Public Health is Public Safety” and created a Natural Emotional Spirit Tracker (NEST), a bracelet that all community members wear to reflect their current emotional state. The group also imagined a communal orb that would reflect the overall emotional state of the community – when the orb reflects a conflicted or tense emotional landscape, an “emotion-sharing ritual” called a ‘Phoenix Ceremony’ would be called to talk it out.

Ashley writes, “The goal of the ceremony is for the community to gather together and cleanse itself of the negative emotions through emotional vulnerability, collective discussion, and community-based problem-solving. Citizens would gather at the CNEST and build a ceremonial bonfire, which would be used as a cleansing agent in the ritual. When the whole community is assembled, citizens are given time to speak individually in front of the group about their emotional state. After speaking, a citizen removes the NEST from their bracelet and drops it into the fire. Over the course of the ceremony, as emotions are shared and community issues are mediated and resolved, the extreme heat of the fire drains the colors from the NESTS. At the conclusion of the ceremony, citizens take a NEST from the ashes of the fire and place it back in their bracelet, where it will remain until the next ceremomy.”


“Congratulations on receiving your first or Natural Emotional Spirit Tracker from the Community Council! This NEST bracelet will help you navigate your emotions, and facilitate connection and empathy between all community members. The member is only as healthy as their community, and the community is only as healthy as its members. When someone harms another person, they also harm the larger community we are all a part of. We applaud your efforts to stop interpersonal harm by tying the connections and knots in our social fabric as tight as possible. Emotional stability is the bedrock of all else. In helping others, we help ourselves. In helping ourselves, we also help others. Negativity, pain, and struggle are accepted and redirected to a path of rebirth, renewal, and emotional knowing. We trust that you will take this responsibility to yourself and others seriously. So come together as individuals, and come together as community. Let us join! Gather! Intertwine”