In 2017 I audited a class at ITP (the Interactive Telecommunications Program), Tisch School of the Arts, NYU called “100 Days of Making” led by Katherine Dillon. The class is structured just as the title proclaims: 100 days of unique creative outputs. It is a relentless process, one in which you work fast enough to forgo significant time spent deliberating. I used it as a means to get to know a subject, in this case, sperm whales, and to explore the vibrant and exploding world of 2-D crafting materials – including a home vinyl cutter, glitter, and stick-on letters.


This list of questions and themes emerged over the 3 months. I feel I only addressed a fraction of these, and only superficially.

  1. Draw the connection between whale shit and circulating iron nutrients in the ocean: whale is the heart of the ocean, plumping nutrients
  2. Draw the connection between a. whales storing nutrients that they gather at the ocean depths and recirculate to the shallow ocean, and b. whales as marine pollutants and industrial waste storage
  3. Whales are from outer space
  4. Whales use sonar
  5. Whales are delicious (whale for lunch in Japanese classrooms)
  6. Whales sing (belugas are “the canaries of the sea,” again a connection between singing nicely and being an early detector of toxic levels)
  7. Whales communicate, echolocate and send fast clicks (like fax machines)
  8. Some whales have been called “mobile Superfund sites (belugas in St Lawrence River)
  9. Some whale brains are bigger than human brains with a different neuron structure
  10. What are stories of whale-human relations?
  11. Whales used by humans as transportation (mythological)
  12. How much poop does a whale poop?
  13. Whale food (giant squid)
  14. Baleen whales as filterers
  15. Whales as metaphors
  16. Whales as monsters
  17. How to butcher a whale (does this differ from Faroe Islands to Japan to Inuit?)
  18. Whale partners in ocean ecologies
  19. How do whales have sex?
  20. HW’s whale nation quotes
  21. Visual parallel to sonar? is there an analogy?
  22. Inventory how whales were used in the Victorian era
  23. Baleen as corset bones
  24. Painting with plankton, skinning with salmon skin
  25. Whales and barnacles, whales as a surface on which things grow
  26. Is there any sci-fi with whale protagonists?
  27. The sad story of Twitter’s Fail Whale
  28. Whales used for navigation (by human sailors, fisherfolk, schools of fish)
  29. How long do whales live?
  30. How many babies do they have?
  31. What is whale childhood like? How long does it last?
  32. What kinds of social structure do whales have? order, leadership, kinship, partnership, courtship
  33. Do whales have interspecies relationships?
  34. Aside from whales, what are umbrella concepts for human toxic waste disposal and storage?
  35. What happens to a whale when she/he is dying? Is old age supported by the whale community?
  36. What happens to a whale when he/she dies? Does the body sink to the ocean floor?
  37. Whale oil, whale hunting, whale corpse disposal, boneyards?
  38. Whale hunting logs that used whale stamps to record in log books the volume of oil that was extracted from the animal
  39. Whale oil vs fossil fuel: comparison of extraction and uses
  40. Moby Dick
  41. Are there sea shanties about whales?
  42. Index of whale products – in whaling’s heyday and today
  43. What do whales talk about?
  44. Entanglement in fishing nets and collisions with ships represent the greatest threats to the sperm whale population. Other threats include ingestion of marine debris, ocean noise, and chemical pollution
  45. Bioaccumulation of toxic substances in sperm whales
  46. Ambergris’ history and continued usage
  47. 8000 lbs is difficult to imagine, especially inside a head.
  48. Human-whale shared toxins
  49. Whales as projection surfaces
  50. A rosette of sperm whales (Marguerite formation)