Art of Interference
Season 1: Water | Episode 1: Dew
[TH: Tori Hoover| ER: Emma Reimers | LK: Lutz Koepnick | TNP: Than Nyugen Phan | ML: Maren Loveland | SG: Steve Goodbred | BT: Ben Tran | JR: Jackson Reimers | JG: Jennifer Gutman]
Tori Hoover: From Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, this is Art of Interference, a podcast about creative responses to climate change. In each episode, we talk with artists and experts who work at the intersection of nature, technology, and science today. Today’s episode is cohosted by Emma Reimers and Lutz Koepnick.
Emma Reimers: What are we listening to?
Lutz Koepnick: You tell me!
ER: I’m not sure; a tropical forest?
ER: A campfire crackling in the rain?
LK: No, not really.
ER: Bugs crawling on leaves?
LK: No, not quite. What you actually hear is a recording of dew dripping in the rainforest.
ER: No wonder I didn’t recognize it. Haven’t spent much time in rainforests. And, well, early mornings aren’t my strength.
LK: When I first heard this, I wasn’t quite sure about it either. Dew isn’t something we normally listen to.
ER: Well, it isn’t really anything you can listen to, right? Unless it drips onto something else. So, it’s hard to have any sense of its sound.
LK: Yeah, the only way to record the sound of dew is to record everything that surrounds it. You know, morning sounds: birds chirping, grass rustling, the steady drip of water from the gutters. But you’re right—dew itself has no sound.
ER: And before you know it, dew is… gone. It vanishes, it evaporates when the sun rises… and then I finally wake up. Most of us probably associate it with moments of silence or calm.
LK: But it certainly has inspired tons of poets and composers and artists . . .
ER: . . . and Tennessee soda makers to brand their products. Forget Dolly Parton; this is our state’s greatest export!
LK: Yes, right. But, of course, today we’re talking about actual dew and the art it inspires.
ER: Yeah, it’s amazing how something as small as a bead of water can, shall we say, precipitate artistic reflections on climate change as we’ll hear today.
LK: The centerpiece of today’s episode is based on this great folktale from Southeast Asia. It’s about a princess who tries to make jewelry out of dew.
LK: Her father, the king, hires numerous artisans to fulfill his daughter’s wishes. He threatens them with execution should they fail. Eventually, a wise monk shows up and asks the princess to bring him a bowl with drops of dew to make the jewelry. But all she can gather in her bowl is stagnant water. At first, she’s confused and then she realizes her folly in imagining she could control the elements. And then, she transforms into dew herself and evaporates into the vast river system of the Mekong Delta.
ER: You kind of wish she had known earlier about the fickle nature of dew. But the end doesn’t sound all that sad!
LK: No, it doesn’t. It’s a happy ending of sorts, this idea of rethinking the world from the perspective of dew. And it tells us something about navigating our climate crisis and living with whatever we call “nature” today. Thao Nguyen Phan, a contemporary Vietnamese artist, has recently reworked this parable into a video installation. It’s called Becoming Alluvium. It asks all kinds of tough questions about the role of art in our world of climate change and human-made emergencies. I saw it first at the New Museum Triennial in New York in 2021 and I was really captivated by it. I met with Thao earlier this year to discuss her thoughts about dew, climate change, and what it means to work as an artist in contemporary Vietnam.
Thao Nguyen Phan: My name is Thao Nguyen Phan. I am a Vietnamese visual artist based in Saigon in Vietnam. I was educated at the fine arts university in Ho Chi Minh City and then I came to this school of the Art Institute of Chicago for my MFA. I started to make video art since I met my mentor, Joan Jonas. So now my work is a combination of paintings and video. And most of the times it talks about history that relates to Vietnam, also my observation of daily life.
LK: Thao is soft-spoken and modest, but she is never shy to ask big questions or offer thoughtful, even sweeping answers. She loves to tell stories in her work and about her work, which she views as part of a larger constellation of narratives.
TNP: I really wanted to write fiction when I was a student, but I realized that I’m not so talented in writing. I’m just a little bit better at drawing and painting.
LK: Thao’s artistic practice is deeply connected to the Mekong River. The Mekong is one of the longest transnational river systems in the world, 2,700 miles in length. That’s a little more than the distance between Boston and LA. For the last ten years, her work has repeatedly featured the river’s flow, the communities that live along its banks, and the histories these waters have shaped and that have shaped it in return.
LK: In one of her earlier works,
TNP: –it’s called Mekong Mechanical–
LK: Thao pictures the night shift of a female worker in the Pangasius fish factory in the south of Vietnam. The video uses different speeds to feature the repetitive nature of filleting fish at the factory. It explores the differences between the romanticized images of the river delta we know from guidebooks and documentaries and what the river means for people really living and working along its edges.
TNP: …I make video work in which I shot live in the Mekong Delta and the gaseous fish factory. So Pangasius….
LK: The Mekong Delta, Thao says, “is not always calm and placid, but a place with a diverse and turbulent history.” Mekong Mechanical, like Becoming Alluvium, resists easy categories. Both are, technically speaking, single-video installations. But both incorporate other media such as Thao’s own watercolors, photographs, prints, and even computer animations.
TNP: So I was painting for quite a while before I expanded the practice to other mediums. I think somehow in my work I try to resist categorization. When a scholar from the West writes about art from outside of the West, for example, they still have this tendency to categorize things, there would be categorized movements from this period to that period or this painting would fit perfectly in this movement. For me it’s also problematic, because artists usually don’t make work just to be categorized. It is more interesting if all of the mediums overlap.
LK: Thao’s stories spill over, they meander like the river itself, their form mimics the movements of the very river to which Thao has returned over and over again in her career, the river that is her career.
TNP: just like the river and the flow and carry alluvium and expands. Yeah.
TH: Hi, Tori here, let me interfere for a second. Editing this, I almost wanted to cut out Thao’s YEAHs – but I think they’re actually doing something quite interesting.
LK: Funny you mention it: This is one of the things I enjoyed about our conversation.
LK: They seem to wrap up her thoughts and observations. But they don’t work like periods or exclamation marks. They often sound probing and tentative, as if she questioned the authority of her own voice.
LK: But in truth they invite you to think along with her and to keep thinking. To take a breath and to ponder, wherever it might take you. So, Thao’s
LK: doesn’t really wrap up anything. Instead, its operate like an echo, spreading her thoughts into the world without controlling their resonances.
TH: I like that.
LK: Becoming Alluvium was first exhibited in 2019 in Barcelona. When it showed in New York in 2021—New York times critic Holland Cotter called the film “a beauty.” The piece has three parts: The first tells the story of a catastrophic breaking of a dam that killed two brothers downstream. These boys, we learn, later reincarnated as the Irrawaddy Dolphin and the Water Hyacinth to pay respect to the life of the water system. The video’s second part shows people along the Mekong. It’s very documentary in style. These people navigate boats and ferries. They cross bridges with their bikes and mopeds. They sit at the water’s edge and look into the distance. For a moment, we see people who conduct religious ceremonies before we cut to images of others sorting through enormous heaps of plastic trash while parts of Marguerite Duras’s novel The Lover and Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities play in the background. In part three, finally, Thao retells the Khmer folktale about the princess and the dew, the princess who aspires to the impossible and in the end transforms into dew herself, dissolves into the river, and reincarnates as the alluvial sediment that’s so vital for the river’s life. This final part is set to animated drawings and watercolors; it also uses old illustrations by French colonial explorers.
TNP: So I found the tale from a collection of Khmer folklore that was published in Vietnamese in the 1960s. When I read the story, I was particularly interested in the idea of the dew and how this princess wanted this impossible idea and somehow it relates very well to our contemporary moment.
LK: So much has been said about the causes of environmental change over the last decades, often without being heard. Thao makes a good point: what we need are new metaphors to figure out our place within all this, new maps to chart the meaning of human interventions.
LK: I really like the idea of coming up with new metaphors. So much has been said about the causes of environmental change over the last decades, often without being heard, let alone being translated into effective policies. Most of us, I think, struggle to find the right scale to address the issue: its global, even planetary in nature, it feels too big to be faced even by individual nations should they be willing to cooperate, and whatever damage has been done already cannot really be reversed anymore. We talk a lot about climate change, often in apocalyptic terms, but we talk much less about what it means to live—and live well—amid that change.
Why did the stream dry up?
I put a dam across it to have it for my use,
that is why the stream dried up.
Why did the harp-string break?
I tried to force a note that was beyond its power,
that is why the harp-string is broken.
ER: Well, that raises some profound questions.
LK: And timely questions, I’d say. It’s a quote from Tagore’s 1913 poem, The Gardener. It plays at the beginning of Becoming Alluvium, as we see giant ships floating down the Mekong.
ER: He really is making me think about the relationship between technology and art, between the engineer and the artist.
LK: And about what it means for us humans to interfere with the natural, the non-human world. Whether any such form of interference is always needs to be destructive. So it’s really a perfect opening for Becoming Alluvium.
ER: Here in the US, we still mostly think about Vietnam in terms of the deadly war we fought there. Or, more recently, as an attractive tourist destination. But people are probably much less aware of what industrialization, progress, and now climate change are doing to the region.
LK: Most of the Mekong Delta is less than 6 feet above sea-level, so given many predictions much of this area might be under water by the end of the century. As Thao often points out in her work, dam construction up the river, industrialized overfishing, and urban waste, among other things, create all kinds of additional problems now already. So, we talked to Steve Goodbred, a geologist and climate scientist here at Vanderbilt, to learn more about the environmental challenges and crises in this region.
Steve Goodbred: I study the dirt the sand in the mud that’s been delivered by the rivers, that’s accumulated over anywhere from the last season to the last 10,000 years.
LK: Steve’s work complicates the idea that flooding is always a problem to be avoided as often seems the case in climate narratives around sea-level rise.
SG: Rise in sea level actually contributes to elevation gain. So as sea level rises, you’ve got back-flooding of rivers. Sediments are trapped. And so the land surface can rise with the sea level. So it depends on the balance between sediment coming in to offset that and the rate of sea level rise.
ER: So sea-level rise can sometimes be good?
LK: Yea, it seems that river systems in places like the Mekong Delta are really good at self-regulating between rising waters and forming new layers of sediment to offset that.
SG: More rain, more sediment will offset faster rates of sea level rise. And that’s exactly what we see in the prehuman history of the Delta.Of course, all of that breaks down with the engineering, the dam construction and those things. Now with most of the world’s major rivers heavily dammed much of that sediment is trapped up in reservoirs. We’re also increasingly extracting water for irrigation projects.
LK: Problems arise when humans mess with these natural processes.
ER: And Steve talks about how the people in a similar delta system—the Ganges—are well-equipped to deal with such a dynamic landscape.
SG: When the land changes, people already adapted to working with different dimensions of the landscape, whether it’s wet or dryer, they have experience in it and a foothold in both. It all comes back to the water and to the sediment, so it’s truly the lifeblood of these areas. Water’s difficult, challenging.
LK: Water is challenging. I asked Thao about how people in Vietnam live with the river as well, and how she would answer Tagore’s question:
TNP: Growing up in Vietnam, when the country just opened to a free market, my childhood was still a very simple one since Vietnam is developing very fast. There is a lot of hope for progress. As a student, I do field trips to the countryside of Vietnam when there was no electricity at that time. I found the town inspiring. It’s just a different way of seeing nature, different way of seeing life. And it was for me a very beautiful experience. But for the people who live there, of course they need electricity so they can do better farming, they can send their children to school, they can access technology. As an artist and as a citizen, to consider the goodness of technology to bring good things, but still don’t lose the poetry nature or folklore brings to us. YEAH.
LK: YEAH. The poetry of nature—that’s a big idea. Romantics talked a lot about this around 1800, deeply concerned about the coming of industrial society. They talked much less though about the claims of citizenship, let alone about how we could balance the demands of nature and society, of art and technology, because they typically felt that one negatively interfered with the other.
TNP: There must be a balance.
LK: Dew is perhaps the most fragile, the most vulnerable state of water. It has no real existence of its own, it requires all kinds of atmospheric changes to come about, it emerges before we know it, it disappears before we really have time to grasp it. Add to this the effects of climate change.
JG: Hi, Jen here. Researching this episode, we frequently came across the idea of dewpoint.
JG: Notice how stressed-out meteorologists sound when trying to explain what dewpoint is?
JG: We wanted to break it down for you in this episode, but without it becoming too much of a distraction.
JG: Dewpoint identifies the temperature at which air achieves a relative humidity of 100%. But more than explain dewpoint, we want to address why it’s a cause for concern today. If dewpoint is all about air being saturated with water, then higher dewpoints mean more moisture in the air. This is especially significant in the face of global warming. Environmental activist Bill McKibben insists that one of the most crucial facts for understanding climate change today is that “warm air holds more water vapor than cold.” So, a warming climate means more moisture in the air, which sets the stage for devastating weather events like extreme drought in some areas and flooding in others. At the level of the everyday, higher dew points will affect how comfortable people feel outside.
JG: Instead of feeling sharp and crisp, air will feel dense and heavy, increasing our reliance on air conditioning, which itself increases energy use and, thus, greenhouse gas emissions. It’s especially bleak to consider that some experts say that extreme heat in certain parts of the world will completely defeat air-conditioning’s capacity to maintain comfortable temperatures. This means new technologies will need to be developed for figuring out how to cool the air. So, while a bit tricky to understand, dewpoint is a significant data point in navigating climate change.
LK: Thanks, Jen. So, dew is all about change, about metamorphosis. In her memoir, Poet Warrior, Joy Harjo writes
ML: “I had to let the tears turn to dew glistening at dawn on small green plants emerging from the desert sand to make food.”
LK: Dew, Harjo reminds us, functions symbiotically with its environment, simply a moment within a complex chain of transformations. For Thao this is the whole point of her parable. One of the artists who inspires Thao is Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weeresathekul. She is very fond of the ghosts in his films that derail our expectations for linear narratives.
TNP: So I guess this character in Becoming Alluvium, the princess, is also the spirit of exploring, the spirit of surrendering to the power and the beauty of nature.
LK: Like Apichatpong, Thao wants us to rethink the relation of the modern and the traditional, of humanity and nature, to become humble in the face of what we can’t control.
TNP: To be dew sometimes is more interesting than being a human being. Maybe you can experience more; the vastness of the river and the transformation of water. So it’s not a sad ending.
LK: In Becoming Alluvium, the scenes with the princess feature hand-drawn images and animation techniques. These scenes look more artificial—if you wish, more artful—than the rest of the video. Less realistic, more imaginative. Which is appropriate to Ben Tran, a professor of Asian literature and culture at Vanderbilt. Ben suggests that the belief of reincarnation, influenced by the transformative powers of water in Vietnam, might be a productive way of understanding the planet’s future.
Ben Tran: Apocalypse is not the end point, but if we understand it as a form of reincarnation, then there could be more compassion and empathy towards what is being lost.
LK: The idea of reincarnation helps us to understand how climate change can shift our perspective of life—the potential “end” of the planet is not really an end, much in the same way that the various forms of water in Thao’s artwork flow between each other, creating new forms of life and ways of being.
BT: Various directions of flow, right, really challenge categories. And I think that these different incarnations really do challenge the notion of human. So, I really do think that there is something to the history of this water that is constantly in flux. If we understand climate change as just another form of reincarnation might provide us more sympathy and empathy for the things that are to come or are already here.
LK: But reincarnation isn’t just a physical transformation. It’s also something more subtle.
BT: Part of the reincarnation we’re talking about is that sometimes we can’t see it, we can feel it at a particular point, but the cycles with which it’s transforming, we might not be privy to. It’s something that’s beyond our control.
ER: Our discussion of dew as metaphor, for reincarnation and I guess some sort of climate adaptation, reminds me of this passage from Roy Scranton’s book Learning to Die in the Anthropocene:
JR: “The problem with our response to climate change isn’t a problem with passing the right laws or finding the right price for carbon or changing people’s minds or raising awareness. Everybody already knows. The problem is that the problem is too big. The problem is that different people want different things. The problem is that nobody has real answers. The problem is that the problem is us.”
ER: This rings true. But even if the problem is us, we’ll need many more laws and effective international agreements to make sure our future has a future. And to speak of “us,” to put all of humanity in one pot, seems to oversimplify the problem. It makes no distinction between people in the West (who have largely produced our climate emergency) and people in so-called developing nations (who suffer most from the West’s rapid industrialization). Thao has her own take on this:
TNP: After the Vietnam war we had a period of 15 years where we closed entirely the country and we suffered a lot because we don’t have the technology to produce enough rice for the nation. Growing up in Vietnam, I always hear propaganda saying that all we have to do is go faster, better in order to reach industrialization.
ER: Historian Dipesh Chakrabarty calls it the conflict between the lumpers and the splitters. Here’s what he means: Lumpers emphasize one-worldism: we’re all sharing one planet so we are all equally responsible for fixing it. Splitters, on the other hand, meet claims of oneness with healthy skepticism, arguing that the lumper opinion obscures crucial differences in culpability.
TNP: As a citizen of a developing country, I feel like I also listen to many talks on climate. To apply environmental protection would delay our process to be industrialized.
ER: It’s a political, personal, and academic problem, perhaps the biggest of our time.
TNP: As a person, I am caught in between these ends.
ER: Chakrabarty’s argument is that climate change requires us to think of things in planetary terms, which means it’s time to reconsider some of our hard-won investments into diversity and difference. Climate change might be a planetary problem, but it—as Thao indicates—means very different things in different parts of the world. It’s a big issue. Too big an issue to fully cover today, or for any single episode. But for now, here’s how Steve Goodbred frames it:
SG: The climate narrative in Bangladesh—I suspect it’s quite similar to Vietnam—is that we are the developing nations and we’re facing the brunt of the G8, the Western world. Pointing to many of the challenges that they face as climate change. Climate change is here and it’ll have a devastating impact.
ER: So climate change materializes the impact of human activity on the planet—but…
SG: The truth is, so many of the problems they face now have nothing to do with climate change. It’s been poor engineering projects. The reason it’s important to me that we don’t only say this is climate change is that it’s avoiding the opportunity to resolve or mitigate problems that we have full control over.
ER: Climate change might be an ongoing problem, but it also presents an opportunity to reconsider ongoing activity like damming rivers. Steve seems to find some hope in how delta communities have long co-existed with extreme weather.
SG: There’s some lovely photos I’ve been able to take over the years of visiting the same site in the dry season and the wet season. In one season is this green field of rice and other grains and vegetables. And then literally the next photo is a lake. And it’s not a bad flood year, this isn’t a disaster. This is actually the seasonality. It’s a way of life
LK: Water is difficult and challenging, as Steve said earlier. But there are also lessons to be learned in that challenge. One, for sure, is that people in the Mekong Delta are much better prepared for some of the effects of climate change than people in New Orleans, Florida, or Manhattan might be.
SG: When the land changes, people are already adapting to different dimensions of the landscape, whether it’s wetter or dryer, they have experience in it and a foothold in both.
LK: They have learned to live with rising water year in and year out.
ER: True. What I really like is how he and Ben both emphasized the need for a different approach to facing our climate emergency: one that radically decenters humans.
LK: Which, in the end, is perhaps the central point of Thao’s metaphor of dew and the princess as well, her idea of reincarnation.
ER: Yeah. It makes me wonder, though, what does this mean for how we think about the role of the artist, the maker and shaper of things?
LK: So I actually asked Thao about this when I chatted with her.
TNP: I don’t think negatively about the issues that we’re facing. The issue of climate change is real, it’s happening and we can do something even small about it. But because I am not an activist, it’s hard for me to do clear actions, like going to the street and protesting.
LK: We need a multitude of approaches to solve these issues; and we need to be mindful of the fact that political activism often faces different political institutions, constraints, and forms censorship in different cultures.
TNP: Living in Vietnam, the youth climate movement was very strong. But I also wonder why this climate movement is more popular in the West, when here we are more heavily impacted by this climate change. In Southeast Asia, no one goes out to protest because it’s a luxury. So we do our own protests in just a different way, a more subtle way. Yeah.
LK: I am sure that this idea of subtlety will not fare well with some political activists, in the West.
ER: Or with people who expect art to dramatically change the world.
TNP: Personally, I think art can do just very little.
LK: And yet, in the end, her approach to dew and the river, offers a surprisingly optimistic take on climate change.
TNP: So together with other experts, from other fields such as science or even politics, art could very slowly change things positively.
ER: It’s quite different from the geoengineers who roll out more technology to fix the damage of previous technology. It’s an optimism that emerges from a view in which the world no longer pivots around our human arrogance.
TNP: Art is like this little dew that that comes inside these very vast rivers. But somehow, even though it’s very little, tiny as a dew, it has a significant importance, positively.
ER: And if you look at this world from the perspective of dew, then you might realize that our quest for instant solutions—our solutionism—is the very problem.
LK: Geologists call our age the Anthropocene because humans have assumed the power to act as geological agents. But, of course, the concept of the Anthropocene is bitterly ironic: in trying to control nature, we have created conditions that control us.
ER: So, what do you think? Are we off the hook? Should we just fold our hands and accept the fact that this planet will survive us? That it can do well—perhaps even better—without us?
LK: Well I don’t think this is really her point, right? I think what Thao is saying is that we don’t really need to talk about climate change at all if we’re not willing to develop new ideas of how we as humans may act in this world and, as importantly, allow this world to act on us, without rethinking the obligations and limits of human agency.
ER: So is Thao—or are you—asking then for some kind of Buddhist turn in climate politics?
LK: I am not a Buddhist. Nor religious in any usual sense of the word. Just interested in what contemporary art can do to navigate the mess that we have created.
ER: So, we should think of Thao’s princess as a model, a metaphor, of how we can see ourselves in planetary terms. As part of a much larger ecology.
LK: Yup. And dew, in her work, is the gateway to get there.
TNP: So it’s not a sad ending.
ER: I gotta say: I really like this. It probably also explains why Becoming Alluvium resonated on so many different levels with the scientists and critics we talked to.
LK: Yeah, they really responded to it, maybe even more strongly than I expected.
SG: It opens with the country boat and that put-put-put-put-put. That is so iconic. These are these little one-cylinder engines from China that are used for everything, water pumps, boats, grain mills. And so that sound just instantly transported me back.
ER: Both experts described how Thao’s work is especially important because it helps to disrupt harmful ways of thinking about the environment.
BT: I think she echoes great artists because beneath the veneer of that beautiful, romanticized notion of this area is this brackish, muddy, littered history, right, of extreme commerce in confrontation and struggle with nature itself, because of the forces of nature, but there’s also been a lot of history of all kinds of violence that have led up to that.
ER: So the story becomes a kind of ethic, a way of looking at water, dew, and the landscape differently.
BT: The way that we’ve been thinking about it, romanticizing it, using it, wanting it as particular jewels, is detrimental, right?
LK: Right, and Thao’s work contemplates the transitional, the liminal. Something that seems almost impossible to do but allows us to better understand Vietnam and its climate problems in a much more complex perspective.
BT: One of the interesting things that I think this piece tries to do is to capture a history that is always moving and ephemeral. I think that’s a very difficult thing to do. It’s like the opposite of the frozen tundras. How do you capture something that is never preserved? It’s always in flux changing with the seasons. Water will rot these things. The salination will ruin these things. And so how do you capture these different histories that are just…it’s flowing, but the magnitude of it is so great. If you think about where the water comes from, the mountains all the way up, I think it’s a very valiant effort in trying to capture the complexities of the history and the region.
LK: Art like Thao’s Becoming Alluvium has a power to offer new, alternative models of engaging with the world, with the planet, with ourselves. Which is, if you ask me, what all good art does or should do, resonate in unexpected ways.
ER: This awareness of our reach and limits—we probably need as never before amid our climate emergencies. To learn how to live with less control, to rethink our role as stewards rather than engineers of the land.
LK: Like the folktale shows us, water’s not an object; dew is not a jewel to be possessed. We need to somehow learn to live with the water, with the elements.
ER: Like our princess.
LK: Like our princess.
TH: Thanks for sharing your time with us today. We hope you come back for the second episode of Art of Interference on fog and the experimental work of fog artist Fujiko Nakaya. This season we’re focusing on the element of water in all its different states. If you like what you’ve heard here, make sure to subscribe to our show in the podcast app of your choice. For transcript, extras, and more information on today’s guests, you can visit us at artofinterference.com.
Art of Interference is produced at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. It has been made possible with the generous support of the “Climate Studies Fund” of the College of Arts & Science. Thank you to our interlocutors, Thao Nguyen Phan, Dr. Steve Goodbred, and Dr. Ben Tran, for their time and insight.
Art of Interference is written, recorded, and produced at Vanderbilt University in Nashville Tennessee by Jennifer Gutman, Tori Hoover, Maren Loveland, Emma Reimers, and Lutz Koepnick. This episode was mixed by Tori Hoover and Emma Reimers. Interviews were conducted by Jennifer Gutman, Lutz Koepnick, and Maren Loveland.