The Pompompom Project

The world is full of designs centered around misuse and abuse. We’ve all seen some form of a fancy anti-theft bike lock. Sometimes referred to as abuser centered designs.

I wanted to research design that could eradicate or diminish abusers. Design that prevents the thought process of stealing a bike. Design that enables desistance. In criminology, desistance is generally defined as the cessation of offending or other antisocial behavior.

To understand crime, and counter it, you have to understand the factors behind it. It is an extremely complex subject, but let’s dumb it down. What are the causes of crime?

80% of inmates in Iceland have issues with addiction. It is the main cause of crime. And a majority of prisoners in Iceland suffer from psychological distress. ︎︎︎

Why do we treat addiction differently than other health issues? And especially when it is a such a big cause of pain in our society. There are of course many factors at play, but the biggest is without a doubt The War on Drugs.

The term The War on Drugs was popularized by US media after a press conference held by President Nixon in 1971, where he declared drug abuse as public enemy number one and imposed action to counter drug addiction. Excessive sentencing, mandatory jail time for possession and a militarized drug police force are the harsh realities of many addicts in the States.︎︎︎

The politics fuelling The War on Drugs are worth taking a closer look at. A right-wing conservative ideology has driven the legislation on narcotics in America. This legislation has been enforced disproportionally on communities of color and communities of low income, and by design by some accounts.

The US drug policy shaped the drug policy for the western world, including the Nordic countries. One of Iceland’s most memorable campaign slogans is the 90’s classic “Drug Free Iceland 2000”.︎︎︎

Considering the fact that an American right-wing conservative ideology shaped our drug policy here in Iceland, and our own war on drugs with heavy casualties, we have a moral obligation to reform it.

The War on Drugs is lost. We need decriminalization, destigmatization and alternative approaches to treating addiction.︎︎︎ 
What I found interesting in my research on crime, desistance and subsequently drug use, is the fact that the only banned substance native to Iceland is the talk of the town in addiction studies. That substance is psilocybin, found in the Trjónupeðla (e. Liberty Cap) mushroom.︎︎︎

The mushroom is, along with the Fly Agaric mushroom, referred to as Berserkjasveppir (Berserker mushrooms) in Icelandic Sagas. Warriors were said to feast on them before battle to gain strength and rid themselves of fear - to go berserk! Trjónupeðla grows wild and is notoriously difficult to cultivate, even for experienced mycologists. 

Psilocybin therapy has shown to be highly effective in treatments to addiction, depression and mental distress.︎︎︎ 

The use of psilocybin for therapeutic and recreational purposes is on the rise in Iceland. Each autumn, fields of grass are invaded by balaclava clad mushroom pickers, but the practice is frowned upon, and regularly ridiculed in local media. The stigma around psilocybin use in Iceland is detrimental to the therapeutic values of the substance.

I saw the need for a design that could shift the conversation, a design that enables desistance, but with a 2020 approach to marketing and branding.

And thus The Pompompom Project was born.

Pompompom is a set of machines to process hallucinogenic mushrooms for therapeutic use. Consisting of a dryer, grinder and a capsule filler.

The branding takes cues from the new age of American cannabis marketing. The machines are decorative, a bold version of luxurious homeware. Modeled around Lion’s Mane mushrooms, a fungi often used in combination with psilocybin.

Made to specifically process Psilocybin Semilanceata, known as Trjónupeðla (Liberty Cap) in Iceland. The mushrooms grow wild and are available for foraging only during a short 2-3 weeks period in the arctic climate of Iceland. 

A fully functional model was built and fabricated from bio-degradable plastic. At the moment there are no plans for mass production of the machines or making them available for retail.

I sincerely hope this stub of a study invokes a conversation about hallucinogens, addiction and the outdated stigma on drug use.
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