Vertical Hustle

Verticle Hustle depicts a future world whose aesthetics and material culture are centered around three main constraints:

(1) The nomadic people in the scenario get around by climbing trees and scaffolding, and thus carry only necessities for survival.

(2) Mass production no longer exists, thus everything is created and invented in a do-it-yourself (DIY) fashion from leftover materials.

(3) It is no longer possible to live either by farming the land or hunting large animals. Small animals are few and difficult to trap. No mass production means remain to provide synthetic nutrition. DIY biotechnology and genetic engineering are the only reliable source of food. Specifically, this project examines how controlling micro-organism metabolism might be applied to digesting otherwise undigestible plant materials, as well as used to create light.


In a not so distant post-CyberPunk future, on the planet earth, the world as we know it has collapsed and Nature has regained strength and started to flourish once more.

For many years, human ‘progress’ accelerated exponentially and nation states became less and less important as technology and resources were monopolized by huge industrial conglomerates. After pushing the diameter of the biosphere several thousand kilometers further into space, they turned the entire surface of the earth into cities hundreds of kilometers tall. When the conglomerates eventually collapsed under their own weight, chaos overtook the remaining infrastructure.

During the vertical expansion, a few artificial oases of vegetation were created on top of kilometers of constructions and scaffolding as leisure sites. After the crash, these patches of plant life slowly spread to the surrounding buildings and scaffolding, creating a jungle of metal and concrete, grass and trees – and slowly birds, small rodents, and bugs were seen, how they survived no-one new. Maybe they were kept as curiosities in private zoos and terrariums.

Sun no longer reaches the Dead Zone of ground level, where people originally lived. The only thing seen here is the occasional scavenger walking around collecting old electronics and industrial equipment from a time long, long forgotten.

But technology is not forgotten. Old infrastructure such as wires and scaffolding are used to connect people, a crude sort of internet that requires a physical connection to work, and in an anarchistic DIY way, connects the few pockets of denser habitation. Instead of panel screens, tattooed e-inks allow parts of the body to become a sort of screen.


A day in the life of a hunter nomad. After an unsuccessful evening of trapping, he climbs around to locate a proper mainframe connection and then contacts and finds his Biodealer. He buys a cellulose degrading organism so he can get something to eat. He uses his own blood as nutrient supplementation for the microorganisms, and while they multiply he collects leaves and twigs they can degrade. Later he consumes the resulting sugar mixture. He also uses the degraded cellulose as feed for his bioilluminating organisms before he continues on his journey.