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What is Next Nature?

With our attempts to cultivate nature, humankind causes the rising of a next nature, which is wild and unpredictable as ever. Wild systems, genetic surprises, autonomous machinery and splendidly beautiful black flowers. Nature changes along with us.

Posts Tagged ‘Hypernature’

  • avatar-james-sully

    Next Nature Movie #8: Avatar

    At first sight James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar (2009) is no more than a spectacularly rendered version of the classical Pocahontas story. We could criticize its keenly calculated ambition to please everyone, the hammy dialogs, its thinly veiled ecological message, or the somewhat bizarre spirituality in its second half. But we choose not to. Avatar is an important film and there is more than meets the eye through the 3D goggles.

    To begin with, the film familiarizes us with the beauty of hypernatural landscape even the most advanced geneticist wouldn’t dare to dream of. Similar to the landscape painters of the 17th century that taught us to appreciate an untainted landscape, Avatar presents us with flora and fauna that shine with the bioluminescence of a thousand deep sea critters, interactive plants and trees that dwarf the Empire State Building. Fantasy? Escapism? Sure, but it nonetheless mentally prepares us for some of the things scientists are working on today.

    Avatar is the kind of movie that, in retrospect, could become an icon of a shifting zeitgeist. Since Avatar, people will not instantly think you’ve lost your mind when you’re speaking about the interconnectedness of trees & plants in a forest as a sort of biological Internet – thus leveling the biosphere with the noosphere.


    More importantly, Avatar puts the emancipation of the virtividual on the societal agenda. Its main character is Jake Sully, is an ex-marine, bound to a wheel chair, who seeks to make a fresh start on the moon Pandora. The moon has a military run mining colony – humans are playing the role of the aliens for a change – and Sully is asked to go under cover as a member of the local Na’vi species, to learn their secrets and give the humans an advantage. If successful, Sully will get his legs back.

    Admitted, the technological premises of the film is altogether unfeasible and many have criticized Cameron’s blockbuster for the lacking of a sound description of the virtual technology employed to transfer the handicapped Sully onto a healthy Na’vi donor body. Yet, this is beside the point: which is that – although less sophisticated – we are living in a society where people are constantly creating avatars for themselves to participate in games, online platforms and social networks and that, so this movie shows us, the use of avatars has radical implications for our sense of identity, community and moral judgment. As Sully becomes part of the Na’vi community and embodies their sensibilities he soon starts to feel differently about his assignment. Lesson learned: Avatars aren’t neutral.

    Presumably, our society has still a long way to go before the emancipation of the virtividual is complete. When will we cease to think in terms of borders between the virtual and the real? Will the virtividual one day claim its basic rights? Will society be forced to grant rights to someone’s virtual identity? And will we look back at Avatar as an important film that forecasted this situation? Perhaps.

    YouTube Preview Image

    Passed: eXistenZ (1999). Thanks to Tom Kniesmeijer.

  • onion-pill_530

    Onion Pill

    Since the intake of medicines has become a mundane ritual nowadays, why not naturalize the interface? French artist Mathieu Lehanneur is rethinking the pill-person interface in daring new ways.

    The idea of his Onion Pill medication, is to remove leaves off the product in the same way as one would peel an onion. The patient consumes one layer per day, starting with the darkest and progressing to the lightest until he arrives at the center where the final “recovery” capsule is found.” “Hooray!” says this design. “You’ve made it.”

  • manco_5

    Manko & Zero [#4]

    The way down was slow and somehow greasy. Total darkness surrounded them. Gill turned on the car radio and the LED’s lit up their faces in a green pulsating glow. ‘Jovi Rocks!’, Gill said. Manko seriously disliked the sloppy song, so when Gill started to violently shake his head to the music, Manko thought it wise to say nothing. The song had almost finished when they arrived at a large underground lobby and as Gill turned off the radio, he sang the last words out loud:

    ‘They’ll never let us go unless we try
    I’m tired of living just to die.
    We’re getting out of here
    destination anywhere!’

    As Manko stepped out of the car, still troubled by Gill’s taste in music, he noticed two men coming towards him. An old man with a grey suit, grey hair, a pair of heavy black eyebrows and a small grey moustache. The other man was quite tall and wore a Lab coat.

    Zero: ‘Welcome to our facility, Mr. Manko, my name is Zero, I am in charge of this operation. You cannot imagine how happy I am to see you.’

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  • Botnet Storm

    Botnet Storm

    No, this is not some solar system far, far away. Closer than you think, this is is a visualization of a botnet storm. For all you know this malicious virus, or one of its siblings, is controlling your computer – spamming thousands of innocent internet users on your behalf – at this moment. Feeling paranoid already? Yes, next nature can be harsh sometimes.

  • 128

    Acoustic Botany

    With his speculative ‘acoustic garden’ David Benqué tries to explore our cultural and aesthetic relationship to nature. He states that the current debate around Genetic Engineering is centred around subjects like food and healthcare but that the altering of nature is no new development. Mankind altered nature for hundreds of years. Think of flowers and mind altering weeds. Benqué wants to question the role of our aesthetic relationship to nature in this age of synthetic biology.

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  • Pandora-Home-tree

    Lets grow an Avatar Forest

    After making the successful and popular movie Avatar (2009), James Cameron started the Avatar Home Tree Initiative. This initiative consists of building “Avatar” forests on 17 places on Earth in collaboration with local organizations. Among these places are the USA, Sweden, Brazil, Spain, The Netherlands and the UK. Totally there will be 1 million trees planted.

    With this initiative the line between nature and fiction becomes increasingly vague. Of course we aren’t new to the recreation of nature. Like in the Dutch Oostvaardersplassen, where we recreated a 3000 year old landscape. But rather than recreating an ecology we believe existed some thousand years ago, the Avatar woods are about creating an environment after images rendered in a science fiction movie.

    In The Netherlands the initiative is an collaboration between Twentieth Century Fox, the Dutch National Forestry Commission and the foundation wAarde (Worth Earth). The main objective of this particular project is to give nature back to today’s youth, as otherwise it wouldn’t be part of their lives anymore, except through video games and movies like Avatar. In the Avatar forests, the youth will experience nature as they know it from the movie and might be tangled by it. It will be a strange paradox of reality.

    Of course the idea of creating new forests to create a more healthy environment is never a bad idea, and by using a popular movie to get attention for it, is just logical. But what will be next? Maybe Blizzard Entertainment could start creating World of Warcraft like area’s, to get their players to go outside and experience ‘nature’.

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  • Screen shot 2011-03-28 at 3.15.19 PM

    Polar Ice for sale

    Original pieces of polar ice will be sold in a shop in Amsterdam from this Friday the 25th. MyPolarIce is a venture led by Coralie Vogelaar and Teun Castelein. They went to the northern part of Greenland to harvest some of the finest polar ice still available. The pieces of ice were extracted from the Sermeq Kujalleg glacier, and were put on transport to Amsterdam

    Starting from November 26th till December 5th your are invited to get your piece. It is the chance of a lifetime to obtain a frozen relic from the last ice age.
    A piece of polar ice will cost 24.95 euros, but if the stock rapidly diminish prices may rise. A fixed amount of 1000 pieces is for sale, each numbered and a certificate of authenticity is attached. The pieces are packed in special capsule-shaped containers. This packaging ensures that the ice remains frozen up to three hours outside a freezer.

    The goal of MyPolarIce is to sell the pieces to people that cherish and preserve it, to let the ice hybernate in the freezer for better times to come. Like a piece of Berlin Wall reminds of a past era in history, would a piece of polar ice in your fridge remind you – in some future – of the period in the geological history of the earth, when we still had the ice caps? This project leaves room for the argument that we maybe should update our five strategies of biomimicmarketing with a sixth strategy: the presentation and exploitation of nature as a scarce commodity.

    MyPolarIce store
    From 27 November till 5 December.
    Museum square, next to the pond
    Opening 26 November at 17:00

  • concrete-crack-bacillafilla-hmed-208p.grid-6x2

    Engineered Bacteria heal Cracks in Walls

    Researchers have designed bacteria that can produce a special glue to knit together cracks in concrete structures.

    Technews Daily reports the genetically modified microbes have been engineered to swim down fine cracks in concrete and once at the bottom produce a mixture of calcium carbonate and a bacterial glue. The building is “knitted” back together as the glue combines with the filamentous bacterial cells and hardens to the same strength as the surrounding concrete.

    The bacterium tweaked by the researchers is called Bacillus subtilis and is commonly found in soil. Accordingly, the research team calls its building-healing agent “BacillaFilla.” Its spores start germinating only when they make contact with concrete – triggered by the very specific pH of the material – and they have a built-in self-destruct gene that prevents them from proliferating away from the concrete target.

    Via MSNBC News. Thanks Jan van der Asdonk.

  • In Pursuit of Artificial Flavoring

    Following in the footsteps of a Marco Polo-esque spice trade, next nature explorers Jon Cohrs and Ryan Van Luit travel by canoe past massive cargo ships and factories in search of the numerous artificial flavoring factories of New Jersey, the flavoring capital of the U.S. During a two-week industrial wilderness trip, they interview factory employees, document our campsites and adventures, and cook with various artificial flavors in an attempt to bridge our understanding of the natural and artificial.

    More at www.thespicetradeexpedition.com. Thanks Jon Moolaem.

  • pfizer_mickey_mouse

    Essay: From Main Street to the Mansion: Disney, Playboy and the Next Nature of Sex and Death

    Nature demanded that we make a choice between immortality and sex, but the Next Nature of the 21st century may not. For help, we can look back to the 20th Century, which had many storytellers playing with the parameters of the sex equals death equation. None were more successful than two young men from the Midwest who ended up here in Southern California, making their dreams in to reality which Los Angeles always promises, but rarely delivers. Walt Disney and Hugh Hefner, who seem miles apart, are in fact two sides of the same coin, flipping to decide what the Next Nature of sex and death will be.


    Life itself had a choice to make early on. Would life choose unchanging immortality, or infinite mutability punctuated by death and rebirth? Though single-celled organisms are still around, life in its wisdom abandoned self-replication and embraced sex, the intertwining of individuals to produce different offspring, which adapt to their environments, and grow into their own sexual maturity to repeat the process. In other words, life would rather fuck and evolve than endure the stasis of immortality. Life traded sex for death, and we are all the better for it.

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  • Self Catching Fish

    Self Catching Fish

    Researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Wood’s Hole, Massachusetts, are testing a plan to train fish to catch themselves by using a sound broadcast to attract them into a net. If it works, the system could eventually allow black sea bass to be released into the open ocean, where they would grow to market size, then swim into an underwater cage to be harvested when they hear the signal.

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  • allSalt1

    Medicinal All-Salt

    Do you suffer from small health inconveniences and do you like to put salt on your morning egg? Why not combine the two? Medicinal All-Salt provides a low-dosage solution for things like headaches, depression and low libido. You refuse to pay insane amounts for birth control pills? Just season your dinner with the hand-harvested and sun dried salt. Or make it yourself for that matter. Via the site of All-Salt you can find a small guide that will help you to create your own medicinal salt out of the waste-water of your local water treatment plant.

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    Ars Electronica 2010: Artists Adressing NextNature

    Sind wir noch zu retten? That was the slogan of this year’s Ars Electronica festival in Linz (Austria). Titled ‘REPAIR’, the media art festival urged to leave our scepticism and lethargy behind and turn to artists, designers, scientists and engineers to search a way out. What do these pioneers tell us? How can we reach an alternative future? And what’s living like in NextNature? Read more »

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  • desire-of-codes

    ISEA 2010: Artists addressing NextNature

    At ISEA 2010, the International Symposium on Electronic Arts, media artists and media researchers from all over the world present their work in Dortmund (Germany). This year, many projects focus on the relationship between man and nature and man and technology. An overview of contemporary artistic practices of NextNature at ISEA 2010.

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  • DA4GA

    Join the Designers & Artists 4 Genomics Award

    So, you are well aware that biotech will drive our evolution, you took the crash course on synthetic genomics, you’ve got your map of the DNA world in your backpack and are now eager to redesign some microbes that turn waste into energy, eat plastic, detect flu, or build a better being altogether? You have a brilliant project plan already, but only need some – let say– euro 25.000 and a bit of help from a genomic center to turn your vision into reality? We have cake for you.

    The Designers & Artists 4 Genomics Award (DA4GA) aims to explore the hybrid practice between design, art and genomics on contemporary society. If you are graduated no longer than five years ago you are eligible to submit a project plan and take a chance on winning a euro 25.000,- to realize you project in collaboration with one of the participating Genomic centers.

    If we are going to mutate the made & the born, let us at least do this creatively. The application deadline is September 8th 2010.

  • YouTube Preview Image

    When Dreams become a Commodity

    As neuroscience progresses, we gain access to previously inaccessible and unexplored areas of the human mind. Consequentially the intricate processes in our brain are cultivated and transferred into explicit information. Soon after, they become a commodity.

    In his forthcoming film Inception, director Christopher Nolan – renowned from blockbusters like The Prestige and The Dark Knight – explores the notion of people entering and sharing a dream space. If you had the ability to access somebody’s unconscious mind, what would that be used and abused for? The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cob, an expert in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state, when the mind is at its most vulnerable.

    “What’s the most resilient parasite? An idea. A single idea from the human mind, can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules. Which is why I have to steal it.”

    Although the technologies presented in the film are vastly speculative and assume a level of info-neuroscience that might never be realized – if only because the fundamentally distributed architecture of the human brain would turn out principally incompatible with digital information technology – the thought experiment of having shared dream spaces and being able to steal thoughts directly from someones mind, has a certain luster nonetheless.

    Besides the obvious implications on governmental, corporate and personal espionage – I know where you slept last night – , there could be serious ramification on our copyright & patent system as well. While one currently has to materialize an idea to a certain extend when filing a patent, the technology to share and record your dream space allows you to have witnesses that can prove you did indeed already have that certain brilliant idea, long before someone else filed the patent, in your dreams…  Yet another step in the materialization of the virtual.

  • SALMON-530

    Genetically Modified Salmon moves to Kitchen Table

    The US Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to approve the first genetically engineered animal that people would eat — salmon that can grow at twice the normal rate.

    The salmon was developed by a company called AquaBounty Technologies. It is an Atlantic salmon that contains a growth hormone gene from a Chinook salmon as well as a genetic on-switch from the ocean pout, a distant relative of the salmon.

    Normally salmon do not make growth hormone in cold climate. But the pout’s on-switch keeps production of the hormone going year round. The result is salmon that can grow to market size in 16 to 18 months instead of three years.

    The F.D.A. needs to analyze whether the salmon are safe to eat, nutritionally equivalent to other salmon and safe for the environment, according to government and biotechnology industry officials. Furthermore, they must decide on the environmental risks from the salmon. Some experts have speculated that fast-growing fish could out-compete wild fish for food or mates.

    Nowadays the vast majority all Atlantic salmon now comes from fish farms, not the wild. According to its promoters the genetically modified salmon would be grown only in inland tanks or other contained facilities, not in ocean pens where they might escape into the wild. And the fish would all be female and sterile, making it impossible for them to mate – similar to bananas.

    AquaBounty Technologies submitted data to the F.D.A. showing that its salmon was indistinguishable from non-engineered Atlantic salmon in terms of taste, color, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, proteins and other nutrients.

    A public meeting to discuss the salmon may be held as early as this fall.

    Via NYTimes.