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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’

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    Meet the New Meat

    What do you think of lab-grown meat? “Yuck” might be your first reaction. One day, however, it could become the environmentally friendly alternative for breeding cows and pigs for meat consumption. Professor Mark Post argues in his talk at TEDxBrainport that it is relatively simple to take stem cells from an animal and grow them to produce new muscle tissue. Simply add sugar, proteins and fat and get it into shape with a bit of exercise to created edible meat. The only problem then is to find a new role for our livestock…

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    Animal-free Meat could put a hold on Global Warming

    Growing meat in the lab, rather than slaughtering animals, could become a viable alternative for people who want to cut the environmental impact of their food consumption, but cannot bear a vegetarian lifestyle.

    According to scientists from Oxford University and Amsterdam University, lab-grown meat could help feed the world, while reducing the impact on the environment. It would generate only a tiny fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with conventional livestock production.

    The procedure of growing meat without an animal would require between 7% and 45% less energy than the same volume of conventionally produced meat such as pork, beef, or lamb. The meat labs would use only 1% of the land and 4% of the water associated with conventional meat and Greenhouse gases would be reduced by up to 96% in comparison to raising animals.

    The scientists predict that if more resources are directed towards their research, the first lab-grown burger could be available in five years. It is their plan to start with mincemeat, while hoping to be able to produce steaks in ten years time.

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  • Get Vegetarian Teeth and Eat Less Meat

    Get Vegetarian Teeth and Eat Less Meat

    Want to live a greener life? Eat less meat. Recently the UN appealed for a radical shift in diet, to improve individual health and ease conditions affecting the global environment. Reducing meat consumption by 10% reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

    Unfortunately, humans are omnivores. Our teeth are designed to eat both meat and plants. Susana Soares and her colleagues designers and engineers of the Material Beliefs program propose to alter human teeth structures into those of herbivores, in order to become a better vegetarian.

    Teeth are an essential tool for nutrition and their shape is related to diet. Herbivore animals have developed teeth structures suited to the consumption of plant material. Can our teeth structure be replaced to encourage dietary shifts that reflect social concerns?

    Soon at a local dentist near you? Perhaps your government will even give you a tax cut for adopting a more sustainable veggy lifestyle? No seriously, this is bio play.

    See also: Phone Tooth, Orthorexia Nervosa: the healty eating disorder.

  • double muscled cattle

    Blue, Belgian and Beefy

    The Belgian Blue is a unique cattle breed that was developed quite accidentally in the late 1800s. An chance mutation lead the cattle to develop ‘double muscling,’ which occurs when the body does not produce sufficient myostatin to regulate the growth of muscles. These body-builder animals typically have 40% more muscle mass than the typical cow or bull. Double muscling is an extremely rare occurrence. Outside of carefully selected breeds like the Belgian Blue or the Texel sheep, it has occurred only a handful of other times in animals like dogs and humans.

    Animal rights activists contend that the breed is inherently cruel. Calves are usually delivered by cesarean section, as they are too large to be born naturally. Due to its massive size, the breed suffers from heart and joint problems, and can have difficulty even moving around. Both Denmark and Sweden have both attempted to ban Belgian Blues on grounds of cruelty. From turkeys that can only reproduce via artificial insemination and bulldogs that must be born by c-section, we’ve created a catalogue of organisms that could never survive outside of the human environment. Think of it as triumph of co-dependence.

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  • gowanus canal toxic mud

    Evolutionary Janitors

    We normally think of polluted water as the source of disease, not the cure for it. The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, affectionately known as the Super Fun Superfund, is one of the most polluted bodies of water in America. Most of the water is too low in oxygen to support plant or animal life. Worse still is the toxic mud at the bottom of the canal, rich in lead, dioxins, and mercury from decades of unchecked dumping from heavy industry.

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  • center for postnatural history

    Take your transgenic kids to the CPNH

    The Center for PostNatural History doesn’t house the dinosaurs or dioramas of your run-of-the-mill natural history museum. Instead, it’s the first museum dedicated exclusively to the study and preservation of ‘postnatural’ life: genetically modified organisms, lab animals, and cloned livestock. While the CPNH has been organizing traveling exhibits since 2008, its permanent exhibition space is due to open in Pittsburgh in the fall of 2011. While there have been several art shows centered on bioart and transgenic life, the Center may be the most science-minded endeavor to tackle the fuzzy boundaries between nature and culture.

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    American Hyperbodies

    Lady Gaga is famous for fashion that exaggerates or obscures her body, but a few months ago, she made a foray into ‘actual’ body-modification. Gaga appeared on Jay Leno’s talk show wearing two pairs of pyramidal prosthetics on her face, along with cartoon-villain horns on her shoulders. Some sources speculate they were surgical implants, but it’s doubtful that Gaga would risk permanent scars on that million-dollar face; more likely the effect was the work of a clever makeup artist.

    Body-mod enthusiasts like the artist Orlan or the Mexican ‘Vampire Woman’ Maria Cristerna may be practicing a form of beauty, but their beauty is predicated on shock.  They are in opposition to the standard view of what is acceptable and attractive.  In contrast, Gaga’s posthuman prosthetics may have more in common with the French hyperbodies in Erwin Olaf’s Le Dernier Cri.

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  • Birthmarks Tattoo

    Birthmarks Tattoo

    As the name suggests, Birthmarks Tattoos, are fake – but permanent – birthmarks that you can add to your body. Aside from its decorative potential, Birthmarks Tattoo makes it possible for you and your partner to “exchange” birthmarks or to imprint your body with a secret message in braille. Birthmarks Tattoo is a concept by Dutch designers Julia Müller, Arjan Groot and Menno Wittebrood who were commissioned by the magazine Identity Matters to come up with an idea for new ways of tattooing.

    Via Guerrila Innovation | See also: Barcode Tattoos | Electronic Tattoos

  • Incredible Shrinking Man

    The Incredible Shrinking Man

    It has been a trend for people to grow taller and taller during the evolution. When people get taller, they will need more energy, food and space. Since the human population is growing in numbers as well, this will lead to problems since we have only one earth to live on. The Incredible Shrinking Man is a speculative design research by Arne Hendrix about the consequences of downsizing the human body till 50 centimeters high.

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    Tree Temple

    So we may think ‘guided growth‘ is a typically 21th century design methodology, yet apparently it was also in vogue in the 19th century.

    According the original description in the Picture magazine 1893, this century old Maple tree “has been turned into a kind of temple of two stories, each of its compartments being lighted by eight windows, and capable of containing twenty people wit ease. The floors are constructed of boughs skillfully woven together, of which the leaves make a sort of natural carpet. The walls are formed of thick leafage, in which innumerable birds build their nests”

    We are unsure if this tree ever existed or that is a 19th century design fiction.

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    Augmented Ecologies

    It might take a while before this goes mainstream, if ever, but there is a certain luster in being a plant VJ.

    Augmented Ecologies is an installation by Guido Maciocci, who rigged up plants with sensors to create a kinesthetic user experience with movement, touch, sound and light. When the user touches the plants or pressure sensitive moss they create different types of musical notes.

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    Essay: Should we clone Neanderthals?

    If Neanderthals ever walk the earth again, the primordial ooze from which they will rise is an emulsion of oil, water, and DNA capture beads engineered in the laboratory of 454 Life Sciences in Branford, Connecticut. Over the past 4 years those beads have been gathering tiny fragments of DNA from samples of dissolved organic materials, including pieces of Neanderthal bone. Genetic sequences have given paleoanthropologists a new line of evidence for testing ideas about the biology of our closest extinct relative.
    The first studies of Neanderthal DNA focused on the genetic sequences of mitochondria, the microscopic organelles that convert food to energy within cells. In 2005, however, 454 began a collaborative project with the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, to sequence the full genetic code of a Neanderthal woman who died in Croatia’s Vindija cave 30,000 years ago. As the Neanderthal genome is painstakingly sequenced, the archaeologists and biologists who study it will be faced with an opportunity that seemed like science fiction just 10 years ago. They will be able to look at the genetic blueprint of humankind’s nearest relative and understand its biology as intimately as our own.

    In addition to giving scientists the ability to answer questions about Neanderthals’ relationship to our own species – did we interbreed, are we separate species, who was smarter – the Neanderthal genome may be useful in researching medical treatments. Newly developed techniques could make cloning Neanderthal cells or body parts a reality within a few years. The ability to use the genes of extinct hominins is going to force the field of paleoanthropology into some unfamiliar ethical territory. There are still technical obstacles, but soon it could be possible to use that long-extinct genome to safely create a healthy, living Neanderthal clone. Should it be done?

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  • reindeer

    Hallucinogenic Reindeer Moments

    Can art change perceptions more than drugs? An art project which was on show in Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof allowed 12 free-roaming reindeer in the former railway station creating a seemingly bucolic Northern European scene. Except, half of the reindeer had been reportedly fed fly agaric mushrooms which turned their urine hallucinogenic. Add a few mice, flies and canaries and then feed them food sprinkled with this special urine and the scene turns interesting. Add a bed (and mini bar) for curious art fans  at € 1000 and access to the bottled urine for consumption and the scene turns bizarre (or as bizarre as your imagination allows). The work, by Belgian artist Carsten Höller, titled Soma has been labeled a science experiment meets art meets let-your-mind-run-free project.

    Soma was seen at the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin.
    Photo credit: David von Becker

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    Next Landscapes

    Quoted in a recent interview about his work, Landscapes without Memory, artist Joan Fontcuberta asked, “Could a natural nature exist? The answer is no, or at least, not anymore: man’s presence makes nature artificial.”

    Often concerned with the ambiguity of truth, reality and virtuality Fontcuberta’s latest exhibition at photogallery Foam in Amsterdam consists of an expansive series of dramatic 3D landscapes. On first glance the images resemble something like eerie, almost empty Lord of the Rings stills. These aren’t photos but rather images produced by Fontcuberta using software developed for the U.S Air Force.

    Originally cartographical data was fed into the programme to produce 3D landscape images, Fontcuberta however, fed the programme visual data – images from great masters like Gauguin, Van Gogh, Cezanne and Turner – producing entirely unique 3D landscapes. (The image above was originally a Pollock). “The representation of nature no longer depends on the direct experience of reality, but on the interpretation of previous images, on representations that already exist. Reality does not precede our experience, but instead it results from intellectual construction.”

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  • biomodd

    Biomodd at work

    Modding is the act of adapting hardware/software to have it do what you want it to do, which does not always correlate with what it is originally built to do. Biomodd(ding) is inserting a living ecosystem inside a computer system, varying from plants that grow and develop with the use of the waste heat of the computer to algae that function to cool a processor; “living cooling liquid”. In an almost symbiosis-like state nature and machine living together. Even though it, of what I’ve seen so far, ends up being quite interesting sculpture-like installations, the main importance is that they’re meant to be actually used.

    In one set-up in the Phillipines they developed a multi-player game and used this structure as the server. Which resulted in: “social meeting getting translated through a sequence of events into biological growth and development.” And this is where the different levels appear; Biomodd is about the game-element, it is about the social aspect and it is about the biological aspect. And it is really cool to look at, have a look for yourself:

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    via: Kritische Massa: kunstkritiek en digitale kunst (Critical Mass: art-criticism and digital art), organized by Virtueel Platform.

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  • blade-runner-pris_530

    Next Nature Movie #4: Blade Runner

    Look around you and try to find the most natural thing in the room you are in now. It is you. Now, you wouldn’t be so sure in the apocalyptic Los Angeles of 2019 depicted in Blade Runner (1982), where a Craig Venter–like entrepreneur called Eldon Tyrell, and his Tyrell Corporation create human clones, called replicants, used as servants to do work unfitted for humans.

    “More human, than human” is Tyrells motto, but when four replicants are out on the loose in a quest to expand their lifespan, which has been genetically programmed to a maximum four years – to avoid they will develop emotions of their own – Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrisson Ford) is assigned to ‘retire’ them.

    During his detective journey Deckard finds it increasingly difficult to draw the line between people and products. He falls in love with replicant Rachel, is saved by Roy and finally even doubts whether he might be a replicant himself.

    Blade runner is one of the best science fiction films ever made. It explore themes like the 1) dehumanization of people through a society shaped by technological and capitalistic excess. 2) The diminishing border between people and products. 3) The roles of creator and creation, their mutual enslavement, and their role reversal. 4) The nature of humanity itself: emotions, memory, desire, purpose, cruelty, vulnerability, self–awareness and personal identity.

    Is the quest for humanity a crime? Find out for yourself.

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    Passed: Frankenstein (1931), Metropolis (1927), The Stepford Wives (1975), Gattaca (1997), X-Men (2000), Children of Men (2006), Surrogates (2009)

  • 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.

    EMANCIPATION OF THE VIRTIVIDUAL

    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.

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    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.”