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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 ‘manufactured-landscapes’

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    Disaster Edens: The Anti-Tourist Attraction

    Imagine your cruise to the Galapagos came with a ghoulish warning: “Your hair will fall out, your skin will blister, you’ll probably get cancer and your children’s children might be born deformed.” Not enough of a deterrent? How about “We’ll shoot you on sight”?  If you’re a visiting tourist or a fisherman looking to poach some tuna or turtles, you might decide to hightail it back to the mainland.

    Human culture normally creates areas amenable to other humans, but to few other species. Apartment blocks, parking lots, suburbs and Starbucks are pretty great for us, but miserable, even uninhabitable, to most creatures more specialized than a pigeon. ‘Involuntary parks,’ a term coined by Next Nature favorite Bruce Sterling, arise when warfare or industrial accidents upset the normal balance of human land-use. Soldiers shoot their enemies but not the birds. Radiation warnings will keep out the evacuated citizens, but not the bears and tigers.

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    Manufactured Rainbows

    Why wait for old nature to give us rainbows when we have so many ways of making our own? The image above shows solar-powered installation that uses recycled rainwater to create on-demand rainbows in Omaha, Nebraska. (via)

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    Urban Birds have Bigger Brains

    Researchers learned that city birds have larger brains relative to their body size. No, they are not getting big-headed from their exposure to big-city sophistication, but rather need larger brains to survive in the more challenging urban environments.

    The biologists from institutions in Sweden and Spain studied 82 species of birds from 22 families, focusing on 12 cities in France and Switzerland. Their findings are published in the journal Biology Letters.

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  • Kinetic

    Kinetic architecture

    Architecture has now come to a stage where the technical possibilities seem limitless. Buildings become more fluent, dynamic and organic. Examples can be found in most buildings of architect Zaha Hadid.

    This proposal by designers Kinetura portraits ‘dynamic lines’ quite literal, and imitates flowers that open in the sunlight.

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    Vertical Farming

    Columbia professor Dickson Despommier imagines filling New Yorks skyscrapers with farms. As over 50% of the world population now lives in urban areas, this scenario could solve distribution problems and reconnect people with their food. Unsure if the pig skyscraper is also incorporated in the plan.

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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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  • Visualizing Wifi Landscapes

    This project explores the invisible terrain of WiFi networks in urban spaces by light painting signal strength in long-exposure photographs. A four-metre long measuring rod with 80 points of light reveals cross-sections through WiFi networks using a photographic technique called light-painting.

    More info on: nearfield.org – via the #CoCities conference

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    Essay: Plastic Planet

    We tend to think of plastic as a cheap, inferior and ugly material used to make children’s toys, garden furniture and throwaway bottles. But as an experiment, imagine for a moment a world in which plastic was extremely rare, like gold or platinum, and plastic objects were devastatingly expensive to produce. One would encounter plastic objects only at special occasions; one would see and touch very few plastic objects throughout one’s lifetime. I know it’s a challenge, but try to imagine, for the sake of our experiment, that plastic was scarce, available only to the happy few, and the masses lived in a world of wood, pottery and metals. Ready?


    Now look around you and grab the first plastic object in your surroundings. Look at the object. Study the object. It doesn’t matter whether it is a coffee cup, a cigarette lighter, a pen or a plastic bag. This is a special moment. You are now holding one of the few, delicate pieces of plastic you will ever get to touch. Feel how durable it is. Feel how light it is considering its volume. Feel how strong and rigid it is, or how very flexible. Get a sense of how easy it must have been to mold. Understand that it could be molded into something else again. If plastic weren’t such an omnipresent material, we would realize that it is beautiful. We would realize what a disgrace it is that we throw away so much of it.

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    Exploring the Oceans of Plastic

    Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – an endless floating waste of plastic trash. Now he’s drawing attention to the growing, choking problem of plastic debris in our seas.

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    Did Nature Cease to Exist in the ’60s?

    Our historical snippet of the moment is a Canadian television fragment from 1968 featuring a debate between Norman Mailer and Marshall McLuhan on the implications of media technology and whether nature still existed.

    The two heroes of the ’60s are absolute opposites. Leaning forward in his chair, Mailer is assertive, animated, hot, engaged. McLuhan, abstracted and smiling wanly, leaning backward, cool. Mcluhan argues “The planet is no longer nature,” he declares, to Mailer’s uncomprehending stare; “it’s now the content of an art work.” Mailer: “Well, I think you are anticipating a century, perhaps”.

    Did Nature cease to exist in the ’60s? Of course not. It just changes along with us.

    Via Roughtype.com. Thanks Monique.

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    The Soul is a Plastic Bag

    In the film Plastic Bag, the title character spends a lifetime (or more) on a quest for a creator not even aware of his existence.  A stunning short by Ramin Bahrani, director of Man Push Cart and Goodbye Solo, Plastic Bag is both a postmodern spiritual pilgrimage and an ecological fable.   It is strange, wry, and by the end it had my eyes welling up like the Deepwater Horizon.

    Plastic Bag makes a fitting companion to Grizzly Man, and not just because the ponderous tones of Werner Herzog give voice to the Bag’s 18-minute monologue. Like Timothy Treadwell, the Bag is an artifact of human civilization searching an impassive world for a sublime, and entirely fictional, true connection.

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  • Google landscape

    Microbic Landscapes

    Beautiful Google Maps shots of housing projects in southwest Florida. Probably designed to look and feel more natural than your average straight street neighborhood, they remind me of microbes under a microscope.
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  • No lines on the horizon

    A Clear Sky

    Remember the beginning of 2010, when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted, throwing huge amounts of ash into the air, thousands of flights have been canceled across Europe due to fears that ash could turn into molten glass within a hot jet engine, crippling the aircraft. This picture was taken during and after the flight ban at the same location. Via

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  • Fata Morgana

    Fata Morgana

    Finally… A gas station in the ocean! If we all rigorously continue filling up our tanks, this fiction can become a reality one day.

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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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    Next Nature Movie #3: Koyaanisqatsi

    Koyaanisqatsi (1982) is a film with no actors, no storyline, and no dialogue. The only things we see are landscapes, images of cities, and people going about their regular lives. The film opens on ancient native American cave drawings, while the soundtrack chants “Koyaanisqatsi” which is a Hopi indian term for “life out of balance”.

    Koyaanisqatsi uses extensive time lapse and slow motion photography. In one of the first scenes, we see cloud formations moving (speeded up) intercut with a montage of ocean waves (slowed down) and in such a way we are able to see the similarities of movement between these natural forces. It is not long before the pristine images are replaced by nuclear power plants, highways, skyscrapers, rubble, fire and ash, and hoards of ant-like beings (humans, of course) scurrying through modern urbanity. The portrayed humans are making their way through the cities in a manner that seems more conditioned than voluntary.

    By cramming together so many images of people behaving more like lab rats than higher, thinking beings, Koyaanisqatsi invites us to consider just how mechanized, depersonalized, and out-of-control many aspects of our modern lives are.

    Although many critics have interpreted the film as a tirade and a call to action, it is better understood as a demand for awareness on the human position on our planet as catalysts of evolution. If we get better attuned to our job description in the larger scheme of things, we can perhaps moderate Koyaanisqatsi and obtain a finer balance between the old nature we originate from, and the next nature we are causing.

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    Passed: Baraka (1992), Manufactured Landscapes (2006)

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    Next Nature Movie #5: American Beauty

    During the selection of the top ten of next nature movies we’ve doubted quite a bit between the Truman Show (1998) and American Beauty (1999). The Truman Show tells the story of a man whose life is completely fake. The place he lives in is in fact one big studio with hidden cameras everywhere, and all his friends and people around him, are actors.

    While the Truman Show is an iconic film that invites us to reflect on our media-choked environment, American Beauty goes one level deeper: similar to Truman, the characters in American Beauty are born inside a completely molded environment: Suburban Utopia. And although this setting, with its agreeable houses, cars, gardens and people, is designed to provide for every human need, something is somehow missing. American Beauty portrays a life too organized, too molded, too artificial, too plastic… and the nature within people that resists.

    The main protagonist is Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), a man in his mid-life crisis, whose life is turned upside down by a superficial crush on one of his teenage daughters friends. His wife Caroline (Annette Bening) has an obsession of her own; her public appearance. While their daughter Jane is rebelling against the hypocritical Ken en Barbie appearance of her parents.

    Only Ricky Fits, the drug-dealing boy next door, is able to look beyond conventional notions of attractiveness and find beauty in non-promiscuous, solemn girls as well as in plastic bags floating in the wind. When many criticize the movie, they say, “Where’s the beauty in a plastic bag?” And that’s the point. Look closer.

    American Beauty is a profound portrait of some of the issues many people in today’s Western world are struggling with: appearance, success, self-fulfillment, and the chances of getting to know your loved ones on a deeper level. It not only entertains while you’re watching it but also drops subtle questions in your head about the nature of human behavior, the effort we put in molding and improving our lives, the things we win, the things we loose. How our natural environment has been replaced by a designed environment. How Nature likes to hide itself.

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    Passed: Truman Show (1998), Fight Club (1999), Magnolia (1999).

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