For the Venezuelan Magazine Platanoverde, Gabriela Valdivieso y Lope Gutiarrez-Ruiz interviewed artist/scientist Koert van Mensvoort and discussed some of the idea’s behind Next Nature and their implications on art, design, sex, religion and what it means to be human.
Who are the creators of Next Nature? Who is behind the project nowadays?
Sometimes I wonder. We are explorers, inherits of the courageous of the past, who sailed through unknown oceans, climbed mountains, or rocketed themselves into space. We are exploring Next Nature. Our project took off in 2004 with an essay I wrote in which I argued our established view on nature had become problematic and proposed the concept of culturally emerged nature. In the last few years together with designer Mieke Gerritzen I’ve organized various events in the Netherlands and Germany on the topic of Next Nature. We also created the -now outdated- Next Nature pocket book. Later we initiated the website www.nextnature.net which functions as a place to gather materials, ideas and examples. Currently the core people involved besides myself are, Arnoud van den Heuvel, Rolf Coppens, Hendrik-Jan Grievink, Mieke Gerritzen. For the coming year we are planning on organizing an event in Los Angeles in cooperation with the Art Center school of Design, Pasadena, which focuses on the question how we should design for Next Nature. We actively seek to discover how people from other countries and cultures perceive the theme and its consequences on how we design, build and live.
How would you define Next Nature: A theory? A position? An interpretation of reality?
It is a way of looking; an interpretation of reality.
What authors or artists have inspired the Next Nature concept?
Some philosophical inspirations came from Baudrillard’s concept of hyperreality (the idea that our world is filled with simulations of things which never really existed). If one thinks through the implications of hyperreality, one automatically arrives at something like hypernature or nextnature. Another influence is the unavoidable Marshall Mcluhan, whom I consider as a nextnature thinker avant la lettre. Read more »
from Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings, ed. Mark Poster (Stanford; Stanford University Press, 1988), pp.166-184.
The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth–it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true. -Ecclesiastes
If we were able to take as the finest allegory of simulation the Borges tale where the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up exactly covering the territory (but where, with the decline of the Empire this map becomes frayed and finally ruined, a few shreds still discernible in the deserts – the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction, bearing witness to an imperial pride and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, rather as an aging double ends up being confused with the real thing), this fable would then have come full circle for us, and now has nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra.
The history of art through the ages reveals a constancy that, by conscious or unconscious applications, provides us with an omnipresent correlation dealing with the philosophical/scientific schools of thought and their paradigmatic changes in relation with contemporary artistic movements. This paper will try to scent the presumable paradigm at the beginning of the 21st century and consequently the co-related currents of artistic thought. From a global perspective, the ontological changes in the development in science tend asymptomatically towards man. It is Maslow’s pyramid but in the opposite direction, returning to the basic needs. Will the next century be the century of humanism, since sciences and arts have for goal, and by definition, man?
Written by Joop de Boer from Studio Golfstromen – strategy, planning and design on the city.
In the virtual world ‘Second Life’ everything is possible. That’s most obvious in the way how space is organized. There is no government which regulates, checks and takes an important role in the spatial development. Everyone can build whatever he likes and does so, in contrast with the usual building practise in the ‘first life’. The result is amazing: Second Lifers are creative, real builders and they take clearly responsibility for the public space.
The rapidly mounting toll of modern life is worse than we could have imagined. A metamorphosis rushes onward, changing the texture of living, the whole feel of things. In the not-so-distant past this was still only a partial modification; now the Machine converges on us, penetrating more and more to the core of our lives, promising no escape from its logic.
The only stable continuity has been that of the body, and that has become vulnerable in unprecedented ways. We now inhabit a culture, according to Furedi (1997), of high anxiety that borders on a state of outright panic. Postmodern discourse suppresses articulations of suffering, a facet of its accommodation to the inevitability of further, systematic desolation. The prominence of chronic degenerative diseases makes a chilling parallel with the permanent erosion of all that is healthy and life-affirming inside industrial culture. That is, maybe the disease can be slowed a bit in its progression, but no overall cure is imaginable in this context–which created the condition in the first place.
As much as we yearn for community, it is all but dead. McPherson, Smith-Lovin and Brashears (American Sociological Review 2006) tell us that 19 years ago, the typical American had three close friends; now the number is two. Their national study also reveals that over this period of time, the number of people without one friend or confidant has tripled. Census figures show a correspondingly sharp rise in single-person households, as the technoculture — with its vaunted “connectivity” — grows steadily more isolating, lonely and empty.
In Japan “people simply aren’t having sex” (Kitamura 2006) and the suicide rate has been rising rapidly. Hikikimori, or self-isolation, finds over a million young people staying in their rooms for years. Where the technoculture is most developed, levels of stress, depression and anxiety are highest.
The Made and the Born: Neo-Biological civillization, written by Kevin Kelly, excerpt from Out of Control : The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems and the Economic World, Kevin Kelly (1995) Perseus Books Group, ISBN-13: 978-0201483406.
I am sealed in a cottage of glass that is completely airtight. Inside I breathe my exhalations. Yet the air is fresh, blown by fans. My urine and excrement are recycled by a system of ducts, pipes, wires, plants, and marsh-microbes, and redeemed into water and food which I can eat. Tasty food. Good water.
Last night it snowed outside. Inside this experimental capsule it is warm, humid, and cozy. This morning the thick interior windows drip with heavy condensation. Plants crowd my space. I am surrounded by large banana leaves — huge splashes of heartwarming yellow-green color — and stringy vines of green beans entwining every vertical surface. About half the plants in this hut are food plants, and from these I harvested my dinner.
At the edge of the woods along the motorway near the Dutch town of Bloemendaal, there stands a mobile telephone mast disguised as a pine tree. This mast is not nature: at best, it is a picture of nature. It is an illustration, like a landscape painting hanging over the sofa. Do we have genuine experiences of nature any more? Or are we living in a picture of it?
Die Natur verändert sich mit uns (English version: Exploring Next Nature)
Fast jeder liebt die Natur. Doch was heißt das eigentlich? Für manche verkörpert sie Harmonie, Konsequenz und Frieden. Für andere ist sie eher wild, brutal und unberechenbar. Natur stellen wir uns als vom Menschen unberührt, unangetastet vor. Paradoxerweise hat sich der Mensch jedoch gerade aus dieser Natur entwickelt. “Die Natur liebt es, sich zu verstecken” behauptete der vorsokratische Philosoph Heraklit  schon im 5. Jahrhundert vor Christus. Wenn es einen Ort gibt, der es verdient “natürlich” genannt zu werden, ist es die Welt in der sich die Menschheit vor sehr langer Zeit entwickelte. Diese Welt ist die Grundlage unserer Wahrnehmung von Realität und tatsächlich aller Informationen, die wir aufnehmen. Unsere menschliche Konstitution und unsere Sinne sind völlig an sie angepasst. Heutzutage ist diese Umwelt vollständig unserer Herrschaft unterworfen. Sie hat all ihre Ursprünglichkeit verloren. Wie natürlich ist es geworden, einen nine-to-five-Job zu haben und mit Anzug und Krawatte ins Büro zu gehen? Die Dächer über unseren Köpfen, die Stühle auf denen wir sitzen, sogar die Bäume im Wald – sie alle sind so, wie wir sie haben möchten. Wenn man sich umschaut und versucht, das natürlichste Objekt in der unmittelbaren Umgebung auszumachen, wird das höchstwahrscheinlich man selbst sein.
Eric Hoffer (1902-1983)
You dehumanize a man as much by returning him to nature – by making him one with rocks, vegetation, and animals – as by turning him into a machine.
Both the natural and the mechanical are the opposite of that which is uniquely human.
Nature is a self-made machine, more perfectly automated than any automated machine. To create something in the image of nature is to create a machine, and it was by learning the inner working of nature that man became a builder of machines.
It is also obvious that when man domesticated animals and plants he acquired self-made machines for the production of food, power, and beauty
Written by Debbie Mollenhagen
PART 1: FROM LINEAR TO CIRCULAR
Designer living has become designing life. I often ask myself: did it taste like the real thing? But when I open my eyes I see a world where plastic grows on trees and where everything tastes better than the real thing. A world which has been replaced with a copy of itself. When I was living in Australia I knew a girl who didn’t know where sultanas came from, which I thought was odd. After all, she was 15. How is it possible? I guess to me that was like buying one of those lemon squeeze things which came in the shape of a lemon, and thinking that they grew on trees. Plastics don’t grow on trees or do they?
Enjoy. Suddenly out of nothing, something fell from the sky. I found myself confronted with a piece of deformed fruit, I paused for a moment and tried to remain calm. I didn’t know what to do so I did what came naturally, I yelled back at the sky and told her that the fruit was not acceptable and that I would not eat it. Why should I, I thought? I demand more, I know my rights! I want to be able to express what I expect in my relationship with what I buy. How do I make a fruit more compatible with my needs? Then I remembered this thing fell from the sky, I didn’t buy it and besides in real life fruit has already been designed to accommodate my needs.
For someone whose main instrument is a computer, the world becomes a gigantic database.
We see this database ontology at work, for example, when information technology is deployed in the field of genetic manipulation. The gene pool of life on earth is then no longer primarily conceived as a contingent and factual evolutionary constellation, but rather as a database of an infinite number of virtual life forms that can be actualized at will. Although not yet as spectacularly as in Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, or in science fiction films such as Robocop, our world is increasingly populated with life forms created with the aid of informationistic bio-technologies.
The emergence of post-history will not completely put an end to historical experiences in our individual and collective lives. However, in the light of the developments, we may expect the post-historic dimension to increasingly become the fundamental dimension of human experience.
McKenzie Wark, published in Next Nature Paperback, 2005
There are people who think what makes a good wine comes from nature – factors like rain and soil and temperature. Then there are those who think it’s a matter of second nature – of picking and fermenting and ageing. But these days, there’s a whole new world of wine making technology – and a whole new argument as to what is “natural” and what is not.
Mark Weiser (originally written for ACM Interactions).
What is the metaphor for the computer of the future? The intelligent agent? The television (multimedia)? The 3-D graphics world (virtual reality)? The StarTrek ubiquitous voice computer? The GUI desktop, honed and refined? The machine that magically grants our wishes? I think the right answer is “none of the above”, because I think all of these concepts share a basic flaw: they make the computer visible.
A good tool is an invisible tool. By invisible, I mean that the tool does not intrude on your consciousness; you focus on the task, not the tool. Eyeglasses are a good tool – you look at the world, not the eyeglasses. The blind man tapping the cane feels the street, not the cane. Of course, tools are not invisible in themselves, but as part of a context of use. With enough practice we can make many apparently difficult things disappear: my fingers know vi editing commands that my conscious mind has long forgotten. But good tools enhance invisibility.
Damen und Herrn, Next Nature, Nächste Natur ist ein Pleonasmus, ein überflüssiger Ausdruck. Heutzutage ist Natur immer Nächst. Es gibt auch kein Gegensatz zwischen Nature und Nurture, zwischen Natur und Nahrung. Ist Natur nur Nahrung, dann gibt es kein Natur. Natur wird dann völlig konsumiert in die survival of the fittest. Sobald aber Jagen und Essen sich verwandeln in Züchten und Nouvelle Cuisine, dann wird gleichzeitig mit Kultur Natur produziert. Natur als radikalisierte Kultur is Reinkultur. Nach der Reiz des neuesten Kicks kommt das Reine. Dann gibt es nur Kaffee ohne Kafeine, Bier ohne Alkohol, Viagrasex ohne Libido und sogar Kriege ohne Opfer und bodybags. Slow food ist ein Produkt heutiger Geschwindigkeit, Real time ein digitales Konstrukt.