Author: Allison Guy

mushroom farm
Back to the Tribe

Mushrooms in the Mokum

Mediamatic is hosting a pop-up urban mushroom farm in the middle of Amsterdam. Rows and rows of shiitake, oyster, and the elusive almond-flavored Agaricus subrufescens are sprouting on metal shelves. With its experimental vibe, Paddestoelen Paradijs (Mushroom Paradise) proves that mushrooms might just be our best friends in the age of resource scarcity. They grow off dead, decaying, and often discarded organic matter, are low emission, and their roots can produce a material that’s stronger than wood, as light as packing foam, and completely biodegradable.

Click through to see a living wall, the Christian mushroom cult, and Philosopher’s Stones.

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Nextnature Event

Who Watches the Watchers?

In The Watchers, the creative geniuses at Studio Smack picture a world where surveillance systems don’t just watch us – they actively judge.  Are you a green-coded Conformist or a red-alert Intellectual? The tone is paranoid, but it’s a vivid reminder that our technological systems make us as much as we make them. Autonomous algorithms already control our economy, our internet, and our vacuum cleaners. It’s not a stretch to imagine that autonomous cameras will control our security and social spaces. Make sure to wait for the twist ending.

Studio Smack has previously been featured here for Pimp My Planet, Transparency Suit and the utterly eerie Kapitaal. Check out more of their work at the Next Nature Power Show on Saturday.

pills small
Fitness Boosters

Next Nature Hands Out Performance-Enhancing Pills

Recently Google slapped our site with a warning that “something’s not right here!” It seems that the Drug Enforcement Agency has caught the Next Nature staff handing out baggies of performance-enhancing pills in Amsterdam. How else will our audience be able to handle the Power Show without an artificial boost?

Okay, so we’ve been joking: Google found a potential security leak in our website last week. We fixed it quickly, and a few more days elapsed before the Internet noticed. But we have been distributing these snappy pink flyers. Click through to learn more about the side effects of Next Nature.

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Browsing the Technological Sublime

In God’s Browser, Geert Mul uses scores of images pulled from the internet as the frames in an abstract film. Using specially developed image recognition software, Mul creates the illusion of motion between unrelated images. The same software also generates musical notes that vary with the speed and type of the image being displayed.

The result is a hypnotic experience that blends pictures of nature, culture, sunsets, skeletons and supermodels into a portrait of humanity’s collective visual consciousness. The visual power of God’s Browser emphasizes that, in an image-saturated society, the simulation can become just as valuable and meaningful as the “authentic” object. Mul’s work looks, and sounds, like the creation of a virtual world, where God could only connect to the universe from the internet.

Geert Mul will be presenting God’s Brower at the Next Nature Power Show in collaboration with philosopher Jos de Mul. Jos de Mul has previously been featured on Next Nature with his essay The Technological Sublime.

huge crowd of people

Welcome to Earth, Number 7,000,000,000!

Today marks another milestone in the march of the Anthropocene. According to United Nations demographers, the seven billionth person on Earth arrived today, just in time to put on a tiny halloween costume (might we suggest an adorably endangered tuna?). It’s taken just 12 years to add the last billion people, and even with slowing birth rates, it will still take us only 14 years to add another billion more.

What does the burgeoning population of Homo sapiens mean for our overloaded planet? Learn more about the global effects of the Anthropocene here and here. If you’re in the Amsterdam area on November 5th, Christian Schwägerl will be giving a talk on the “Age of Man” at the Next Nature Power Show.

Image via Looking to Business.


Body Manipulation and Music

In her directorial debut, body architect Lucy McRae applies her trademark manipulation of the human form to the Australian group Rat vs. Possum. Using pastel colors, spandex, and cut-outs in a white wall, she turns the deterritorialization of the body into a pop confection. In the past, McRae has made LED clothing that responds to the wearer’s level of excitement, and dresses made from fluid-filled tubes that communicate emotional states.

Lucy McRae will be presenting Swallowable Perfume at the Next Nature Power Show on November 5th.

incredible shrinking man

Incredibly Shrinking Humanity

Arne Hendricks will be presenting The Incredible Shrinking Man at the Next Nature Power Show on November 5th.

Social erosion, fisheries depletion, deforestation- for the 7 billion people on earth, we’re not just approaching an era of resource scarcity, we’re already there. Except for the lucky few, food, shelter, and even water can be expensive and in short supply. We have tried to address global problems with bigger technologies and bigger laws, but what if we decided to go small? Really small. How would the world change if every human was only 50 centimeters tall?

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pigeon d'or

The Pigeon that Shat the Golden Soap

Ever wished you could take a shower with pigeon poop? Artist Tuur van Balen proposes changing pigeons from flying rats to cleaning agents. A speculative, specially engineered bacteria, as harmless to pigeons as Lactobacillus is to humans, could potentially change pigeon excrement into biological soap.

For Pigeon D’Or, van Balen built a coop that clips to a window, which would allow future apartment dwellers to harvest their very own fresh, pigeon-made soap. Another version of the perch extends over a car’s windshield, inviting the birds to come and rain detergent on glass in need of cleaning. Van Balen’s “bespoke urban disinfection” won him an 2011 Ars Electronica Award of Distinction.

Tuur van Balen will be presenting at the Next Nature Power Show on November 5th. Though he won’t be bringing along any sudsy pigeons, he will be teaching the audience how to make their own anti-depressant yogurt.

dubai the globe sinking

The Earth on Loan

Christian Schwägerl is a correspondent for Der Spiegel and the author of Menschenzeit (The Age of Man). He will be presenting his views on the Anthropocene at the Next Nature Power Show on November 5th. Learn more about the Anthropocene here.

We move mountainsmake islands, create life, and call up lolcats at whim from the greatest storehouse of human knowledge ever compiled. Yet we can’t seem to control the economy.

In a recent opinion piece at Yale Environment 360, journalist and author Christian Schwägerl argues that the financial collapse and the environmental collapse stem from the same mistakes of human foresight. The financial crisis was triggered by a pass-the-buck thinking, with blindly optimistic (or darkly cynical) reliance on proliferating loans that no one ever expected to pay back. The problem only became apparent when there were no more suckers left to exploit. We ran the economy down to its lowest trophic level, and that’s exactly what we’re doing with the global ecology as well.

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De Nederlandse Berg

Get Thee Up into a Fake Mountain

If you felt like building a 2,000 meter mountain in the Netherlands, which features would you like to add? Journalist and accidental landscape visionary Thijs Zonneveld wants to know. Suggestions have included everything from hydroelectric power to affordable housing to a vast, dark interior that would shelter the first cave habitat in Holland.

If you still don’t take this latter-day Babel seriously, rest assured: as of September 27, the Die Berg Komt Er became an official foundation. What began as a joke has now turned into an enthusiastic movement, with serious proposals from architects, chemists, green energy experts and transportation advisors. The rhetoric may be techno-utopian, but the outpouring of support indicates that Zonneveld touched on a real longing for a nation-scale project. After all, when was the last time God asked the internet for suggestions on creation?

Thijs Zonneveld will be at the Next Nature Power Show on November 5th to show us how to build a mountain from scratch.

Image via Sick Chirpse.

rhinos naturalis

Poaching from the New Savannah

The Ipswich Museum, the Tring Museum, and around 30 other European cultural institutions and antiques dealers have experienced a rash of theft over the last few months. What turns an everyday crime into next natural poaching is the strange selectivity of these thieves. Despite having a selection of priceless artifacts to choose from, the robbers have only targeted rhinoceros horn.

A coveted commodity in Chinese Traditional Medicine, powdered rhinoceros horn is worth around €68,000 a kilo: twice the value of gold. Rhino horns are made of the same material as hooves and fingernails, and have the same lack of actual medical effectiveness. Authorities are urging museums, auction houses, and taxidermists to lock away their horns, and replace any horns on display with fake ones. Naturalis Museum in Rotterdam recently moved all of their rhino collection to a secure, secret location.

Wild rhinos have become so scarce that poachers must turn to long-dead, taxidermied specimens for their crimes. In the case of the Ipswich Museum, Rosie the Rhino was last shuffling around India sometime in the late 1800s. We already know that the supermarket is the new savanna. Who would have guessed that the new savanna is also in museum storage?

Story via the New York Times.  Image of the (fake) Naturalis rhinos via Ferdi’s World.

biolum bacteria

City Planning with Bright Bacteria

Renegade architect and futurist Rachel Armstrong has proposed that our cities, currently constructed of dead trees, baked mud, and refined ore, need to be coated in a layer of glowing, hungry bio-goo. Bioluminescent bacteria could be “painted” on walls, billboards, and sidewalks to provide a low-energy means to bathe city streets in a peaceful blue-green light.

Wild bioluminescent bacteria like Vibrio phosphoreum (pictured above) aren’t bright enough to provide light to read by, but it’s possible that they could be genetically engineered to produce more vibrant light. Of course, delivering nutrients to an entire city of blueish bacteria, especially ones that currently live only in water, could prove more of a challenge.

Armstrong also suggests that building surfaces could be fortified with carbon-hungry bacteria to soak up local C02 emissions. Even if hers is a decidedly sci-fi vision, it’s vital to our planet’s health (and our own) to push for over-the-top solutions. Breaking out of a 12,000 year old architectural paradigm will require thinking outside of the steel-and-concrete box.

Rachel Armstrong has previously been featured on Next Nature for her proposal to save Venice using protocells that grow and accrete like a coral reef. She will be presenting her views on synthetic biology at the Next Nature Power Show on November 5.

Via The Times. Image of a researcher via Hunter Cole.

pig nose
Food Technology

The Afterlife of PIG 05049

Christien Meindertsma spent three years tracking down every product made from a single pig. Pork made a showing, but the more strange goods were “ammunition, medicine, photo paper, heart valves, brakes, chewing gum, porcelain, cosmetics, cigarettes, conditioner and even bio diesel.” All in all, 158 products came out of the 103,700 grams of the hog at slaughter.

PIG 05049 shows the surprising degree to which global supply chains are intricately interconnected. Pig fat turns into automobile paint; bone ash turns into train brakes. The hog is as good a symbol of globalization as coca-cola or the World Trade Organization. Though Meinderstsma resists any moralizing, there’s something decidedly uncanny about some poor porker completely deconstructed and scattered across the earth.

Christien Meindertsma will presenting a visualization of a pig farm at the Next Nature Power Show on November 5th.


Mastering Bambi

In the film Mastering Bambi, artists Persijn Broersen and Margit Lukacs have stripped the landscape of its cuddly, anthropomorphic characters. Over the course of the film, the camera pans across empty forest scenes and winter fields, accompanied by a chorus and orchestra. Using 3D photographic collages, the artists reconstruct elements of the backgrounds from the classic Disney film, which presented an unrealistically idyllic vision of nature.  According to Broersen and Lukacs:

“…an important but often overlooked protagonist in the movie is nature itself: the pristine wilderness as the main grid on which Disney structured his ‘Bambi’. One of the first virtual worlds was created here: a world of deceptive realism and harmony, in which man is the only enemy.”

Does Mastering Bambi imply that the audience has finally mastered nature by eliminating all its inhabitants? It may be a more stark comment on the destructive capacity of humanity than Disney’s decision to kill off Bambi’s mom. Once the harmonious woodland inhabitants are gone, we are left to uncomfortably wonder if we are their only replacements.

Persijn Broersen and Margit Lukacs will be presenting Mastering Bambi at the Next Nature Power Show on November 5th.

wolly mammoth parka

Occasionally Extinct and Virtually Alive

Japanese researchers are currently working on cloning a mammoth, and plan to produce a fluffy new prehistoric calf within four or five years. The bucardo, an extinct subspecies of the Spanish ibex, was resurrected for a few minutes in 2009 before the clone died. ‘Frozen zoos’ now keep the cryo-preserved tissues from dozens of endangered species to hedge their bets against future extinction.

Until we have the godlike knowledge to reconstruct a genome from the base pairs on up, our resurrected zoo will be limited to the animals that we have stored away for safe keeping. Sorry, no dinosaurs, but there are at least 500 stuffed and dried passenger pigeons, 731 thylacines, and one remaining dodo specimen with soft tissue remaining.

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German Robots Destroy a Living Room

Artistic duo Robococo, aka Petra Gemeinboeck and Rob Saunders, have embedded a group of autonomous robots in the walls of a gallery. Wielding hammers and creepy electronic eyes, the robots have been methodically breaking apart their confines for the last few months. While the artists say the piece represents “a stealthy invasion of digital surveillance,” it looks more like the ‘bots just can’t believe your taste in wallpaper.

Via Pruned.

baby with ipad
Back to the Tribe

Resizing Daddy

A little girl gets angry at her father, and uses her index finger and thumb to make a pinching motion. No, she’s not trying to hurt him. She’s using iPad sign language to say, “I want you to be smaller.”

PCs and cell phones required restricted motions, mostly clicking and typing. In contrast, the recent slew of computers, tablets, and smart phones utilize more expressive motions: swiping, flicking, squeezing. These gestures may enter the vernacular of common signs, like waving and shoulder shrugging, just as internet terms like ‘lol’ and ‘brb’ entered everyday language.

All great apes stick out their hands to beg for food, but only humans pinch if their friend won’t share.

Image via Gawker


A Rare Giant Crane in Manhattan

In this Petcha Kutcha presentation, Mike Dickison comes to a very funny conclusion: Although Big Bird might superficially resemble other ratites like the ostrich or emu, he is likely more closely related to a group of extinct, flightless cranes that once lived in Cuba and Bermuda. Birds tend to evolve towards flightlessness and gigantism when isolated on islands and, fittingly, Big Bird lives on the most famous island in the world.

Watch: What if Anything is Bird Big

froot loops

Who Owns the Rights to a Toucan?

Kellogg, the proud copyright holders of Toucan Sam, recently asked a the Mayan Archeology Initiative to reconsider their logo. Despite the fact that the two birds have entirely different colors, shapes, and expressions, Kellogg’s lawyers insist that they have a special claim to family Ramphastidae.

It’s particularly strange that the corporation would go after a Guatemalan non-profit when dozens of other companies have used toucans in their branding. Neither does Kellogg have time on their side: they registered Toucan Sam in 1963, while Guinness began using its iconic toucan in 1935. While the Kellogg lawsuit is frivolous, it does raise some questions about the commodification of natural images. When do animals become so wrapped up in a corporate identity that they loose their own?

berg lumine plat

Holland Gets an Unnatural High

When the Dutch built the Netherlands, they forgot to add any mountains. The highest point in Holland is a measly 323 meters, compared to 2,962 meters for the highest mountain in Germany. Possibly inspired by architect Jacok Tigges’ proposal for Berlin, Dutch journalist Thijs Zonneveld recently suggested that the Netherlands deserves a fake mountain of its own. Unlike Tigges’ purely theoretical proposal, the people behind Die Berg Komt Er (video) (The Mountain Is Coming) are taking their landscape-building mandate seriously. The mountain has turned into a movement.

Different designers have different visions for this god-like task. DHV situates their Bergen in Zee, an exact replica of Mount Fuji, in the ocean near the town of Bergen aan Zee. It would rise 2,000 meters, occupy an area the size of Disney World, and provide sustainable power for the mainland. Hoffers and Kruger place it in the land or the sea, and fill up their hollow structure with everything from aquariums to sport arenas to farms. Regardless of the particulars, the Nederlandse Berg would be the biggest and costliest manmade structure in history. If the mountain is actually realized, it will certainly prove one thing: The Dutch will let nothing stand in the way of a nice weekend of skiing.

Via Pruned.