Next Nature Interview

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 We also created the -now outdated- Next Nature pocket book.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 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.

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Fake for Real: The Real Life of flat Characters

playful identities

Cartoon characters fuel our imagination. For the duration of the book or movie, they supply us with an alternative playful identity; an escape from the dull monotonous everyday into a more joyful, colorful and creative life. For some, like for instance this Japanese girl dressed up as the Wikipedia mascotte Wikipe-tan, the flatness of the pictures just isn’t enough. They are so captivated by these imaginative identities that they decide to live the life. Make them real.

From our Fake for Real series.

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Fake Nature

Simulacra and Simulations

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

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Back to the Tribe

Fake for Real: Reflections in the Cave

The Lascaux cave conserves some of the first images created by man, dating back to around 15,000 BC. The depiction of large animals on the cave walls is considered as a preparation for the hunt; one of the earliest simulations conducted by man. Needless to say, the role of simulations in our society only increased ever since. Nowadays we routinely delve into the virtual realities of television, internet, and videogames (depicted right, a screenshot from the videogame Half-Life). Images are an indispensable part of our meaning-making cycle; without images, no reality.

And the Lascaux cave? Soon after its discovery in 1940 it was visited by over 1200 people daily. Once it was found that, due to the CO2 from the tourists’ breath, the cave paintings were deteriorating, Lascaux was closed for public in 1963. To allow the visitors to see the cave paintings anyway, an exact copy was built just 200 meter form the original site. Lascaux II opened in 1983 and is still a popular tourist attraction.

From our Fake for Real series.

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Paradise by the Laptop Light

Paradise by the Laptop Light

Paradise by the Laptop Light is a visual power event with short films, speedlectures, special guests and one laptop. It will be held on 23 November 2007 16:30, as part of STRP Art & Technology Festival in Eindhoven, Netherlands.

We seem to be living in a time in which the ‘made’ and the ‘born’ are fusing. The hypoallergenic cats are already on the market. Plants are used as sensors, information displays and chemical factories. Animals are being augmented and branded. Plastic surgeons sculpt flesh to match retouched photographs in glossy magazines. In response to donar organ shortage, researchers are working on a 3D organ printer.

Real nature is not green. It is out of control. Our technological world has become so intricate and uncontrollable that it has become a nature of its own. Games have become jobs. Second life is not sustainable. Digital world metaphors are boomeranged into our physical environment. Wine making has become an information science. Everyday robots give massages and take care of the children. RFID chips open doors, they might be infected, but nonetheless are edible.

At the Paradise by the Laptop Light event on November 23th, artist/scientist Koert van Mensvoort will be your safari guide on a trip into our Next Nature, with visions, statements, movies and designs from Ken Rinaldo, Jelte van Abbema, Floris Kaayk, Amir Admoni, Mieke Gerritzen, Arnoud van den Heuvel, Hendrik-Jan Grievink, Rolf Coppens, Joris van Gelder and more..

The upcoming Paradise by the Laptop Light event is an appetizer for the Biggest Visual Power Show on Next Nature, planned for spring of 2008 in Los Angeles.

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Back to the Tribe

The 21th Century Paradigm

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?

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Spatial planning – Learning from Second Life

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.

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Breaking Point?

John Zerzan, published in Green Anarchy issue #24 – Spring/Summer 2007

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.

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Out of Control

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.

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ABN Amro’s virtual branch in Second Life

Dutch banking group ABN Amro has set up a virtual financial advice center in Second Life, the Internet-based role playing game. According to a Reuters report (who recently opened a virtual news desk in Second Life), ABN Amro’s virtual, resembles the Dutch bank’s real-life outlets and offer online citizens financial advice.

A number of firms have set up operations in Second Life, including IBM, Japanese car maker Toyota and Adidas which sells virtual clothes and accessories to gamers.

Related posts: First Second Life Millionaire, Big Brother enters Virtual World, Second Life Prostitute, .

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Entry 2006 closing weekend

entry paradise next nature
This weekend is the last change to visit the Entry 2006 exhibition in the coalwashe building, Zollverein. Over 300 exhibits from more than 20 countries are on display. Next nature is one of the three theme’s of the Entry Paradise exhibition. If you don’t have a chance for a visit, here are some pictures.

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Nextnature Event

Art versus Nature

amsterdam weekly natural habitat next nature

Amsterdam Weekly featured an article about the Natural Habitat exhibition (pdf), currently on display at Montevideo/Timebased Arts. In the exhibition artists play with the borders between nature, culture and technology.

Next Saturday, the institute organises a seminar about Art & Science in their Natural Habitat.

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Close to skin technology

fleshing outWearable Interfaces, Smart Materials and Living Fabrics.

V2_, Institute for the Unstable Media, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam-based Virtueel Platform, the expertise centre for E-Culture, organise a two-day event on the theme of close-to-the-skin technology on 9th-10th of November 2006.

Recent developments in science, including DNA and stem cell research, tissue culturing, smart materials and wearable technology, have a growing impact on how we perceive materials and clothing in design practice. In laboratories across the globe researchers at the boundaries of materials research, electronics, chemistry, and biotechnology are laying the foundations of future applications. It is vital to think about the impact that the introduction of these kinds of technologies may have on society.


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Erkundungen im Nächste Natur (D)

Die Natur verändert sich mit uns (English version: Exploring Next Nature)

by Koert van Mensvoort, published in Entry Paradise, Neue Welten des Designs, Gerhard Seltman, Werner Lippert (Editors), Birkhauser, ISBN: 3764376953.

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 [1] 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.

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Better than the real thing

Written by Debbie Mollenhagen


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.

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