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Koert van Mensvoort

Creative Director
Artist and philosopher. The discovery of Next Nature has been the most profound experience in his life so far.
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Plastic_Planet
Plastic Planet

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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Feed-Back

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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Fake-for-Real

Fake Plastic Bags – Made From Real Leather

Fakeness is traditionally associated with inferiority; cheap Rolexes that break in two weeks, plastic Christmas trees, leaking silicone breasts, imitation caviar… However, in a society in which everything is a copy of a copy, the ‘fake’ seems to gain a certain authenticity.

Can you imagine anything more classy and luxurious than these anonymous, brand less, recognizable ‘throw away’ bags re-created in durable, high quality leather by Femke de Vries? Better than the real thing!

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Hyperreality

Alex Gross

Indulge in the paintings by Alex Gross. There is ‘something’ next nature about them… If happen to have more information on what that ‘something’ is, feel free to enlighten us in the comment box. Peculiar image of the week.

Via Pinktentacle.

Designed-by-Evolution

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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Biomimicry

Playing with Microbes – Biotic Games

Stanford researchers are developing ‘biotic games’ involving paramecia and other living organisms. So far, they have created three games that mimic classic video games.

The “biotic games” involve a variety of basic biological processes and some simple single-celled organisms. One game in which players guide paramecia – the single-celled organisms used in countless biology experiments from grade school classes to university research labs – to “gobble up” little balls, a la PacMan, was named PAC-mecium. They’ve also created Biotic Pinball, POND PONG and Ciliaball, named after the tiny hairs, called cilia, that paramecia use in a flipper-like fashion to swim around – and in the game enables kicking a virtual soccer ball.

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Anthropomorphobia

Disgusting Switches

If a light switch would be hairy or snotty nobody would want to turn on the light anymore, which is exactly why designer Katrin Baumgarten created some of the most one nauseating switches she could imagine.

One of the switches sprays snot at the one who dares to push it, while another one simply retreats when the finger comes near. A third one has tiny moving hairs to refrain you from switching. The message? Be mindful about your energy use. You really have to need the light before you dare switching one of Baumgartens disgusting creations.

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Biomimicry

The Roots of Plant Intelligence

Plants behave in some oddly intelligent ways: fighting predators, maximizing food opportunities … But can we think of them as actually having a form of intelligence of their own? Italian botanist Stefano Mancuso presents intriguing evidence in his talk at TED. Obviously, next nature observers will appreciate his comparisons between the networked nature of plant roots and the internet.

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Nextnature Event

Truck in a Truck

Perhaps it is just us, but somehow the transport of the Nano Supermarket inside a trailer has a next nature quality to it. Peculiar image of the week.

The Nano bus, which drives at 40 mph max and thus not on highways, arrived safely on location in Amsterdam. Meet us at the Nano Festival this Thursday or at the Leidseplein between 28 January – 2 Februari.

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Nextnature Event

Alter Nature: We Can

This peculiar carrot, created by Driessen & Verstappen, is the promo image of the Alter Nature: We Can exhibition, which takes place from November 2010 to March 2011 in Hasselt, Belgium. The project strongly resonates with nextnature thinking, as nature is not seen as a static, but rather as a dynamic force that changes along with us.

Regular readers of this website will recognize some usual suspects in the exhibition line-up, among them Driessens & Verstappen, Merijn Bolink, Daisy Ginsberg, Natalie Jeremijenko, Eduardo Kac, James King, Maarten Vanden Eynde, Adrian Woods, Adam Zaretsky. As if that isn’t enough, there will even be a next nature & alter nature film program on January 20th. Hence if you happen to be in the neighborhood a visit to the Alter Nature expo should be worth your time.

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Corporature

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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Anthropomorphobia

Amber Case: We are all Cyborgs Now

Technology is evolving us, says cyborg anthropologist Amber Case in her 8 minutes of TED. We become a screen-staring, button-clicking new version of homo sapiens, relying on “external brains” (cell phones and computers) to communicate, remember, even live out secondary lives. But will these machines ultimately connect or conquer us? Buckle up for some surprising insight into our cyborg selves.

Feed-Back

Not So Horseless Carriage

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Sometimes next nature breaks down and things fall back on an older nature. Luckily, this guy still had a horse around. Peculiar image of the week.

Via Kottke.

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Nextnature Event

Next Nature Movie Top 10

1. Quest for Fire / La Guerre du Feu (1981)
2. Being There (1979)
3. Koyaansiqatsi (1983)
4. Blade Runner (1984)
5. American Beauty (1999)
6.The Matrix (1999)
7. Grizzly Man (2005)
8. Avatar (2009)
9. The Terminal (2004)
10. Idiocracy (2006)

Thus our carefully crafted, yet always debatable and probably incomplete list of the ten next nature movies for you to watch. If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to enlighten us.

Movies that for some reason did not make the top 10: Metropolis (1927), Frankenstein (1931), King Kong (1933), Modern Times (1936), Alphaville (1965), Playtime (1967), 2001: a Space Odyssey (1968), The Planet of the Apes (1968), The Stepford Wives (1975), The Gods must be Crazy (1980), Tron (1982), 1984 (1984), Brazil (1985), Tetsuo the Iron Man (1989), Terminator 2 (1991), Baraka (1992), Jurrasic Park (1993), Ghost in the Shell (1995), Gattaca (1997), Truman Show (1998), Fight Club (1999), eXistenZ (1999), Magnolia (1999), Truman Show (1999), X-Men (2000), Surplus – Terrorized into Being Consumers (2003),  Manufactured Landscapes (2006),  Technocalyps (2006), Children of Men (2006), Surrogates (2009).

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Anthropomorphobia

Next Nature Movie #1: Quest for Fire

The Quest for Fire (1981) shows the Next Nature of 80.000 BC. Set in a world without highways, supermarkets, airports, Internet, television, farming, money or written language, the film depicts a group of Neanderthalers who are able to control fire, but cannot create it. Similar to our habit of carrying a mobile phone, these Neanderthalers consequentially wonder around with a mobile fire.

When one day their fire is tragically smothered, the three bravest men leave the tribe and set out in a quest for fire. Throughout their journey they meet with various other humanoid species, of which the most outlandish is undoubtedly the Homo Sapiens, who impress not by their size or posture but even more by their ability to domesticate their surroundings through the use of tools and technique.

While the Neanderthaler men are accustomed to a life in caves, the geeky Homo Sapiens amazes them with technological gadgets like pottery, an artificial cave created from animal skins, advanced weaponry and, most of all, their astonishing ability to create fire – which in its time was at least equally if not more impressive than any nano-, bio-, or digital technology of today.

The Quest of Fire is a honest attempt to look at the origins of the species and the development of humanity through loss, tragedy, hardship, hostile elements and the beginnings of laughter, morality, community service, leadership, friendship and of course, love. A wondrous feat of body language performances as there is no truly discernible spoken dialogue.

The film can be thought of as the first five minutes of Space Odyssey 2001 (1968) stretched up to a feature film length. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud manages to capture the essence of the human condition as ‘natural born cultural beings’. Which deepens our understanding of the ever-changing relation nature and makes us see some of the contemporary technological ‘upgrades’ in a different light.

Passed: 2001: a Space Odyssey (1968), The Gods must be Crazy (1980), Surplus – Terrorized into Being Consumers (2003).

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Humane-Technology

Next Nature Movie #2: Being There

The main character in ‘Being There’ (1979) is a simple-minded gardener named Chance, played brilliantly by Peter Sellars, who has spent all his life as a servant in the Washington D.C. house of an old man. When the old man dies, Chance is put out on the streets of Washington with no knowledge of the world except what he has learned from television and the small garden he maintained for his employer.

As he is forced to leave his tiny habitat behind and enter the utterly estranging urban surroundings – like an alien from outer space – he seems doomed at first. Luckily it turns out his elementary gardening expertise and television knowledge provides him with enough baggage to cope with the complexity of modern life.

Although Chaunce has the mind of a small child and only knows of gardening, he dresses in nice suits, has impeccable manners and is not shy, so he is accepted into social circles. Through an accidental encounter with a rich couple that is close to the president, he becomes acquainted with the higher circles in Washington. When he speaks of gardening, his words are mistaken for metaphors and he is instantly considered an economic genius.

‘Being There’ is a wonderful film. It profoundly deals with a simple premise: despite the sheer complexity of our living environment and the harsh speed with which it changes, staying true to ones own values and intuitions remains a good strategy.

P.s. The phrase “I like to watch” has become so famous from this movie – it refers to Chances love for TV and the fact that it is the primary reference point for his existence – up to the level that he tries to click a remote to thwart off muggers.

Passed: Playtime (1967)

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Back to the Tribe

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.

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