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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Boomeranged Metaphors

Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts

Our proposal to study the financial system as an ecosystem is sometimes criticized as ‘abuse of vegetational concepts’. Interestingly enough BBC documentary maker Adam Curtis now argues the whole notion of the ecosystem is in fact a boomeranged metaphor.

In his documentary ‘All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace’, Curtis claims that the notion of the ‘ecosystem’ was, from the very beginning, based upon technological metaphors: the idea of nature as a complex machine.  I hurry to emphasize that the next nature view goes exactly the other way around: the idea of complex machines as nature.

Thanks Ruben van Leer.

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Augmented-Bodies

Get Vegetarian Teeth and Eat Less Meat

Want to live a greener life? Eat less meat. Recently the UN appealed for a radical shift in diet, to improve individual health and ease conditions affecting the global environment. Reducing meat consumption by 10% reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Unfortunately, humans are omnivores. Our teeth are designed to eat both meat and plants. Susana Soares and her colleagues designers and engineers of the Material Beliefs program propose to alter human teeth structures into those of herbivores, in order to become a better vegetarian.

Teeth are an essential tool for nutrition and their shape is related to diet. Herbivore animals have developed teeth structures suited to the consumption of plant material. Can our teeth structure be replaced to encourage dietary shifts that reflect social concerns?

Soon at a local dentist near you? Perhaps your government will even give you a tax cut for adopting a more sustainable veggy lifestyle? No seriously, this is bio play.

See also: Phone Tooth, Orthorexia Nervosa: the healty eating disorder.

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Manufactured Animals

Pixelated Nature

What happens if your childhood experience of your environment has been solely through video games? According to artist Shawn Smith, “pixels became a sort of map from which to experience”. Hence he introduces old nature into next nature by transforming its imagery into 8-bit sculptures using hundreds of tiny wooden blocks.

In an interview with Wired Smith says “I have been around the depiction of objects and nature on screens all my life and I found myself wondering what these things look like in three dimensions.” Peculiar image of the week.

Via Wired. Thanks Bruce.

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Biomimicmarketing

Billboard in the Forest

Unfortunately your forest experience does not meet the highest standards at this moment. We are working on a solution and hope to resolve this issue very soon. Our sincere apologies for this inconvenience.

(The creator of this billboard is unknown. If you know, let us know). Thanks Gordon.

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Calm-technology

Catalytic Clothing

Catalytic Clothing is a fashionably calm technology that aims to tackle air pollution by embedding a substance in the clothing that purifies air when you wear it.

The purifying effect is established by treating clothes with a photo-catalyst that is able to break down air borne pollutants from industry and motor vehicles. This photo-catalyst can simply be added to your clothing in a normal laundry procedure.

It almost all sounds too good to be true, until you read that a significant reduction in the level of air borne pollutants in a large city such as London will only be achieved if, for every meter of pavement width, 30 people wearing catalytic clothes walked past each minute – unsure if you can still breathe in such a crowded space.

Nonetheless we must applaud the symbolic power of the concept. And luckily, the photo-catalyst can also be added to paints, cements and paving stones.

The Catalytic Clothing project is a collaboration between artist/designer Helen Storey and chemist Tony Ryan. Thanks Kat Chan.

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Nextnature Event

Snapshots from the Next Nature Lab

Last week, the young and talented designers of the Next Nature lab at the Eindhoven University of Technology presented their end of term works in an internal exhibition. There are over fifty people active within the next nature theme. Projects range from self-camouflaging bikes, to blushing dresses, to rural solar energy projects. Some snapshots.

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Fake Nature

Birthmarks Tattoo

As the name suggests, Birthmarks Tattoos, are fake – but permanent – birthmarks that you can add to your body. Aside from its decorative potential, Birthmarks Tattoo makes it possible for you and your partner to “exchange” birthmarks or to imprint your body with a secret message in braille. Birthmarks Tattoo is a concept by Dutch designers Julia Müller, Arjan Groot and Menno Wittebrood who were commissioned by the magazine Identity Matters to come up with an idea for new ways of tattooing.

Via Guerrila Innovation | See also: Barcode Tattoos | Electronic Tattoos

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Anthropomorphobia

Kitten Ears – Blushing 2.0

Always wanted a pair of kitten ears to express your feelings to the world? Well, you probably never thought of that – as you have to be a Japanese genius to come up with such an idea – but now that you’ve seen them you crave for some kitten ears to communicate your feelings to the outer world.

According to the designers of Neurowear.net, the kitten ears convey your feelings by responding to your brainwaves. The ears should go up when you concentrate and down when you relax. Think of it as blushing 2.0. How that brainwave–feelings–ears mapping is exactly algorithmically defined is currently still unclear to us. This could result in some confusing communicative behavior, which wouldn’t matter that much as it would be very kitten like anyhow. Smart.

Thanks Mattheus Swinkels.

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Designed-by-Evolution

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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Augmented-Bodies

People are better at growing Limbs than Lizards

Whereas lizards have the extraordinary ability to regenerate lost limbs – meaning that if the lizard loses a limb through conflict with a predator, it will grow back – people have a perhaps even more extraordinary ability to extent themselves with technological limbs: shoes, cars, bikes, warm winter coats, cellphones.

Mobile phones are a good example of a victorious second nature that becomes a first nature. Although they were introduced relatively recently, almost everyone carries a mobile device, and when you accidentally leave your house without your phone it feels naked, almost like you have been amputated, and you quickly run back to your house to grasp your missing limb – your cell phone – off the table.

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Food Technology

Egg Sausage

Our food production is much more technological than we typically realize. My appologies for disturbing your trance; I realize that sometimes you’d rather linger in the illusion. At least, next time when you’re having a salad in a hotel, you don’t have to wonder where the edges of the egg went. Peculiar image of the week.

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Calm-technology

Morphing Cutlery

Imagine a world where the shapes of all objects around you would be able to change on the fly. Envision a future where nanotechnology and morphing become ubiquitous and blend in with the physical environment of the everyday. One day society will look back on our crude, static appliances and wonder how we survived without programmable matter catering to our needs.

It is the goal of designer Jeffrey Braun to explore how to design for a new interaction paradigm that is proposed as ‘Morphing Interaction’, as conducted at the Next Nature lab. When the digital merges with the physical world, our perceptions of space, time and the physical become a play with reality. As morphological properties do not impose specific forms or interactions for a design, it allows for an abundance of functionalities. The freedom of form that will be inherent to these products might not inform the user about the physical actions. Meaningful actions, forms and states will need to be created, where a harmony between human physicality, interface and physical representation is needed.

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Hyperreality

The Woods Smell of Shampoo

Named after the story of a city girl that washes her hair with pine-needle shampoo and one day walks in the woods with her daddy says “Daddy! The Woods Smell of Shampoo”, this Dutch VPRO documentary investigates how media became the filters through which we experience the world around us.

Media experiences are often more satisfying than real experiences. Do we still have real experiences or are all our feelings and thoughts shaped by media technologies? And if that’s the case, how bad is this anyhow?

Ten years ago, when The Woods Smell of Shampoo was broadcasted on Dutch television, much of its statements were considered preposterous. Over time the film has gained a certain luster – if only for being Next Nature avant la lettre.

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Co-Evolution

System Animals

What animal is so naive to come into this world as a naked and crying infant, completely vulnerable, helpless, and an easy prey for any predator? Newborn lamb or giraffe’s babies can walk within a few hours, but it takes humans years and years to learn to take care of themselves. Yet, despite our physical vulnerability, we’ve proven not only able to survive, but even to dominate the planet. How come?

Unlike other animals, which have specific organs, skills and reflexes that enable them to survive in their proper environment, humans have never been placed in an environment for which we are specifically equipped. The human physique implies that there is no such thing as a ‘purely’ natural environment for us. We are system animals: technological beings by nature.

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Biomimicmarketing

Is it a Plane? Is it a Bird?

The zoomorphic designers of Festo, whom you might know from the robot penguins and a robotic elephant trunk, now managed to decipher the flight of birds. Their prototype is modeled on the herring gull and can take off, fly and land while its flight is controlled remotely from the ground in real time.

We are unsure whether these robotic birds will be participating in the enforcement of the no-flight zone in Libya. Anyhow, next time you see a bird flying overhead, look closer.

Thanks Wouter Walmink & Iñaki Merino Albaina.

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Innovative Nostalgia

Angel with Cellphone adorns Cathedral

To mark the twelve-year restoration of the Sint Jan cathedral in Den Bosch, a new statue of an angel carrying a mobile phone was added to the building. The angel joins the many other statues adorning the outside of the mediaeval cathedral.

Member of the churchboard, Pieter Kohnen, explained the modern frivolity by explaining that “angels help us to communicate with the invisible world. Specifically, in these days, in which so many modern communication means are available, angels want to remain reachable.”

The statue was created by sculptor Ton Mooy, who was responsible to for the renewal of the statues on the cathedral. The last in the series needed a modern twist, he decided. The phone has just one button, the artist says – it directly dials God. As well as holding a mobile phone, the carved stone angel is also wearing jeans. Peculiar image of the week.

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