Tag: Fake-nature

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Where Be Dragons? Try Your Instinctual Fear of Snakes

This last Monday rang in the Chinese Year of the Dragon. Not restricted just to the benevolent, snake-like creature of Chinese mythology, or to the greedy, princess-stealing monster from Europe, dragon-like creatures occur throughout the world. Legendary reptiles occur as far apart as the feathered snake of Precolombian America and the rainbow serpent of Aboriginal Australia. It may be that, like flight in bats, pterosaurs and birds, the dragon “evolved” multiple times independently throughout human mythology.

If, indeed, the dragon can be considered a cultural universal –  it may be that “large scaly monster” is too general a category to be meaningful –  several theories purport to explain their origin. Giant reptiles like the crocodile or monitor lizard are obvious suspects. It’s easy to imagine how word-of-mouth could transform an already terrifying beast into something that flies or breathes fire. Dinosaur bones may have inspired other dragon myths, while the rotten carcasses of sharks and whales are even today routinely mistaken for sea monsters. By far the most interesting theory is that of anthropologist David E. Jones, who argues that dragons are a mash-up of the predators that ate our distant primate ancestors. Dragons prey on what we’re genetically primed to fear.

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Traditional Thanksgiving Meat

Greenridge Farm offers this pork molded in the shape of a piglet. But if you are more the traditional type of person, Greenrdige Farms also offer Turkey-breasts in the shape of an actual turkey. Perfect for a traditional Thanksgiving!

Will this pseudo-pig actually taste better in the shape of a piglet? Or does the shape reminds us too much of Babe, and becomes cruel to roast? At least it is a good marketing trick to distract you from what the piglet is actually made of.

Via Consumerist

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Are you familiar with the affliction? Anthropomorphobia is the fear of recognizing human characteristics in non-human objects. The term is a hybrid of two Greek-derived words: ‘anthropomorphic’ means ‘of human form’ and ‘phobia’ means ‘fear’. Although anthropomorphobia was originally rare, with complaints limiting themselves to fairs and amusement parks with moving dummies that laughed at visitors, the blurring boundary between people and products is leading to increased problems. Complaints can be accompanied by irrational panic attacks, disdain, revulsion, and confusion about what it means to be human. Will anthropomorphobia eventually become public disease number one? Or can anthropomorphobia serve as a guiding principle in the evolution of humanity? Herewith, an exploration.


Exploring the Twilight between Person and Product

Luxury cars with blinking headlight eyes. Perfume bottles shaped like beautiful ladies. Grandma’s face stretched smooth. Carefully selected designer babies. The Senseo coffeemaker shaped – subtly, but nonetheless – like a serving butler. And, of course, there are the robots, mowing grass, vacuuming living rooms, and even caring for elderly people with dementia. Today more and more products are designed to exhibit anthropomorphic – that is, human – behaviour. At the same time, as a consequence of increasing technological capabilities, people are being more and more radically cultivated and turned into products. This essay will investigate the blurring of the boundary between people and products. My ultimate argument will be that we can use our relationship to anthropomorphobia as a guiding principle in our future evolution.

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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.

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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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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

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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?

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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.

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Animals Made from Other Animals

That’s no reindeer, and it’s certainly no moose. It’s an Irish Elk, Megaloceros giganteous, a deer that happens to be neither an elk, nor really all that Irish. What it does happen to be, though, is long extinct. Renowned taxidermist Ken Walker has reconstructed Megaloceros from the tanned hides of once-living Canadian deer.

The mount is made of elk skins stretched over a custom foam form, and fitted out with a pair of fiberglass antlers. Using Paleolithic art as a guide, Walker also gave the giant deer a prominent shoulder hump with contrasting coloration. Walker’s prowess with taxidermic reconstruction isn’t just limited to extinct animals. He has also won awards for Thing Thing, a panda made from the dyed fur of other bears.

Taxidermic reconstruction occupies a particularly strange area within the already weird world of taxidermy. It uses the parts of recently deceased (but still extant) animals to create a scientifically accurate fantasia of an animal too rare to kill, or so long gone that no modern human has seen one alive. In other words, it’s fake nature at its most realistic.

Information via Still Life.  Image via Taxidermy.net

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