Sunday, May 18, 2008

Next Nature

Billed as “More than 25 visionary statements from artists, scientist, designer, filmers, writers…” the Biggest Visual Power Show presentation of “Next Nature” came to the historic Million Dollar Theater in Downtown Los Angeles this Saturday night, May 17th, appropriately across from the utopian architectural landmark, the Bradbury Building.

“Next Nature is the nature caused by human culture,” a very h+ concept. What initially interested me was that Kevin Kelly (Out of Control) and Erik Davis (Techgnosis) would be among the presenters. However, it turned out I had read Kelly’s presentation essay, “The Seventh Kingdom of Life” before and Davis’ talk on the mythological relationship between our conceptions of analog and digital was not one of his strongest, especially since the visuals by Niels Schrader overwhelmed Davis’ thoughts. However, what got me to stay were all the other artists, predominantly Dutch and all previously unknown to me, whose work was profound, funny, cutting edge and a thought-provoking step in understanding humanity’s relationship with nature and technology.

Our emcee for the evening was artist/scientist/organizer/curator Koert van Mensvoort, who explained why the Dutch have such a profound appreciation of the manipulation of nature. The Netherlands is a country that only exists by dint of nature-changing technology. Reclaimed from the sea, the land is a densely populated bulwark against the encroachment of the natural world. The Dutch understand perhaps better than most that people design and craft the world around us to suit our ends.

My date for the evening was Norman Gilmore, tech entrepreneur/ futurist/software architect/business analyst and fellow avantgardist. He enjoyed the show as much as I did.

My personal highlights out of over two dozen presentations were:

Joris Van Gelder’s magical interaction technology. This young man just graduated from Eindhoven University of Technology. From his early studies observing how people bring magical expectations to their interactions with technology, he developed a “magical” remote control for Bang & Olufsen which is one of the cleverest, sexiest devices I’ve seen. As Norman said, if Steven Jobs doesn’t kidnap the boy and ferry him (magically) back to the Apple kingdom, he’s crazy.

Katinka Simonse aka Tinkebell, an animal rights artist/filmmaker, “mockumented” her slaughtering and skinning her pet cat to make into a purse. Her fabulous faux-naïveté and sweetness, her political incorrectness and the gory, graphic how-to images of the all-too-real skinned dead cat made Sarah Silverman look like a wimpy wannabe shockette.

Filmmakers Rene Daalder and Folkert Gorter, who lead Space Collective, “where forward thinking terrestrials exchange ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction today.” It looks like a fun and stimulating creative community.

Casey Alt’s fabulously slick and disturbing “Slightly Sociopathic Software” digital presentation called “Vasillogix” was a very American presentation! Part American Psycho, part Gattaca, part Dale Carnegie, I highly recommend watching it once he posts the completed film.

Floris Kaayk’s film “Metalosis Maligna" was another cute mockumentary about the spread of post implantation infection from metal implants, causing bodies to sprout chaotic metal structures like a Meccano set on acid.

Christian Bramsiepe made a snappy graphic short on intelligent design (or the lack thereof). [Click on “arbeitsproben” and it should be the first film]

Extreme Green Guerillas, a mockumentary on the ultimate green martyrs:

Even the two dozen or so interstitial videos designed by Arnoud Van Den Heuvel, depicting a generic car graphic doing clever and technologically ironic things were well executed.

I expected a bigger turn out for such a wide-reaching program, but I’m not sure how much PR was done to promote it. It deserved a bigger audience than it got. Let’s hope “Next Nature” travels and gets more exposure.


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