Continuing on with our re-exploration of the role of new technologies in the production of new landscapes, via MoMA's Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition.
This is Part II.
We begin with Michele Gauler's ossuary for the information age, a project which she developed as a student at the Royal College Art in London.
Digital Remains, a beautiful, personalized data-storage artifact equipped with a Bluetooth connection, allows users to log on to the digital remains of a loved one and receive their data on personal digital devices. Search algorithms dig through the data, pulling out relevant personal traces, like a photograph from a holiday spenth together or a favorite piece of music, evoking the presence of the deceased.
This is not in our archives but we have covered similar examples of electronic mourning and remembrance before, for instance, those being experimented with at Forever Fernwood as part of its green burial practices. As their website explains: “Fernwood uses GPS and GIS to collect and manage detailed information about graves on this site. Using this technology allows us to keep accurate records and link to digital LifeStories about people who are buried in natural burial areas while minimizing the impact on the land.”
Indeed, one of the appeals of these digitized rituals is that they are a sustainable alternative to the gas-guzzling, water-guzzling, space-guzzling and money-guzzling Arcadian lawns with which most (American) cemeteries are landscaped.
The following two projects were referenced in a post about a new bioengineering technique in which disembodied meat is grown in laboratories and thereby forgoing rearing livestock on a farm.
The Victimless Leather, a project by Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, also casts aside traditional agricultural and textile manufacturing practices.
A small-scale prototype of a “leather” hacket grown in vitro, Victimless Leather is a living layer supported by a biodegradable polymer matrix shaped like a miniature coat, offering the possibility of wearing leather without directly killing an animal. Catts and Zurr believe that “biotechnological research occurs within a particular social and political system, which will inevitably focus on manipulating nature for profit and economic gain.” They argue that if the things we surround ourselves with every day can be both manufactured and living, growing entities, “we will begin to take a more responsible attitude towards our environment and curb our destructive consumerism.”
Similarly exploring this new form of animal husbandry is Dressing the Meat of Tomorrow by James King.
From the MoMA website:
In vitro-cultured meat production may have many advatages, but it raises practical questions, as well as some complex philosophical and ethical issues. What should this meat look like? What flavor should it have? How should it be served? King answers the first question: “A mobile magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) unit scours the countryside looking for the most beautiful examples of livestock. The selected specimen is scanned from head to toe, and accurate cross-section images of its inner organs are generated...to create molds for the in vitro meat. We...might still want to re-create a familiar shape to better remind us where the 'artificial' meat come from.”
Whether grown with features simulating cows or reminiscent of a Thanksgiving turkey from your halcyon childhood or that of your favorite celebrities, say, Michael Jackson, the landscape implication is quite staggering. Imagine growing all our meat in ultra-efficient manufacturing plants that consume dramatically less energy and resources and produce less waste. Also requiring less real estate, imagine then what all those obsolete farms will be transformed into.
Will they be converted to make biofuels exclusively or turned into vast algal ponds to produce hydrogen gas?
Will half of Kansas be covered with solar panels?
Will we have a golden age of national parks?
In any case, let's move down on the list.
Light Wind, a project by Jeroed Verhoeven and Joep Verhoeven, comes with this brief description.
With traditional Dutch windmills in mind, the designers of the studio Demakersvan have created an outdoor lamp that generates its own energy. with every breeze Light Wind stores the energy that it later uses to produce light.
We will be brief as well by simply directing you to these wind turbines embedded with LEDs and also to these Jersey barriers within which are double-stacked Darius turbines.
Moving right along, we find several examples of Google Earth mashups. These mashups, we read, “combine different sources into a single platform, making them one face of collaborative design on the Internet.”
One of the more widely reported mashups is the flood maps from flood.firetree.net that shows coastal areas prone to sea level rise due to global warming. At a setting of +14m sea level rise, you can see entire cities and towns, whole communities and landscapes become inundated in simulated disaster. If not provocative, these maps are at least informative.
More visceral though in terms of driving in the point that your home will be flooded and pulled away into the seas as though by a slow moving but still destructive tsunami is Eve S. Mosher's project that is part public art, part guerrilla theater and part Christoesque interactive installation. From Prunings XXXI:
Artist Eve S. Mosher is leaving behind a trail of blue-tinted chalk as she winds her way through the coastal neighborhoods of southernmost Brooklyn. This chalk line, The New York Times reports, “demarcates a point 10 feet above sea level, a boundary now used by federal and state agencies and insurance companies to show where waters could rise after a major storm. Relying partly on research conducted by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University, Ms. Mosher is trying to draw attention to projections that the chance of flooding up to or beyond her line could increase significantly as a result of global warming.”
A somewhat similar intervention is Ledia Carroll's Mission Lake Project.
Finally, we come to the BEE'S, a project by Susana Soares.
Soares has conceived a series of alternative diagnosis tools that use trained bees to perform health checkups, detect diseases, and monitor fertility cycles. “Bees have a phenomenal odor perception,” explains Soares. “They can be trained to target a specific odor.” The Face Object has two chambers. Bees that detect certain odors in the breath--some of them even connected to forms of cancer--will go into the smaller chamber if they sense them. The Fertility Cycle Object has three chambers: The largest corresponds to the ovulation period, the second to preovulation, and the third to postovulation. The bees will fly into the relevant chamber. The Precise Object has an outer curved tube that prevents bees from flying accidentally into the interior diagnosis chamber, making for a more precise result.
Also training bees as a diagnostic tool is Professor Nikola Kezic of Zagreb University. But instead of using them to detect medical problems, these Croatian bees are being trained to sniff out explosives that might have been missed by de-mining teams. In a post in which we proposed a park for North Korea's DMZ, we quoted a BBC News article as follows:
Training the bees to find mines takes place in a large net tent pitched on a lawn at the university's Faculty of Agriculture.
A hive of bees sits at one end, with several feeding points for the bees set up around the tent.
But only a few of the feeding points contain food, and the soil immediately around them has been impregnated with explosive chemicals.
The idea is that the bees' keen sense of smell soon associates the smell of explosives with food.
Also mentioned in that post is a genetically-modified weed that can detect the chemical signature of mines and a bunch of fungi that can eat explosives and neutralize radioactive substances. Appropriated as a landscape material, you could have not only a diagnostic tool but a cure to contaminated sites.
Our tour ends here but the exhibition will close May 22, 2008.