Our current geological age is being described as “anthropocene”, as the epoch during which human activity is the dominant influence on climate and the environment. But we do not need to consider a “longue durée” historical approach, giving priority to long-term historical structures over events. Todays’ world is witnessing an unforeseen acceleration of environmental changes with a growing human influence on biodiversity and ecosystems with species extinction and climate change.
Combining nature with media and architecture, NatureTecture is an approach to technology that considers the development of the real and virtual spaces of human interaction in the context of their natural environments. NatureTecture not only fuses building- and media-technology with nature. NatureTecture is a holistic ecological approach to innovation.
NatureTecture at the Beijing Media Art Biennale addresses Ethics of Technology and demonstrates this through projects that fuse media technology, architecture, and nature:
“Humboldt Dschungel”, is a jungle for the Berlin “Humboldt Forum”. The “Humboldt Forum” for world culture, an exhibition building combining all Berlin ethnological museums, is Germany’s largest cultural project ever. “Humboldt Jungle” is a hanging garden with lianas overgrowing the Prussian palace that is housing the museums and a tropical forest on its roof. “Humboldt Jungle” connects culture with nature by referring to the naturalist and discoverer Alexander von Humboldt, the name patron of this new “Humboldt Forum” Center for the Dialogue of Cultures. “Humboldt Dschungel” reinterprets the barock ornaments of the palace façade into a living biotope, fusing nature and architecture, creating NatureTecture.
“Humboldt Volcano” is an extension to the Berlin “Humboldt Forum” building with a large winter garden pavilion housing a vertical forest in the center of Berlin and a participatory media concept. “Humboldt Volcano” as a combined physical and media space opens the museum to the public and the city, fusing nature, architecture, media and technology, creating NatureTecture.
NatureTecture demonstrates the fusion of nature, media and architecture.
Overly saturated discourses in the public sphere about emerging technologies and the optimistic prophecy that surrounds it have held our imagination under siege, under the spell of a new theology. This leaves us no mental space for “epistemological” contemplation and reflection, only able to react to its immediate effects. Physicist Richard Feynman pointed out the dialectic split of human beings learning about the world: either driven by concepts (epistemological) or tools (science and technology), “if our discoveries are driven by concepts, we tend to explain the old stuff from a new angle, if it’s driven by tools, we end up explaining what we have created or discovered.”
The distinct human condition of essentially not being able to coexist with our natural environment has led us to invent tools to increase our natural capacity and to change our environment. In the classic scene from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, at the dawn of civilization, apes accidentally discovered that apiece of leg bone could be used as a weapon. The film shows the bone transformed into a gigantic space craft drifting in the darkness of space. Itis precisely this conceptualization of tool/weapon that has been a driving force for humanity up until today: space travel, synthetic intelligence, transhumanism and so on. This drive is not without consequential by-products: environmental catastrophes, legions of machines, data, software, intelligence covering the surfaces of earth, the rise of urbanisation, polarisation of wealth and resources distribution, robotics and the impact on the labour market, data privacy, the reality of the virtual, democratisation of cyberspace, mind uploading, human energetic editing, biogenetical inequality…
The question lies not in how closely we are approaching the singularity from a future horizon, but of true relevance are all the questions about the implementation of the current available technologies and the newly emerged potentially impacted ethical zones. Embedded in this are the essential questions such as: how/who will use it, who will benefit and who will decide? It’s unavoidable to quote Zizek here: “The ethical tought’ is not the obstacle in the path of modern science but a guide, an epochal constellation of value and understanding occurring in the social-political realm that emancipates itself from the naive resignation included by the deterministic causality of rationalisation.” Under the moniker of an “Ethics of Technology”, this exercise attempts to bring the thinkers, technologists, artist, and practitioners across all fields – every one of us affected together – to discuss the re-articulation and re-configuration of the ethical orders and the distribution of technology’s sensibility.