Urban Ecologies

Urban Ecologies: “In the City of the Apis Queen" by Andrew Burrell and Trish Adams/ Synesthetic City by Bridget ZK Nicholls/ A New Relevance for Public Art by Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry/ Designecology - ecologizing modern living through mediating technologies by Lea Schick/ Biocybrid Ecology: Art, Technoscience and Living Systems by Camila Hamdan/ The Legacy of Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) : an Environmental Aesthetics by Christophe Leclercq
Monday, 19 September, 2011 - 14:45 - 16:45
Chair Person: 
Patrick Harrop
Andrew Burrell
Patricia Adams
Bridget Nicholls
Elizabeth Monoian
Lea Schick
Camila Hamdan
Christophe Leclercq
Robert Ferry

Urban Ecologies: “In the City of the Apis Queen"

by Andrew Burrell and Trish Adams

The locative media project: “In the City of the Apis Queen” is discussed here within the framework of urban ecologies. The artists describe how, through an innovative, futuristic quasi-gaming model, they have compared relationships between individuals in an urban social context and the behaviours of a community of European honey bees. During the project a futuristic socio-cultural narrative text is developed; combining such diverse disciplines as: visual arts, new media practice, literature, computer science and the biological sciences. This paper outlines the artist’s interdisciplinary concerns and the ways in which this approach lends itself to flexible, hybrid practices.

The project’s overall focus on open-ended, interdisciplinary methodologies that fully explore the creative potentials of hybrid media art are examined here in conjunction with the role played by the artist’s observations of honey bee behaviours. The development of the creative structures underlying participant experiences that encompass both ecological and socio-cultural narrative structures in the contemporary urban context are defined. The artists also expand upon their aim to generate a networked project consciousness that grows out of the recorded “energies” of participant engagement and evolves to resemble a “hive-mind-whole” artwork system.

The functions of programmed technologies that generate the artwork system are detailed; in particular that of the custom-made wearable devices that are fundamental to the work. The artists demonstrate how these components self organise into a local network and communicate with each other in real time through a digitally programmed system of web portals aimed at mobile browsers and the immersion of participants. Illustrated examples from the project demonstrate how participants navigate through this open-ended system to experience the unique presentation of the work’s literary, creative narrative and, through their participation, build new aspects of this narrative.

Synesthetic City

by Bridget ZK Nicholls

When we think of The Natural World we see it as separate to our own urban existence. But actually the natural world lives alongside us in our cities very successfully, perhaps more successfully. Other species having been around for millions of years longer than us use other ways to navigate their way around the cityscape. Other ways, which could give us a distinct advantage in these heavily visually, data oriented times.

So what can we learn from them beyond biomimcry? 

Bats use sonar to see and mark iconic structures; these become ephemeral sonic markers around the city to guide them. By creating sound architecture they avoid the visual overload us humans absorb everyday.

Ant pheromones leave trails so that ant traffic flows continually with no traffic jams and fast and direct routes. We are learning from their smelling skills to create better flow around the city.

The circadian rhythms of nature support natural wellbeing; we can perhaps recreate them in a city that never sleeps to prevent mental illness?

You only have to look at the £160 000 motorway bridge designed and built especially for water voles to continue their pilgrimage to the other side to understand the English are obsessed with helping other species with their historic migratory paths, paths forged by generations of predecessors. However, we're far less inclined to create culture paths through the city for cultural ways of being, passed down from our human ancestors. 

But looking to other city animals and how their past informs their present and future, surely this is of utmost importance. The data we learnt from our past is why we're here today. The museum of yesterday built our genetic blue print for today... We should learn from how other animals process data collected about our urban city. We should see new ways to reconnect with our past to learn for our future. Then data knowledge we gather from our ancestors will support our future survival.  Understanding data from Natural world technologies could help progress human evolution by inspiring new technologies to support our sustainable futures.

A New Relevance for Public Art

by Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry

If we accept that art has a role to play in the influence of popular opinion on issues of ecology and ethics, we can then also question the effectiveness of various approaches and methodologies that are at the disposal of the contemporary artist.

As we endeavor to extricate civilization from fossil fuel dependence and pull ourselves back from the brink of ecological disaster, the existential debate over the purpose of art deserves renewed attention. Is it possible for art to contribute actively to solutions to the problems that confront us? Can interdisciplinary solution-based art with hyper-constructivist relevance inspire social change?

As the trend in architecture sees buildings move towards zero-impact and positive-impact construction, and energy generation becomes more nodal and diversified, perhaps the trend in urban infrastructure will follow. Since the new means of energy generation do not pollute in their daily operation and can therefore be integrated into the fabric of our lives, will the design of public space, and therefore public art, also seek to incorporate renewable energy technology as we endeavor to create holistic urban ecologies?

What does art have to offer sustainable infrastructure and the future of city planning? And, more fundamentally, can art maintain its conceptual purity while fulfilling practical functions such as energy generation?

The relationship between art and technology is an ancient symbiosis. From the earliest tool-making that manifested aesthetics beyond pure utility, to the rich array of contemporary media works, both sides of the coin have gained riches from the company of the other. Art can use technology as a medium not only for the expression of ideas but also as a tool for the creation of solutions that, through their sublimation of the everyday, have a dual purpose role: both demonstrating while inspiring.

The organizers will present their work in the context of the Land Art Generator Initiative and host a panel discussion regarding the issues related to aesthetics and infrastructure, and interdisciplinary art. 

Designecology - ecologizing modern living through mediating technologies

by Lea Schick

French sociologist Bruno Latour proclaims that we are currently standing at the crossroads between continuing our techno scientific Modernization or instead starting to ecologize our collective lives. I welcome Latour’s call for ecologization and by exploiting and combining concepts of ecology as presented by Latour, in the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk’s thriology Sphären, and in Belgian Philosopher Isabelle Stengers’ Cosmopolitics I will in my presentation take the audience on a philosophical journey through new design and architecture tendencies in order to investigate how these offer a radical redesign of the very fabric of our everyday lives.

Latour is criticizing our process of Modernization for having fallaciously constructed a disconnected and dichotomized way of understanding the world, which is deeply out of synch with the hybrid connections that phenomena such as global warming are revealing. Likewise, we have designed our (so-called) Modern lives around living in sealed boxes – we have insulated us far to good and created detached spheres with no connection to or understanding of a true global world, as Sloterdijk describes our modern lives. Within this paradigm, we each own what we need and we are what we own. This individualized way of living is undeniably very unsustainable.

We are, however, now experiencing an emergence of systems, technologies, and architecture that offer people more connected and more sustainable ways of living within networks or ecologies consisting of human as well as non-human actors. By looking at a number of different designs, architectures, and technological systems I wish to investigate how humans are here placed in a new context and how these designs offer a fundamentally new way of living between boxes, in hybrid ecologies and shared spheres, where we can no longer separate humans, objects, technology, nature, or indeed this system as a whole. I will explore how we through these technological ecologies are getting connected both locally and globally and how they might introduce a new sense of what it means to be human and how we are related to our surroundings.


Biocybrid Ecology: Art, Technoscience and Living Systems

by Camila Hamdan

The following article describes some transdisciplinary artistic project, developed in Laboratory of Research in Art and TechnoScience at the University of Brasilia, Gama College in Brazil. Those works are using systemic theoretical/practical thinking and concepts from art, science and technology as a basis to understand relations of the connected body with technologies, of the living systems in symbiosis with digital elements, about  natural and artificial perceptive phenomena at the physical space and cyber data. The body performance art was tattoo with the augmented reality code, allows for interaction with virtual wings tagness in the back of body.

Another artistic experience that geolocated the information at the urban space by use mobile device is 14 Bis-Santos Dumont’s airplane-, the virtual object was geotagness in the sky and its structure was natural size. Our researchers intend to contribute for artistic creation of new body condition in the mixed space, as an reinvention of the environment and re-engineering of life and nature. The connected world that real phenomenal and digitals coexist and can interact since artistic urban works in Brazil, play of sensations created by complex systems, where organic and inorganic are self-dependent, we contextualized these relations by a new ecology, when the biological signals of body plus hybrid language add cyberspace, we called Biocybrid Ecology.

The Legacy of Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) : an Environmental Aesthetics

by Christophe Leclercq

Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) is a well-known exemple of interdisciplinarity at the intersection of Art, Science and Technology. It was founded by Billy Klüver, Fred Waldhauer, Robert Whitman and Robert Rauschenberg in order to facilitate collaboration between artist and engineer, and conceived as a creative and experimental process for research.
The organization has been examined in part by curators, art historians and researchers who focus mainly on the "9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering" festival (1966) and, to a lesser degree, on the Pepsi-Cola Pavilion at "Expo '70", at the Osaka World Fair. The Pavilion can be seen, as Fred Waldhauer says, as "a culmination of the experiment during 9 Evenings". The organization and its projects are often interpreted either in terms of their success (by defenders of new media art), or their failure (by contemporary art critics).

From a different perspective, however, the Pavilion can be considered as a turning point. Closer examination of the statements associated with E.A.T. projects pre- or postdating the Pavilion, or even projects that remained unrealized (which are numerous and merit attention), reveals the omnipresence of the concept of "environment". Beyond the development of devices as tools or instruments, that would be available to other artists, the idea of a variable environment that was investigated in the Pavilion, in both its sonic and visual dimensions, can be considered as a key concept in understanding the switch by E.A.T from an art to a non-art context. E.A.T.'s legacy can be said to rest on the early development of an environmental aesthetics. This aesthetics, however, does not focus on the idea of nature (as the prevalent notion of "environment" has it) but rather on the built and, particularly, the technological environment. This environmental aesthetics problematizes the nature/culture dichotomy in a manner that is of particular relevance to contexts that are increasingly infiltrated by technology. As a result, it can be brought to bear, fruitfully, on discussions of contemporary strategies in art and design, ecology and technology.