Speculative Directions

As I am working and thinking about various experiments to do, I realize that a lot of time it became hard for me to explain to others what I am doing, why I am doing this, and what is my vision. Even though internally I know what that vision is, putting it into words is difficult.

And whether or not I have a unified vision is something that I am unsure of as well. In the end, these experiments need to amount to something. They need to be extrapolated beyond experiments that I can do. Extrapolation needs to happen in both - scale and time. Fundamentally, this project is about challenging the usual notion of bio-mimicry. The bottom-up approach is not about copying nature but about being in nature and having nature at the very essence of what is being done. For this, I am thinking of the word - "Bioesse".

Firstly, the reason for using a speculative design as a tool needs to be established. The speculative design method allows for the power of fiction with a suspended state of belief. This allows acceptance of a vision that is beyond the ordinary and extrapolated forward in time. Even though in speculation, we think about the future, speculative design is very much about the present. In this project, using a speculative design approach for extrapolating will allow for a clearer definition of the vision, will provide direction to this project itself in establishing a vision, and can be used to get other people to work towards achieving this vision.

From my previous experience working with the Internet's Emergy Project, I saw that the entire project became a provocation and relies on other people to achieve the vision. But, how can action be taken today? In some ways, the experiments that I am doing are already me taking action, but the speculative narrative will give direction to my action and I will be the third entity taking action in itself.

Man vs Machine vs Nature

One thing that is clear is that our view of the world and the object we make had become biased towards considering man-made being superior to nature-made (at least in the world-view of the west). But as we went through the industrial revolution, we realize that a lot of indigenous practices and nature itself have the best solution to a lot of problems. This saw the rise of bio-mimicry in design, engineering, and architecture.

With this viewpoint, we look at our world as two polar opposites - those objects that are made by man and those that are made by nature. It becomes quite apparent when we look at trends in current movies.

The furthest we have got in assimilating man, machine, and nature is in examples like Ghost In The Shell. Otherwise, a lot of other movies still talk about the dilemma between the natural order and human intervention as a reflection of our industrialized societies. Surely, there is more to man and nature assimilation than cyborgs and psychedelics?

The Vision

What would objects and our world look like when the distinction between man-made and nature is broken down. What happens when the line becomes blurry between the natural and industrialized? What happens when the distinction between a factory and a farm starts breaking down? Surely, the whole essence of bio-mimicry as a movement when it started was to build more sustainable solutions, but somewhere we got carried away in looking at mimicking nature in man-made objects rather than utilizing its principles.

I think the road to true sustainability lies in assimilating with nature in such a way that it becomes difficult to establish what is not natural. After all, we are all humans from the natural world and whatever we make is also nature. It is no less different from calling a spider-web made by a spider not natural. Yes, we have the agency of choice where a spider is hard-bound by its DNA. But, this exact agency of choice is what this vision is intended to direct. I believe there are more ways than we realize in achieving this vision.

Yes, people have worked in this direction. The most notable is Neri Oxman's Silk Pavilion. It is difficult to categorize the pavilion as either man-made or natural. It lies somewhere in the greyness between. It is these objects that interest me and what we can do with them. As our technology progresses and we understand the fundamental principles better and how to use them without the current industrial method, the things we make and the structures we build will be vastly different. They will neither be fabricated nor grown. It will be hard to define whether they are constructed by subtractive manufacturing or additive manufacturing. They will be ecosystems of their own, fully assimilated with nature but also living in symbiosis with man. These objects will be self-assembled and self-organized. They will be computing on their own as their natural processes.

The First Iteration of a Shroom Lamp

Going ahead, I will be creating artefacts to realize this vision. WIP....