FROM THE ORIGINS OF LIFE TO FUTURE PROTOTYPES
This summer, the authors of our seven selected projects travelled to Karlsruhe, Germany, where they visited ZKM, Center for Art and Media, and the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design’s Bio Design Lab. There, they delved into the history of life and biodiversity, thought through the relationships between biology and technology, and learned about ways to adapt this research into tangible objects.
After an enriching weekend of mentoring sessions and a public discussion as part of the Driving the Human Mentoring Event, the seven project authors travelled from Munich to Karlsruhe. In Karlsruhe, they visited two of the Driving the Human project partners, the ZKM, Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, and the Karlsruhe University of Art and Design. After a welcome by ZKM’s chairman and CEO Peter Weibel, the seven project authors got to see the two exhibitions on display. Sarah Donderer, one of the co-curators of the exhibition ‘Bio Media. The Age of Media with Life-like Behaviour’ led the group through a selection of works discussing the central theme of the show: life as information. The show traced the evolution from “kinetic media to biomimetic media” and included works dealing with artificial intelligence, generative art or the relationship of technology and biology in a broader sense. As part of the tour, the group also got an insight into the intelligent.museum project, which is critically rethinking museum communication and outreach in relation to artificial intelligence. The project imagines the future of museums through implementing AI, for example via artwork labels that can translate into any language; all developed codes are part of an open source database accessible to anyone. Together with co-curator Hannah Jung, the project authors also visited ‘The Beauty of Early Life. Traces of Early Life’ an exhibition that revisited the origins of life. From fossils to contemporary works, the show analysed the idea of biodiversity through its historic development and the scientific discourse around it. As part of the tour, Xandra van der Eijk, one of the ZKM Scientists in Residence, contextualised her work Estuary, which was on display and allowed to introduce her research practice at the intersection of art and science. The work looked into transit zones between freshwater and saltwater environments, their ecology and the human-made loss of biodiversity within these ecosystems. Within four glass containers, van der Eijk showed decaying algae plants from one of these transit zones, which tinted the water from pink to green to blue and black over the span of the exhibition period. The show also included a work by Sonia Mehra Chawla who with ‘The Rooted Sea: Halophytic Futures’ was one of the 21 selected concepts presented at the last Driving the Human Festival. Both exhibitions included works intersecting with the research interests of our seven selected projects, who are dealing with future themes of artificial intelligence, biodiversity and the relationship of technology and ‘nature’.
After visiting the two exhibitions at the ZKM, the group visited the Bio Design Lab which is nested at the Karlsruhe University of Art and Design. The Bio Design Lab is a digital and physical platform for experimentations within the field of bio design, focussing on local resources and collaborations. Julia Ihls, the managing director of the lab, introduced the visiting group to the space and the material library, as well as some of the prototypes developed within the lab. These included a transparent down jacket filled with the industrial waste product textile dust, disposable tableware made out of mussel shells, and a bright red glycerin-based bioplastic. The lab functions as a place of experimentation through workshop formats and has recently organised an extensive summer school. The Future of Life Summer School looked into future narratives of cohabitation through multiple design disciplines, collectively imagining new ways to relate to our surroundings. Paula Nerlich and Romy Kaiser from Human-Bacteria Interfaces were part of the summer school program, talking about human-bacteria communication and possible collaborations with non-human agents.
On this warm spring day, the seven projects looked into the origins of life and biodiversity, the fusion between technology and biology and learned about tangible ways to implement their research into bio design. After the mentoring sessions which specifically looked into their own projects, the visit to Karlsruhe was about inspiration and broadening perspectives, while learning about the artistic practices and works of artists working in similar fields. After a long day of inspiration, exchange and discussions the seven projects took the train to Berlin to visit the location of the upcoming Driving the Human festival, where they will showcase their seven prototypes for eco-social renewal.
Video by Stephan Talneau, Images edited by Stephan Talneau, Text by Aisha Altenhofen