SUNDAY SEMINAR | STUDIO DRIFT: CODED NATURE

SUNDAY SEMINAR | STUDIO DRIFT: CODED NATURE

Articles Blog


My name is Ingeborg de Roode, I am a curator
Industrial Design at the Stedelijk Museum. I have composed the exhibition about Studio Drift
together with Pao Lien Djie. And of course, also in close cooperation
with Lonneke and Ralph from Studio Drift. Who has already seen the exhibition? Most of you. Nevertheless, we will give you
an introduction to the exhibition. It may be that some people
have not seen it yet. First of all, I would like to welcome you very much
here at the Stedelijk… on behalf of our management
and employees. It’s very nice that you have defied the sun
and are all here, fantastic. Later, we give the floor
to our chairman, Saskia van Stein. But I’ll already show you the program a little,
so that you know it a bit. You also have it on the yellow notelet,
the program for the afternoon. First, the introduction,
by me and Pao Lien Djie. Then, we get
a column. Floris Kaayk is introduced
by Saskia van Stein. Saskia, perhaps you could stand up for a moment.
Then the people will also know that you will do so. This is Saskia. Saskia engages in conversation
not only with Ralph and Lonneke… but also
with a number of other people present. Then, we are going to get a column
and then, the Q&A. And then it is your turn, because
then we would of course like to have… questions and comments
from the audience. And we expect… Oh,
is something going wrong? Yes, there it is again.
Okay, I won’t touch it again. By the way,
our PowerPoint is in English. We knew that there would also be
a few people speaking English today. We will be speaking in Dutch.
Except for William Myers, who is English-speaking. But that’s why
we left the PowerPoint in English. Then you understand
why that is. You just saw the title:
‘Making the Impossible Possible’. That is what we are talking about,
today. Just a few
facts & figures. Lonneke Gordijn
And Ralph Nauta… were educated
at the Design Academy in Eindhoven. From 1999 to 2005. Shortly after, in 2007,
they founded Studio Drift. And somewhere during that time
I got to know them. I can’t remember
the exact moment anymore. I will undoubtedly have seen them
during the graduation exhibition in Eindhoven. But, to be honest,
I can’t remember that exactly. Shortly afterwards I did see their work,
which is about 10 years ago now. From
that moment on… I followed them
and the developments of their work. Which ultimately resulted
in this first museum solo exhibition here. They have been working
on big projects around the world
for years. But,
and, maybe strangely enough… they haven’t had have
a museum solo before. And we are, of course, very happy
that we can do that for the first time now. And precisely
at this moment. I’ve been thinking for a few years now:
‘when can we do this?’ We were already in deliberation
about that. Especially now, after over 10 years,
after delivering so much work recently… this is actually the perfect moment
for that first museum solo. So, it came out nicely
that we could plan it now. It has also led
to having two world premieres in the exhibition. There are several European premieres,
but also a number of world premieres. These are ‘the Drifters Film’
and the work ‘Materialism’. We will return to that later, f
or those who do not immediately know what it is about. One of their early works… that I can clearly remember
seeing at one point… and was
very impressed by… is the
‘Ghost Collection’. You can see
the computer drawings of it here. And here
one of the developed chairs… the
‘Queen’s Chair’. Noticeable immediately
from their very first works… a very poetic elaboration
of their thoughts. About how you can deal with the world
and images and the like. And here,
their enormous interest… in new technologies
was immediately expressed. The image
you see… that ghostly image,
which is especially visible when light shines on it. This is caused
by two laser beams… that, with the help
of a computer program, have crossed each other at various points,
where air bubbles form. That’s what makes
the image. These air bubbles, of course,
break the light… which is why you also see it better
with light. It is actually a sort of forwarding
to a future… in which such shapes of furniture
could also be made. And now only still to be seen as an image
in the Perspex chair. This is of course
very much referring to design. After all,
they had a design education. This interest in technology
and nature… has actually been very explicit in their work
from the very beginning. And especially
in the work of Lonneke. Here, you can see
the seed fluffs of the dandelion… that I think have just been harvested again,
aren’t they, Lonneke? You have been picking again.
It was exactly the time before that. She used it in her graduation work,
which you can see here on the left. The first version of ‘Fragile Future’,
in 2005. And on the right a closeup
of when it’s lit up. The work is also displayed here
at the exhibition. Then you can also immediately see
that the seeds remain good for a long time. It’s what everybody wonders about:
what happens to them over time? The seeds are stuck to the LEDs
and dry. They just stay good
for a long time. This one has been in good condition
for thirteen years. In ‘Fragile Future’,
that natural element is obviously involved. Literally making use
of nature. Furthermore, they will also make a lot of use
of natural phenomena. But here they are
truly natural parts. I myself have called it
a kind of literal biomimicry. By literally using it
in their work. But of course,
that technology is also right here. The interest in technology
and science fiction… actually comes from that time,
from Ralph, especially. They did not quite cooperate
during their final exam time. But they knew each other from day one,
so their influence on each other was immediate. They developed this much further
when they started their studio. So, they started working on this
together. And that ultimately led
to a third generation of ‘Fragile Future’. In which a very transparent installation
could be made. No longer on such a back wall,
as you saw in the first version. But a modular system with which
entire spaces could be made. And it was actually in that moment,
when I saw this chandelier… that you see here
on the left… when I thought:
I really think that’s again… a more interesting
step forward. Because of that transparency
of the work. And the fact that whole installations
can be made with it. The electrical circuits here
have become extremely thin… and are actually the element
with which the entire installation can be built. They have already built all kinds of installations,
in many different places. But this is the installation that is on display now,
here in the museum. That is the largest one so far:
500 modules. A module consists of a sort of square-shaped circuit
with three dried seeds in it. So, there are about 1500,
a huge amount. Of course,
you also see this very well… because
we always tried… to show a work
in an entire room in the exhibition. And to show how they can bend that whole room
to their will. We now have eight installations
that all have their own space. They have never been seen
in this combination together before. I mentioned it briefly:
nature, technology… but also humans,
almost always come back in their work. It’s really about that triangle,
you could say. There are also many works
that are interactive. They have a huge fascination
for state-of-the-art technology… and
science fiction. They are always looking
for collaborations… that allow them to stretch
that state of the art even further. So that they can really develop
new applications. Later on, one of the people
they work with… will also
get the floor. What is very clear
in the development of their work… is that it went from design
to very multidisciplinary installations… for those
specific locations. Often, interactive sculptures
arise from that. And in recent years
also performances and film in particular. So, it is becoming a very broad,
rich oeuvre. Of course,
in other artists and designers… you also see
that interdisciplinarity. With them, there are elements of,
you could say… bio-technology,
tech-art… all kinds
of other elements. But they are making something really new
and special of it. But also with designers and artists
such as Joris Laarman, Iris van Herpen… you can see this great
interdisciplinarity lately. Furthermore, what has a great importance
in all their work… is the experience. That is why the person
is always present. They make it
to give the visitors that experience. To create a kind of astonishment
about the world… and what it
might look like. And then to be able
to get a kind of open attitude… to think about all kinds
of underlying thoughts. I think that
is a very important element for them. It is not about
those experiences themselves… it is ultimately about
what lies underneath. The collaboration with all kinds of scientists,
I already mentioned it. They started with the two of them,
but they now have a studio… where they work with 20 people,
in Amsterdam-North. That relationship with Amsterdam
is of course also very nice. It is precisely because of that interdisciplinarity
that their work fits very well, here in the Stedelijk. I took
a few pictures… of very old and more recent projects
that we have done. On the top left, for example,
with Lust… a graphic design agency
that creates interactive presentations. This was made,
here on the left… with all kinds of information from the internet
that reacted to the visitors. Of course, we have a very old performance
from Gilbert & George from 1969. And a new, fairly recent one
by Jordan Wolfson. It is precisely
that digital world… that we are focusing very much on
lately. We have not tried… to give an overview of their work
in the exhibition… but rather
to show the underlying processes. That is why we have taken the studio
to the exhibition, as it were. The studio is now also pretty empty,
I understand. Because what is here
is normally in the studio. To show how they work,
that not everything happens on a computer… but that they also make
a lot of models manually. And there are videos,
of how things are made. I think that gives
nice background information. Now I would like to give the floor to Pao Lien Djie,
who is co-curator of the exhibition. And she will go a little deeper
into a number of themes. Thank you. Thank you,
Ingeborg. As Ingeborg
already pointed out… in many of the works
of Studio Drift… natural phenomena
are key. Both in ‘Shylight’,
here on the slide… and in the work ‘Meadow’,
which you see at the bottom of the stairs, … the principle of nyctinasty, or plant sleep,
comes up for discussion. It is the ability of some plants
to close their flowers at dusk… and re-open
at dawn. And although science has not been able
to fully understand this phenomenon… one thing is clear:
that in Studio Drift’s translation… it is a beautiful and elegant
dance for survival. Through the movement
of the opening and closing flowers… Drift wants to convey that emotion
that Ingeborg already mentioned… to the viewer
and seduce him or her… to develop a feeling
for the work. This recording
shows the ‘Shylight’… as it can be admired in the installation
at the so-called Rotterdam Staircase… at
the Rijksmuseum. Please do lie down
under the installation in the room here. We have already seen several people
doing this… and that seems to be
the ultimate experience. In the work ‘Amplitude’,
Studio Drift explored the phenomenon of flying. And in particular how we as human beings
deal with our dream to be able to fly. The work calls the photographic studies of movement,
and especially animal motor skills… of Eadweard Muybridge
to mind. With this work, Studio Drift joins
a centuries-long tradition of artists … with a fascination
for the movement of birds… or for the seemingly weightless floating
through the water … like the ray
can do so beautifully. ‘Flylight’ also goes further
on the theme of flying. Here, however, it is the behavior of avian swarms
that is being investigated. Starlings of swarms have the ability
to move gracefully through the air … like
an entity. While often,
thousands of birds are involved. And although we often
tend to interpret this swarm behavior… as the ultimate expression
of freedom… it is precisely
the result of the fact… that all birds adhere strictly
to mutual agreements. Controlled by sensors, the lights in ‘Flylight’
come at the potential intruders … just like starlings do
when they suspect danger. In this,
they use their large number. Software engineers Klaas van der Molen
and Luuk van Laake… who later become our guests
during the moderated group discussion… developed the first software program
that underlies this program. They based themselves
on the Boids Flocking Algorithm… by Californian software engineer
Craig Reynolds. A parallel to the human world
is quickly drawn. After all, we also have to comply
with all kinds of rules… to be able to benefit
from the security… that society
can offer us. Who doesn’t do that is, as it were,
declared outlawed. We just saw some images shot
of a ‘Flylight’ installed in Miami. A comparable algorithm was used for the
light program of the ‘Tree of Ténéré’… of which a tree branch
can be seen in the exhibition. The light program
was controlled by three people… during the Burning Man event
in America. With their movement,
heartbeat and brain activity,… they influenced the behavior of 175,000 LED lights
through headbands with sensors. As soon as they
synchronized their movements… the three smaller light swarms
came together in a large swarm. For ‘Franchise Freedom’,
a new algorithm was developed… which ensured that individual drones
were able to react to each other… and behave
like a real bird swarm. Studio Drift collaborated
with Wilco Vlenterie for this… who just graduated from TU Delft
on the subject of drone swarming. The producer of the drones
took the experience… he gained in the development
of ‘Franchise Freedom’ with him… in the implementation of the opening ceremony
of the Korean Winter Games. ‘Franchise Freedom’
is one of the several examples… in which Studio Drift stimulates
the development of new technology… and extends
the limits of possibilities. The theme of freedom and the relationship
between the individual and the group … as further elaborated in ‘Drifter’
and in the film ‘Drifters’… the latter of which was made
in collaboration with director Sil van der Woerd.. In the film
we see individual blocks of concrete… that are led
by invisible forces… to fulfill
their destiny. Eventually we see that they occupy
their place in a larger structure of concrete blocks… that float through the air
as a whole. ‘Drifter’, the concrete block
that floats alone… restless
and seemingly aimlessly… in
the museum hall… seems to have wrestled itself away
from its destiny. The freedom found is accompanied
by an increased vulnerability. It seems to be the price that has to be paid
for the benefits… that come with choosing
an autonomous life. Because of the way
Drifter moves… you easily associate it
with that of a living being.. Animism is a principle that occurs
more often in Studio Drift’s work… and that will be discussed
in more detail in the group discussion.. You are now watching recordings
made during the Armory Show… In New York
last year. That, by the way,
was the premiere of the ‘Drifter’. Sustainability and shared responsibility
for the well-being of our planet… are also
recurring themes. Both the early work ‘Oillights’
and the later ‘Obsidian Studies’… are examples
of this interest. Both can be seen in the exhibition
in the space that is dedicated to the studio. . With the recently launched project
‘Materialism’… Drift deals with the use of raw materials
in a very literal way. By dissecting
everyday objects… in the
exact quantities used… the work makes you aware of the fact
that an unlikely amount of material is needed… to make all the stuff
that surrounds us. The project also shows
how design and technological developments… can contribute
to the more efficient use of raw materials. In the exhibition
this is well illustrated… in the comparison
of the materials… needed for the production of an
old-fashioned light bulb, here on the left… and for making
an LED lamp. The difference in the used amount of material
is quite impressive. In one of the most recent works,
a very early work sounds through. In ‘Fragile Future’, and thus also in ‘Dandelight’,
which formed its base… an almost self-evident
new world was created… through a merging of the natural
and technological world. In ‘Concrete Storm’
two worlds come together as well. The real tangible world,
and a virtual, digital one. Together they form a new,
enriched world… with the help
of the latest technologies. With ‘Living Pavilion’,
which is still under development… Studio Drift makes a proposal
for architecture that moves, and… as it were,
breathes with nature. Living spaces form a better
and more pleasant living environment… for the people
who live in it… That is
Drift’s conviction. In 1516 Thomas More
wrote in his book Utopia… here in the translation
of Paul Silverentand… ‘Today they have impressed the houses,
with three floors… For the exterior walls
they use different types of stone… natural stone or
brick. And in the cavities,
they pour a kind of mortar.. The roofs are flat
and covered with a cheap paste… that is composed so
that it is fire-resistant… and suffers less from the weather than lead’. Studio Drift was inspired by these words
when developing ‘Drifter’. Who knows, maybe one day
we will find ourselves in a city… that consists
of moving and floating buildings. A fantasy that may seem
just as unlikely to us today… as the world of concrete did then,
as Thomas More visualised it. I would like to give the floor
to Saskia van Stein… artistic and business director
of Bureau Europa and Maastricht… and our moderator
for this afternoon. Ladies and gentlemen, Pao Lien Djie,
thank you. As said before: the coming hour and a half
will be a very dynamic program. We will place the work of Studio Drift
in a broader social context… through the lens of the themes
that have just been highlighted. And we’re going to listen to a column,
which will be in English… by William Myers,
as already mentioned. But to perfect
the kick-off completely… I’m looking at you,
Floris. Perhaps you would slowly
like to step forward. Floris Kaayk is a digital visual artist
who graduated Cum Laude… from the Animation department
at St. Joost in Breda… and obtained his Master’s in Fine Arts
at the Sandberg in Amsterdam.. His focus is on
futuristic fantasies. Now, yesterday, it occurred to me
that we often talk about science fiction. But in fact he introduces the fiction
which leads to our science. The reason he is here
is because parallel to the exhibition… alongside, amongst others,
James Turrell… one of his works is displayed
in the exhibition. Are you ready, Floris?
-Yes. If your mic is turned on,
the floor is yours. Thank you. I am
Floris Kaayk. In my work
I make fictional stories. In these stories I try to depict
my fantasies, fears… and desires
around technological progress. In this exhibition at Studio Drift, my first film,
‘The Order Electrus’ from 2005… and my last project, ‘the Modular Body’
from 2016 will be shown. And Ralph and Lonneke have curated these works
because they feel… that thematically,
it is connected with the work they create. And of course,
I also feel that relationship very much. It is no coincidence
that both Studio Drift and I… are fellow
at the Next Nature Network. It is
an international think tank… of artists, designers,
scientists and philosophers… who believe that our current image
of nature and technology… and the relationship between nature
and technology is shifting. Because of that,
and because I wanted to create a framework… in which my work can be linked
to that of Studio Drift… I’d like to delve deeper
into that thought of Next Nature. And for that
we go back 4.5 billion years in time. The moment
when our Earth came into being. It was still
a stone then. A large, round stone
that wandered lonely in space. And three billion years
later… on top of that what was called the geosphere,
the biosphere was created. That is the layer around the Earth
with all nature, all plants, animals and flowers. And since the arrival of modern man,
of agriculture, architecture… artificial intelligence
and robotics… a new atmosphere, a new layer has evolved
on top of that biosphere. You could describe that
as the technosphere. The layer
caused by all human activities. To explain this technosphere a bit more clearly,
I have a very simple diagram here… with two axes.
On the one hand you have born and made. The axis that is diametrically opposed to it
is checked and uncontrolled. If you look at born
and completely above our control… completely
uncontrollably autonomous… then you could think of the Big Bang,
volcanoes, viruses, lightning. And then what was born:
for example, animals, fruit, plants, flowers. That is also gradually becoming
more controllable… by technologies
such as genetic modification. Then there is also what is made by us
as mankind… and thus
completely controlled. For example, an old-fashioned telephone,
a car, a light bulb… or a, by now already more
old-fashioned robot dog. What we have made seems to become
more and more uncontrollable and autonomous. Consider, for example, the internet,
which forms a complete organism in itself. The financial system
that we often have no control over… and
computer viruses. It is precisely
that uncontrollability… of which you could say,
ensures that technology…. could become a nature
in itself. Which is very similar
to that primal nature… wild and unpredictable,
full of danger and challenges. According to the Next Nature idea,
that is nature caused by people. The works of
Studio Drift… are those very beautiful poetic phenomena
from that technosphere. In my work I try to respond to those events
within that technosphere… and to whatever might happen
in the future.. by visualizing
my dreams and nightmares. My first film, which can also be seen
in the Stedelijk Museum… ‘the Order Electrus’ from 2005,
is a fictional nature documentary… about a non-existent insect species
in the Ruhr area. By combining factories
that have been inactive for years… with
nature… a new species has emerged:
the Order Electrus. It is a fictional documentary
of seven and a half minutes… in which you get a look
at that fictional biotope. Then I made ‘Metalosis Maligna’,
a fictional documentary as well… such as those you could come across
on National Geographic Channel… or
Discovery Channel. Metalosis Maligna is a film
about a disease… that occurs in people
with a metal implant… such as a knee
or a hip. As soon as they are infected
by Metalosis Maligna… he patients slowly transform into
a kind of cyborg-like being. These are the more
nightmare-like scenarios. In 2012
I tried to visualize my dream. The dream
to be able to fly like a bird. Our human body is not made for that,
because we are not strong enough and too heavy. Using a kind of
fictional mechanical system… in eight months
I told the story… of someone who built wings
and eventually flew with them. And that was what the world believed:
it was shown on BNN and on CNN. That someone had succeeded
for the first time in history… to be able
to fly like a bird… like Leonardo da Vinci
once imagined. The most recent project
where I’d like to talk about in more detail… ‘the Modular Body’… is a science fiction story that has been told
entirely through online media. It consists of 56 short fragments
and is about the creation of Oscar. Oscar is a modular prototype,
made up of human cells. The idea is that all organs
are disconnected… and can be linked together
like LEGO blocks…. thereby
creating an immortal system. In ‘the Modular Body’
I have tried to visualize… the creation of Oscar,
very detailed… in a variety
of short films. You see how his heart is printed,
how the limb module is put together… with all kinds
of different types of tissue. At a certain stage within the story
you can see Oscar crawling… still in a sterile environment,
linked to a data cable… and
an external blood supply. With the aim
of eventually… being able to lead a life of its own
outside the sterile environment. And that happened in one of the films in which
the maker clicks Oscar completely together… and Oscar actually comes to life
in the hands of the maker. These videos were distributed
via Youtube, Facebook… and various other
social media channels. There was a Facebook page
where a lot of discussion took place. That discussion was about
all kinds of different parts. By using the platform
of online media… it was not only for the art audience,
but for a much wider public. For people
from all walks of life. These are some screenshots
of the reactions that followed. Still,
people are discussing… the promise that modular people
have in them. Studio Drift and I
use completely different fora. Studio Drift makes physical objects… that have to be shown
in the museum or in the gallery. I make digital stories
that have to be shown in the online media. I think that we both have the goal
to reach a large audience. And to convey our fantasies
about the future… to the largest possible
group of people. So that ideas about this
can be formed… before the time comes
in 30 or 40 years. And we can already start to form an opinion
about what awaits us all… in the
technosphere. Thank you. Floris Kaayk. Well, there are already
a lot of stimulating questions… behind
and in your work. I did not mention earlier that we will engage
in conversation with each other for the last half hour. So you your turn will come
if you wish. But first, in the next half hour,
I will engage in conversation with… I will list some people
and give a short version of their bio. Martijntje Smits, she is a philosopher,
innovation thinker and engineer. She is involved as a senior researcher
at the Copernicus Institute … of
Utrecht University. She investigates the consequences
of smart grids and autonomous robots. Martijntje,
may I ask you to step forward? Please,
some applause. I also ask to the front: Luuk van Laake,
also an engineer and researcher. He started his academic career at
the TU in Delft… which he continued
at MIT in the US. Did I say Delft?
Excuse me. That is a pitfall. I am in architecture
so I tend to do that. TU Eindhoven,
then MIT. In 2011 he started
Digiluce… with which he tries to explore
the new connections between art, science… and
the business market. Please. Ingeborg was the first to speak,
the curator of the exhibition. Please step forward.
And of course, last but not least… Lonneke and Ralph, may I ask you
to take a seat in the middle? The microphones
are ready. A lot has been said
about you now. So the first question
is for you. We will separately
cover a number of themes, but… at the sight of the work a week or two ago,
it came to mind: the origin. I would like
to go back… to which aspects of nature inform your work,
inspire. Can you reveal
a little bit of the source… that underlies
these works? Who can I
direct this question to? It is actually a process
that still takes place… and continues to build
on what you see. I think that the real origin
is just observation. And a lot of interest
in how the world works. That is also
how we met. We were immediately fascinated
by the same things… and had endless conversations about them,
which we still have. I’m thinking about
my graduation work, ‘Fragile Future’… in which we have been processing
real dandelion fluffs since that moment…. Ralph became involved very early on. We have been collecting dandelion fluffs
year after year. So that made you dependent on a natural… -Season? Yes, of a season
and of the natural product. It makes you increasingly search
for characteristics around you… that influence nature
and that specifically affect that dandelion. By looking into that dandelion
year in, year out… you learn a lot
about how that mechanism works. Year in, year out, it becomes more interesting
because you can add new knowledge. There is so much more to it
than the one dandelion you see. He behaves in many ways,
it’s different every year. It also links
to that whole system… of what kind of winter it was,
when those dandelions come up. Because the one year it is in March,
that we can pick it. The other year that is only in early June,
and there is everything in between. In addition, in the period
that we started picking those dandelions… there were two seasons.
After a few years there was only one season. So, you see
the whole world changing… and you can see all that
in that one dandelion.. That gives so much information. And when you consider
that it’s only one dandelion… And there are, I don’t know how many species
of plants and animals and all sorts of aspects… that provide such a huge field
of inspiration. You can actually link it one on one, nature,
with how the world works. I can go on
for a long time… but I think that is the basis
of how we operate. I sometimes see that you use this nature
symbolically. Sometimes in terms of form and language,
sometimes in its complexity. Maybe for you, Ralph: How do you have
that conversation together? I assume, someone comes up with an idea.
Can you take that a bit further? It is indeed often
that one of us comes up with an idea. After a long discussion
we often forget who it was. That happens
a lot. Just by constantly talking
to each other… and comparing
the findings of our interests… we find each other
in what we want to convey. It is also quite often
that an idea simply remains on a shelf… or five
or six years. Then only at a given moment we understand
why we were talking about it… or why
we were doing it. And then we just
start doing it. But we do not like
to compromise. So we continue together
until we both agree 100 percent… and it’s
completely right. As soon as one of us
disagrees with the idea… we continue to bombard each other
with questions and critical remarks… until we have a clear idea
of ​​why this should happen. And why
we agree on it. We also have
quite a lot of fights. Conflict is a good basis
for innovation and progression. Of course,
we will return to you. Martijntje… despite that Floris
talked about the technosphere… we still consider these themes,
people, nature, technology,… as separate silos. While, when I think about
how I am fused with my iPhone … to name
a few… I am aware that that object informs me
in an unbelievable way. my world view,
the way I see. I even dare to say
the way I think. The way
I search. What is your answer
to those different silos? Yes, I heard Floris say that too.
In that Next Nature network. The theme was that in the present time,
the boundary between people and technology is shifting. And I think..
we have always been doing that as human beings. That it was even
before the agricultural society. Man is called
a ‘mix’. We are the only organism
in nature… That has to dress itself
to be protected from the weather. So, in that sense,
if you draw a big line.. There are
no boxes. We are, of course, nature,
but somewhere in our thinking.. we have placed ourselves
opposite of that nature. We are busy all the time
to conquer that nature, as it were. That is the project of the engineers,
of the natural boundaries. Traveling to the moon.
It must be overcome. Does this answer your question?
Because I can continue this for hours. It is a very fascinating theme,
as is nature itself, really. I think that we talk about nature
as something tangible physicists and biologists
can decipher. But at the same time,
it’s a very big story… and also something very
normative. So that we keep saying
again and again what that nature really is. For example,
when you have glasses, you will gradually
find that normal. While there are these fantasies now
to make a cyborg from us, which seems
very unnatural still. But we are
part of nature. I always find that interesting,
that we see it as a kind of contradiction. While we are
just part of it. Yes, that is also somewhere in the history
of human thought. That we have started constructing people and nature,
culture and nature as opposites. While, as far as I am concerned,
and this is the argument I made in my thesis… it is precisely the invention of this contradiction
that belongs in modern thinking. The contradiction? Well, nature and culture,
but so the made versus the self-generated. So actually, everything
is a cultural construct. Well, if you think it through radically,
it is. In any case
I would like to say: nature is never just something
that you can describe or that’s just there, it is also
very normative. And that is where
all those quarrels come from. With Floris,
all those reactions to you, like: ‘You play for God’.
for example. There is a standard in this.
You may not exceed that natural limit. As humans,
you cannot make the sheep Dolly, for example. The cloned sheep
also called for such resistance. While at the same time
for engineers and scientists it is the challenge
to cross that border. It is a very temporary, historical border,
I would say. That at a good time
again… We’ll come back
to that question of fear and progress thinking. I also wanted to ask you very briefly,
Luuk… I just read your resume,
but what do you do? I think you wanted to show something,
so I’ll just hold the microphone. I notice that it is often easier
to show something than
to tell a lot.. Oh, you’re going to hold my microphone,
how nice. I have been working with Ralph and Lonneke
since the beginning of Studio Drift. As a scientist and technician,
I am very fascinated by how these people, these weird people,
view nature and technology. For me it is also
a whole. And after all kinds of wanderings,
I recently really went into the research again. I started with the Soft Robotic Matter group
at AMOLF in Amsterdam. In my current role,
I am really working as a scientist.. to indeed realize
the nightmare of Floris. I work on a robotic heart that will actually
work as a prosthesis. Perhaps very briefly, a few objects
to illustrate that. The time is too short to show everything,
so I’m going to select something very quickly. I have two blocks of rubber here,
just silicone rubber. That is the same material,
but like any material in nature when I compress this block of rubber,
it bulges out. Not very
spectacular. Then, I remove
half of the same material, so I don’t do anything special
except drilling a few holes. Then the material
bulges inward. That’s actually a property
that does not occur in nature. Again, maybe not something
that will keep you up at night. But it indicates
that by changing the structure of this object.. without changing the material,
the whole behavior can change. And that is
something we want to stretch to the limit in robotic applications. A part of that is in my own promotion project: making a soft-robotic heart that is the ultimate dream. And whether that
is desirable, maybe we can discuss
that a bit further today. Well, that is indeed
the following question. Certainly, I will have to answer
yes to it. But I also said
to Martijntje: maybe on Saturday night
I think differently about this.. when we philosophize
with friends. But, ultimately,
the fascination for the unknown surpasses. That is also
my motivation. Which might also
support my statement that I think that technical scientists
and artists.. may have more to do with each other
than we usually think. Maybe we pursue
exactly the same. But maybe with a different embodiment
and for a different stage. But with the same motivation,
and ultimately the same fascination. We are a bit bound
by the ethical discourse here, of course. Do we
want it? I notice in your work in particular,
there is a dystopian and utopian side. But I dare say that especially
the poetic, the utopian, prevails. Do you
agree? Can you
elaborate a little further… why it is so important for you
for you to bring up a number of questions
through the lens of that aesthetic? It’s not so much about aesthetics,
I think. Although we as humans, or perhaps as Studio,
tend to make things… that do not cause
noise. So, it may have to be
beautiful in a certain way but you do not have
to look at it anymore. But we are especially interested
in the experience it produces.. and the emotion
it brings about. With the objects and installations that we make,
it’s never about the object itself. It’s always about that encounter
and the experience. I do not know
how well this connects to the heart. -It should pick up a beat We judge our work
by whether we feel it or not. For example, those ‘Shylights’
that move up and down. You can move it up and down like that,
and then it does nothing. Until you let it move
in a particular way and you can get
a relationship with it at once. it is very much about
the relationship between us people… and the environment and the world,
and the nature that has been there originally,
but seems to be sort of disturbed. By the way, when I say ‘aesthetics’,
then that is obviously not a judgment. I am very
fascinated by it. In how you, even in for example
‘Materials’ introduce the question of
sustainability.. and the possible finiteness of our raw materials… in a kind of minimalist,
poetic way. Moralism is fading away,
maybe that’s what I’m trying to say. Yes, it is more about the arrangement, perhaps,
of how you tell a story. You can do that in many different ways
and I think this might be our way of expression, trying to realize
things. Blocks,
that is in many of our works. That floating concrete block is also a symbol
for the system that man has come up with. You can express that in many different ways,
but for us it is expressed in this way. ‘Fragile Future’ is also
in block form. We all live
in blocks. Apparently, we as humans once thought
that we should live in square cubes. Apparently, that is a way for man
to exclude and frame the elusive nature.. that is always in motion,
to box in both concepts. To make life and nature
tangible. That is the same fascination
from science. Technology is the form,
the outcome.. to try
to make that life, that is actually
what technology is. Martijntje, may I ask if you want to pick up that gauntlet,
about animism. It has come forward
a few times now. Our hunger to bring inanimate objects to life,
to animate them. Whether to read life in it,
or to understand the complexity of it. How do you
interpret that? That is perhaps a bit too broad a question,
but pick it up how you want it. I can first confirm the movement,
the search. You see that now very much in robotics,
which I am working on. So also, that hunger
to simulate all of our functions… as far as the emotional,
as far as the heart. There is a usefulness to it,
I would say. That is the difference between
how artists… try to shift that boundary
and how engineers do that. That there is a kind of utility idea
behind the engineers: can we use that heart for a man
who no longer has a heart? Sorry, I wasn’t speaking
in the microphone. You said,
how do you interpret that? Then the question really is:
how do you interpret that desire? I do not know
if I can explain it.. but I do think that you can also
describe the history of technology… as a search for ourselves,
as it were. What you see,
in robotics all the clearer … Let me take the example
of the chess computer. There was also
a dystopian discourse about that. Because if that chess computer
beats Garri Kasparov, then a machine can think better
than we do. Whereas that was so unique to us,
that we were able to play so smartly. That’s precisely where you could see
the genius of man. When that became a fact,
people responded: yes, but actually thinking
is something else. That chess computer
is stupid in its way. So, the idea of ​​what thinking is
has been redesigned. Maybe I wandered
off your question. – I think it’s very interesting,
that human image. Because I thought in preparation
for this discussion that we live in a fairly
fundamental period in which that image of man
is actually under pressure. And by that,
I mean the shift of … You’re at the Copernican Institute … that we’re no longer the center of the world
in a networked society…. we are part of
a larger whole. often also an aspect of your work:
also, the individual versus the collective. And then I thought
what the next question is then. How do we deal with this?
Existentially. You also mentioned that idea of ​​dystopia,
that we again grabbed for, hungered for control. That is not really
a question yet. I do already feel
that idea of ​​the fear factor, both in this discussion
and in the preparation. Whether it concerns algorithms
that control us, or whether
it is a synthetic heart. You are eager to say something.
– We found the question! Did you ask me?
Actually? Well, I see Lonneke wiggling a lot,
so I wanted to let her respond. Well,
what was funny … Luuk and I just had a quick discussion
in the corridors… about what we are
actually doing. In my opinion, the desire of man
to understand how the world works has already begun
a long time ago. And we are still on that path
to match that and perhaps even
rise above it. And we
just discussed: is there more to life
than recreation? Technology is always
just the mechanism behind life. But in life, there may still be
an elusive element. I think we are
trying to catch that somehow. And you said
just now… I think that’s what you hope for,
and that we all hope so, because we feel human
and experience it that way. But we may be less and less,
let me put it this way, we may be increasingly being eroded
because we know more and more. That seems to be going
more and more in a certain direction. That it is possible that life arises
and that even consciousness arises by merging smaller blocks
that we understand. And if you throw enough together,
then we do not get it anymore. And we actually experienced that ourselves,
when we programmed ‘Flylight’. For those who have not seen it:
those are the drones. Well, the drones are actually
a continuation of that. Before that we have made ‘Flylight’
in the glass lamp version. Oh yes, sorry.
I’m back. And therein arises indeed
a little bit of playing for God. But on a
very small scale. In that we understand every line of code we write.
We get it. But the total behavior is also
unpredictable for the maker. And I think that is
an important element. What you called:
being out of control. That is already there,
in such a relatively simple system. Let alone
if you link that in a multiplicity then real behavior arises.
Which we can no longer distinguish, I think,
of natural behavior. Luuk, is that something
that scares you as a scientist? Or are you just
adventurous in spirit? Can you take
that a bit further? I’m afraid
I have to disappoint you. The real impact of that,
like we discussed earlier.. is minimal
in my daily practice. Although I find it very interesting
to speculate and discuss about it, ultimately my drive to make it,
is bigger so I’m just going to make that heart. I would like to say something
about what I find so interesting, about the work
of Ralph and Lonneke. By making such very poetic,
high-tech installations, they provide us with
a particular kind of wonder. Those emotions do not refer
to that dystopia at all to me.. like you just said,
Saskia… but actually offer people
a moment to think about it
in a completely different way. It is also just
a self-fulfilling prophecy.. if you make people curious
about the future… then that is
what they are going to develop. You also see it
with a lot with science fiction. Best forever dark and dark,
and that affects other technicians again. And they just literally,
because they’re curious.. develop
that technique. But if you offer them something else,
which is more poetic, or touches people more.. I hope that these technicians will develop
in a different way. I do not want to talk
about that heart all the time… but it turns out to be a nice platform
that we keep returning to. Is it
dystopian then… that people who have
terminal heart failure… and have no alternative other than a donor,
and there are no donors, can still be saved
in this way? Is that dystopian,
or is that utopian? Or in between? Martijntje. Well, as I just said,
this is precisely up our alley. My thesis was about
the utopia/dystopia syndrome. As far as I am concerned, that utopia and that dystopia
are very close together.. and they have to do
with the way we think about nature. The story of Frankenstein, 200 years old,
is exactly that. That doctor Frankenstein, wants to overcome nature,
by imitating a human being, the monster. But at the moment that that being is created,
he is very scared and runs away. So, from the utopia,
he suddenly went in the dystopia. Your robotic heart is not necessarily a dystopia,
but this is a storyline that we have.. and that we draw from.
To give that what is strange, what your heart is for us now, that robotic heart, meaning. I wanted to say something
about your remark about this wonder. Because I think,
for me.. that is an important assignment for artists…
even if they themselves want to determine what they do. I myself see that utopia and that dystopia
as well-worn storylines… which we should
turn away from. As a philosopher, I also try
to think about what other types of stories
may be possible. So move the wonder
forward. There are also artists
who stick very much to that utopian or dystopian
discourse. And I see that you do offer an opening there. Although I cannot name
exactly what. But I feel the same,
that alienation as it were. I actually thought of words
like serendipity, biomimicry. At a certain point
you come to the wonder of the complexity
of biological systems, if I may call
it that. You turn them upside down
in your presentation. But it seems as if,
from a social point of view,… we have not yet
fully crystallized this question of control. The reactions
to your presentation. You remain in wonder, with the seducer,
ultimately, … This is a question,
I’m working towards a question… How should the visitor walk outside?
What would your dream scenario be? We actually want people
to walk outside with the idea… that you can let your childlike fascinations
become reality. by just
working hard at it. That you just don’t have to
let go of the unlikely ideas that you
have. And that you just have to work on them
to make them reality. That you must dare to dream,
too. And for you,
Lonneke? What I find most important
… I feel that there is
a very large connection missing. Between us, people,
and the world in which we live. By working with movement,
and the work ‘Materialism’ … That connection is not due to the ratio
but due to your systems and your feeling. We try to create works
that connect to your feelings. Then you can read about it afterwards
and then we can discuss it for another five hours.. but in fact,
it immediately connects you to yourself. What I hope,
really as a utopia of course.. is that that connection
between the world and people is restored. Causing us to make
intuitive choices. Because if you are very connected
to your intuition, you also know what the right choices are.
And into which direction you should develop. Then we would not be guided
by money and whatnot. Then you let yourself be guided by what is right,
and what is necessary.. in order to solve a whole bunch of problems
that we have in the world. Actually, just what feels good,
right? Yes,
but what really feels good? First, that is total connection
with your intuition… then you do not have
to ask many questions. Then
you know. If we think so,
Ingeborg, if I can ask you about it … To place it within
a broader cultural landscape. You referred to Gilbert & George,
you referred to Studio Drift. How, if you look through your eyelashes,
do you sketch Studio Drift’s practice.. in a
broader cultural landscape? In
the sense of: do we come from an era in which we have had a huge appetite
for the cerebral? And do Lonneke and Ralph introduce a kind of visceral, visceral
– I always find that such a beautiful English word. A kind of physical experience
to introduce that connection between ourselves
and our environment. It has to do with something
that I just said in the introduction. The disappearance of all kinds of boundaries,
all kinds of different disciplines. That, of course,
has been going on for some time, but they are
a very good example of this. You see that very clearly, I think,
in art and in the design of culture. And what also plays a role
is that it is very much about experiences. Much more
than before. In the past as well, with that cerebral,
but in a more distant way, I think. Nowadays, it is often
about the experience.. in which the visitor
is really involved in the work. That is also something that, I think,
is a larger development that you see a lot. A different development
is that science-art relationship. That is also something that is being looked at a lot
in the world of policies. May I invite you
to look fifteen years ahead on that issue of human technology and nature,
from your discipline. Where do you hope
we are going?… It’s a bit of
a closing question. so we have science fiction,
and now we’re going to look at the fiction that will lead
to the science. The window which you offer us,
Luuk. Have I given you enough time
to think for a moment? Yes,
but of course it is a big question. I think it might not be that exciting
to extrapolate what is happening now, where we will end up exactly.
But you asked for my hope. I think it would please me
as a scientist and technician if the world is more humane,
rather than more technical. How should technology
play a role in that precisely… a smaller role… or a better role,
as most of my colleagues will
probably say… I think
that is open. But let’s try
to let.. those good developments
that I think are.. in technology
development, prevail over
the clearly less good. Which are also there,
of course we all know them too. You are still challenging me to ask
what could be a medium for that. Should we then think about legislation? Or policy?
Are we on jurisdiction, or …? You have to record
certain things in laws. When it comes to certain weapons
in relation to artificial intelligence… I do not think that is
such a strong development. Certain
other things… I do not think they can be regulated,
but we must hope for human goodness. Then despair comes to mind sooner,
but that is my personal feeling. Let’s hope
that your positive outlook will prevail. Also
to you. You have been
busy for a decade now. In fifteen years,
where does Studio Drift want to be? If I notice how we started 10 years ago,
how rough it was, to learn to understand
how to make things move at all. Gradually that becomes
a bit more refined. I see a bit of a parallel
with the history of man who first starts with tools,
which is also a technique. We are already so much further with technology
that we are busy with invisible things. Almost a kind of fictional connections
that we can no longer visualize. I just see an increase in coming together: the technology is becoming more and more human. Together we become
more and more human. I don’t know,
I find that very positive, actually. Ralph? Yes,
I perceive it as less positive. I suddenly understand
why you sometimes have conflicts. Yes,
but I’m trying to go with that. It is the wish,
that is why we also make this work. I want to influence
the world in a positive way. If we always talk about
those dark ideas, about where technology can go.. I believe that people
will actually develop it. Or not,
because they get scared of it. But technicians
don’t think like that. They often think
in terms of what is possible and how can I make it work? And when that Frankenstein gets up,
everyone just runs the other way. Then it is already
too late. I think it is important to use
that conversation earlier. I think that
we are working on that. Thank you, Ralph.
We will later return to the Q&A. Martijntje. Can you extrapolate from your way of thinking, for the next fifteen years? I can say
what I would like. I think that this conversation
about the future of technology should be conducted
much broader. And with more storylines
than that utopia and that dystopia. And I also think
that at the moment… we are actually giving engineers and scientists
far too much imagination. In the sense
that… often the ideas about what that technology
can do, come from that casing. And are often
leading. You just talked about Google,
about the idea of ​​the symbiosis of humans, and we respond
to that. Instead of,
where art could help to sensitize.. thinking about it
in many different ways. That is also
about politics. It is not that scientists, for example,
should make that robotic heart.. and then should throw it over the fence.
As in: just see what you do with it. Over the fence
of society. Because during
and at the beginning of such a process… many normative political choices
are made. And you should actually
let all sorts of people who are influenced by it in principle, such as
patients to think
along with you…. To include their images of what would be necessary,
or important, or beautiful, and so forth… So actually,
democratizing that technology… or
its potential? That sounds
a bit flat. and that always calls
for a lot of resistance in science. But they see themselves
as a kind of black box… where society only comes in
when it is finished. But that is a fiction,
it is also a story itself. The scientists are actually the best,
sneaky storytellers in this culture. They pretend it to be an objective story,
but it is a story. Exactly. So, you do not belong to the school that says: the data are neutral. That’s a very good story!
That data is neutral. And it also works,
but it is not true. Then that point
is also made. Ingeborg,
do you still have a kind of closing projection? I would like to talk
about the role of the museum. I am of course attached to that. We have been working for a long time to show that these discipline boundaries are all disappearing. And how artists or designers and scientists react to this. I hope that we will be able
to continue this even further… and show it
to the public. And, of course, to also continue to work
with these kind of interesting people such as Ralph and Lonneke. To include
the audience there. And to also continue
those discussions by that route. That also has to be done in debate centers
and in the press, etcetera.. but I think
we can also play a very interesting role in this. I think we’ve already touched a number of things,
in this half hour. Soon, we will be talking to each other
for another half hour. If there are any questions,
please hold on to them. For now:
thanks to the panel. From left to right:
Luuk van Laake… Lonneke, Ralph,
Martijntje, Ingeborg. You will come back in a while,
but I will now ask William to the stage. I apologize
that we did all of this in Dutch. I can’t sum it up in say,
two or three seconds. But as the panelists
sit down… for the next fifteen minutes,
you’ll talk to us. I hope you allow me
to do your introduction in Dutch. William Myers is curator,
writer and educator. His book ‘Bio Design’ has resulted
in a second edition from 2012 and now 2018. He has made
an exhibition alongside it. It is published
by the MoMa. It describes the emerging practice of
designers and architects… who integrate natural processes
into their work.. And a more recent shift, but he undoubtedly goes into that in his lecture. is that he has come to the other side
to see how we can…. use co-creation
with technology. His lecture is
now about that. Ladies and gentlemen,
a warm applause for William Myers. Thank you. First of all, ladies and gentlemen,
apologies for my bad Dutch. In order to present the best presentation possible,
I’ll present in English. Based on
the current exhibition here.. and the recent interview I conducted
with Lonneke and Ralph, … I’ll argue here for
an understanding of the work of the Studio as a type of poetry. . Quite separate from the practices that are emerging here around biomimicry and bio design. One of the first thing you encounter in this exhibition,
is its name:.. Coded Nature. Which offers a fascinating, multilayered meaning, but also a contradiction. Contemporary science suggests to us… that maybe all-natural phenomena
can be quantified and described…. via its practices. Popular imagination ceases on this,
then upholds data… like what we find in DNA as a blueprint,
or we talk about it as a code or software. A program
that runs things. But these kinds of metaphors, I think,
are really inadequate and sometimes misleading. In fact, nature as we experience it
in its many dimensions, follows no code. Work like this image
by the German artist Uli Westphal, demonstrates
this beautifully. It is a celebration
of polymorphism and mutation… To the engines of evolution
that deliver us difference and variety. For this work, the artist collected
dozens of tomatoes from markets around Berlin… and photographed them
with the kind of drama and focus… usually reserved for sculpture,
or other precious objects. And then arranged them
in these bright compositions. The result suggests that rather than a code, what nature refers to as instructions,
is more like a musical score. A string of notes
that can be played by numerous instruments… in different ways and styles, by people
of various skill levels. And in settings
with different acoustics. So, the sound, and the resulting song,
is unique every time. A brief symphony of this kind was on display at the Stedelijk Museum Bureau… in 2014. Another work by the artist also
involved tomatoes, in which more than 60 other plants
were brought together in a project space.. In the end, volunteers
adopted them. These kinds of works
prime the mind.. to think about the boundlessness
of natural phenomena.. And the potential,
even the need… to begin to understand it
through an artistic perspective. In order to grasp its complexity
and its esthetic possibilities. So perhaps, artists work as detectors
and interpreters …. of such codes
or strings of music. Whether they are heard in the wild,
or within society.. This quote by Susan Hiller
captures the idea succinctly…. and is a good segue into the work of the Studio. Projects such as ‘Franchise Freedom’,
‘Fragile Future’ and ‘Drifters’… show to me that the work
of Lonneke and Ralph… is an effort to understand
and materialize the nature of nature.. Their processes can be thought of
as searches… for the essential characters,
patterns, behavior, or connectivity … that are found in the natural
or the built worlds. Or even the internal emotional,
and personal realms. It appears
they pursue their creative proclivities…. and their means of expression
via hands-on experience. By intuiting,
by building tacit rather than explicit knowledge. This comes across in something
they told me recently in their studio. That one of their disappointments,
from the time of their childhood until today, is that as adults, so few of us, think about, know about, or even care about how most things function. From the toaster, to an automobile,
to the tiny computer that runs your smartphone. We’re intensely reliant on these machines, these black boxes, that are mysterious to us. So few of us
even begin to know how they operate. This brings me to
one of the themes … that goes unseen and
often unspoken in many of these works, that is the effort to reveal
the mechanisms and processes behind how things
function.. This is not as simple
as making a clock face transparent, however. Instead, this revelation of the inner workings
takes aim in offering proof… of human skillfulness… using motion to depict intellectual
and emotional tensions,… and of illumining the materiality
of everyday objects. A potent example of this revelation kind of work,
can be seen in ‘Franchise Freedom’. The uncertainty and apparent improvisation
of the motion…. is a visualization of the tensions between the group and the individual. It would be a mistake to call such work
biomimicry or bio design. It is in fact,
very human centered. Not in a selfish or narrow way, but in how it makes, and I quote from Lonneke: ‘the struggle of humans
visualized’. Through an artificial medium
it resembles one from nature. So, just as poetry takes language,
compresses it, and adds music.. so Studio Drift,
does with a project like this. It compresses
the complex concept… of how the individual
in the group… relate to each other
with respect to freedom, and then adds to it by the movement of the flock,
a type of music. And so as the point of poetry is
to achieve emotional resonance,… so too the studio pursued this kind of work
in the same way.. Through and iterative process
that took an enormous amount of time and resources… and the hard work of engineers at Intel,
I think it was? They insisted over time
that they needed… to get the behavior of this flock
just right…. And to them, that did not mean
trying to get it to mimic as close as possible
the behavior of birds. Instead,
the way that they described it, they relied completely
on their emotional intuition. That they knew that
it was only just right…. when they made that kind of unnamable but unmistakable behavior… that allows us
to connect with these things. These
drones. To understand them as,
maybe if not alive… greater
than the sum of their parts. The work ‘Drifters’ offers
layers of meaning in a similar way. It is ostensibly about floating blocks
finding their way. of merging into a greater system
that is greater than themselves… We’re prompted to wonder if
such unification.. is natural, ideal,
perhaps detrimental. We’re likewise to ask: what’s the glue, or
gravitational force… that is pulling
these things together? Is there an analogue
in the social world? One possible answer was suggested
by Lonneke and Ralph in conversation. By pointing to the work of
Yuval Noah Harari.. as reported in
his recent book ‘Sapiens’ which goes on to argue that
human civilization as we know it.. rests on our ability
to share a fictional narrative…. That could be religion,
it could be a secular ethics, or some other system,
but it has to be a coherent story. If we don’t do this,
our behavior would be more.. like that of primates
like chimpanzees or bonobos. Where the maximum population that we can reach is about 150 to 200 people. After which time we begin to wage ware
and commit violence against one another and we splinter off into smaller groups
that are held together… by the bonds of
extended family. This speculation in the realm
of evolutionary biology and neuroscience.. helps form a meaningful connection
between the artwork ‘Drifters’ and current events. Namely the splintering
that we witness of ever smaller coalitions.. that are more extreme. And the rise of
populism and tribalism. As well the loss of a collective
agreement about sources of truth. It is
a complex story… when and in which people experience
gain and losses in either scenario. As nomadic drifting
individuals in small groups. Or as united, organized and
urbane citizens…. of a community of millions
or even billions. By savoring the immensity
of such concepts.. intentions that are as old
as civilization… we build a deep appreciation
of the work of Studio Drift. And can see it as a generator of
poetry and emotion. The rhymes and the verses of its creations
are unbound from any code. They rather drift into,
and out of, rhythms. As
with a work of jazz. Thank you. William Myers. William Myers. Just as a nod
to the work ‘Materialism’, I offer you a list of
what went into this presentation. Thank you very much,
William. I asked the panelists.
Your talk was marvelous and dense, but maybe I can touch upon one aspect,
before you sit down. I’m touched by the way you bring their way of,
let’s say cultural production if I may… back to
language. Poetry, sound,
jazz. In your work you’ve been investigating both the complexity of bio mimic patterns, imagery… a whole broad realm You’re now focusing a bit more
on this idea of co-creation. How do you bridge those two languages? How do you read into the reciprocal relation
between the artificial… and the natural ‘worlds’? Well, I think,
as was said earlier in the presentation… that these fears are
already kind of blended. And that’s something
that has been the case for a long time. In my own practice,
a lot of what I look at.. in terms of especially design and art,
has a focus on what the intentions are of the maker. And in this case, I felt like actually,
my background in looking at works.. in bio art and bio design,
wasn’t entirely helpful. I had to go another step
to understand what was behind the work,… and what
the intentions are. And they’re quite different
from the designers and artists.. that I’ve studied
in the past. And through the lens
of your own practice… why the jump from the complexity of,
if I may call it, the analog nature,… towards a more co-creative relationship
with technology? I feel like there is some similarity here
between collaborating… or using these new
technological tools… and working with biological systems
or natural systems.. in that they go beyond being
a mere tool… or a means to an end,
but they begin to become, a kind of collaborator.. What goes on in that system that you’re working with,
isn’t entirely understood. And the outcomes
cannot be accurately predicted. So that’s a very challenging
and hopeful perspective. I’m going to open the room.
Please William, have a seat. May I reclaim the speakers
on the stage? I’m looking around to see whether there
already is a question. When you raise your hand, I will run to you
with the microphone. While the panel
is sitting down. If you want to ask Floris,
do not hesitate, If you want to ask William
a question in Dutch,… I will translate it
for him. May I ask you your name, and the question,
and to whom is it directed? Willem van Leeuwen,
for Studio Drift. I wonder what that name is
based on, because ‘drift’ in Dutch has all sorts of meanings, of heated, anger, adrift, passion. What is the most important factor for you
for the name ‘Drift’? Yes, ‘drift’ has two meanings.
One in English, one in Dutch. And I am more
the Dutch version. Bluntly stated. If I have something in my head,
I will not let go until it has happened. Neither will Lonneke
by the way.. but she is more attached
to the English meaning. She just flows more intuitively
through a certain process.. and in that manner, finds her way better
than how I do it. Is there anyone
who has a question? Great. Maybe your name and
who you are addressing the question to. Studio Drift, my name is Tom.
How is the block floating? Yes, the question I wanted to avoid.
But there he really is. The magic
behind the block. I’m a big fan of
Star Wars. I tried to do
the Jedi mind trick for a long time, and at a sudden point
it just.. It’s not something
we would like to explain to you, because the piece is
actually about.. Wonderment. Magic? No. Wonderment. It’s about opening up the mind
and starting to think about these things, how they
work. It’s like
what was mentioned before. Most people don’t know how the combustion engine
of their car works … that they sit in
every day. They don’t even ask themselves these questions,
Not even for a millisecond, but then they see something
that is far simpler, to realize. They see this floating concrete
in this museum setting… and they’re like:
wow, how does that work? That’s basically
what we want to achieve it’s like opening up their mind
to start thinking about these systems,.. these black boxes
that you have around you in the world. But also, when Thomas More wrote Utopia,
he described concrete. Maybe because
it was language.. and people could imagine their own visualization
of that description, but he did it
regardless. He described something that didn’t exist yet.
Or that was not possible, yet. We made something visual
which is maybe reality, or not possible yet. But still, you see it,
and maybe you don’t believe what you see. I think it’s also an exercise
to not judge the world around you… based
on the limitations of your cultural ideas. Of what is possible
and what is not possible. What you actually learn
along the years when you grow up… Because when you’re a child,
you just believe everything around you. The more adult we get,
the more we tend to think in boxes. If you look
at that block… Just leave all the context out,
and just look at it. It feels
really natural. It doesn’t
feel so strange. You can maybe even relate
better to that floating block,… than to the built square and
boxed environment that we live in. So, if you leave it
all aside… you can actually
connect to that block. I think we have to get away
from how it works. Because that block is
not about how it works. It’s about if you can believe that
and if you can try to think of a truth … and an environment and
a future that. beside all the restrictions of
our cultural background, we can shape something we
actually really need. We even had people coming up to us,
saying: … why didn’t you make it
from steel? That’s some kind of
human made material. But it’s actually the other way around.
It’s concrete and that’s human made. But people refer to it as
stone. But it’s a chemical process
how this material is made. These are just the basic things
that our walls are built off of.. and
people don’t understand that. Steel
is the natural material. We’re just trying to open up the mind
and see where it brings you. Okay, it was touched on,
but sorry, not answered. A question
here in the corner. You talked about
‘coded nature’. which sounds a bit like
a pleonasm in my ears. Is that the way you describe
your own work, or is it just
everything? Everything. There is something more behind it,
because I assume that all nature is coded. But that it’s only not coded
for us. So, we are faced with a problem
and we need to do something about that, and that is
recoding nature. You could also call that
the humanizing of nature. And that is what you are already doing
when you put on the skin of a living creature. Because your own skin
is not enough. Then you actually become
a cyborg. So, the first person who came up with the idea
to put a bearskin around him… was actually
the first cyborg. And since then
it has never been different. Whether it’s a pirate with a wooden leg,
or someone with glasses on his nose.. it has always been the humanization,
the recoding of nature.. Beautiful.
– This seems to me a question for Martijntje. Do you want to
respond? I think I wanted to say
something about this previously. ‘Coded nature’. The questioner started
with the fact that nature is already coded. But that we cannot read it
as such. It is actually part of our scientific project
that we are going to encode that nature. For example, what Galileo Galilei did,
what we do in the laboratory is, as it were, getting a piece of that nature
into the laboratory, that’s what we make
a model of. For example, such a vacuum tube
with which a kind of gravity test was done and say:
with this we catch nature on what it really is. The whole complexity with
which everything is connected… we take a piece
and then that is the real nature. Then, of course,
we have just reformulated it at that moment. Encrypted,
I would say. Having said
which law of nature applies there. But I do not know if with that,
I have … That pleonasm,
that is not there. I would call it
decoded. Yes, decoded,
the reduction. Well, that’s what the name plays with,
I think. Ingeborg. Yes,
that’s a good one, because when we were discussing
the title of the exhibition,… we briefly
discussed it. Should it not it actually be
‘decoded nature’? Because it is of course
both. You first
decode, and then encode
in another way…. In the end the choice came to
‘coded nature’. But it both plays,
of course. Lonneke,
would you like to add something? Yes, I think:
coding is a way to understand it. But the code is not there yet,
of how nature works. We only process small aspects in our work,
and with that we learn very small things. In the development of our work
we sometimes come across a kind of law of nature. And then we act
very difficult. And then I think: of course, it is just so logical. It’s already there.
And I think it’s a method to understand the world. William,
is there anything you want to add? I’m not sure
if you totally grasped the question. It was reflecting on the title.
Something you also did in your column. And, let’s say, basically
the question posed between if nature is coded
in a manner that we are just unable to read into yet, on the one hand,
versus, if I rephrase correctly, the awareness that the symbiotic relationship
between human and the techne… in the classical sense of the word,
just like my glasses, is as old as human mankind. Thus, the question: shouldn’t we talk about
the humanization of the code? Okay. Did I sum it up
a bit? Thank you for summarizing,
that is very generous. I think that the title in itself
is very effective. I liked how, it seems for me,
it contains a contradiction. A title that does that, that makes me think,
offers multiple interpretations, is an effective one. But to the question about what humans are doing
and how humans relate to this supposed code… I feel like what is being reflected is
that we have his human behavior to try to put things into boxes, a formula as a means
to arrive at a greater understanding. And that’s fine
but as we do it we must keep in mind our limitations. So, I would argue
that nature does not really have a code. Or at least, it doesn’t have a behavior
or an essential character that can be quantified or spilled out as
something that matches our concept of what a code is. You are actually
hinting on… I will switch to Dutch again,
but I will not talk too fast. You also spoke
about education. Or, it has emerged a bit
between the lines. Ingeborg, you mentioned it might be up
to the museum to pose
a number of central questions. You could say that
you are making a poetic gesture. You are provoking. But, where is the possible wedge at the moment
to interpret that relationship more naturally? To bring it further
than the utopia / dystopia. I think, yes … What is missing What we are actually trying
to do as a studio, we often start relations with the university,
with scientists, with institutes, or companies. Because we have an idea, we want to make that,
we cannot do that ourselves. That is a collaboration
and a process. It actually comes from us very often.
That wish to work together. I think, yes…
what is missing… The desire to collaborate almost never or fairly little, comes from technology… or from
science. While very often during such a collaboration
the relevance becomes clear. From
both sides. But
the basic idea … As an artist, you learn
in a certain way to trust your intuition to go into a process
without knowing where it ends. Which is actually
very valuable. Because of that you can make things
that you could not think of. Everything you can think of also has its limit.
Because that is already determined by how we are. But if you can go beyond what
you could have thought of in a process… then you actually
progress. That is what innovation actually is.
And scientists do that too. From an artist’s perspective you think more intuitively
and more about other things … than from
a scientific perspective. If those things could come together,
I think that, what you mentioned earlier… you might create much more interesting
directions and contexts. Then that development goes
in a different direction. Towards a more relevant direction
than what is happening now, like you said. The voice,
the story of what we say. There is no story
but actually, there is. We all go in one direction
we develop this direction… and I think everyone sometimes wonders:
should we all go in this direction?… Should we go here,
all of us? And if you say:
a direction? The development of all kinds of things
around us. I think one of the biggest questions is
artificial intelligence. That is what everyone has heard of. Where everyone sometimes wonders about.
There is no context. Ralph is almost pulling
the microphone out of your hand. I think it might be very interesting for
scientists to be able…. to experiment
more freely. But it is also true that research
is extremely expensive… and therefore often driven by the profit objective
of large organizations. It is often pushed
in a very specific direction. Or research,
is declared to be irrelevant because it negates
a specific other financial trend. How special would it be,
if we could create a place, where scientists could just play,
like artists, and that we could see more of
what comes out of it Yes, that quantifiability,
which William also just cited: money talks. You have a question. Yes,
in addition to that. I strongly agree that science
should actually be able … to go
that experimental way. That less possible is possible in science
than in a Studio like Studio Drift. There is a project that also
arises in the studio room. And that is about that interactive house,
which has not yet been fully implemented on a larger scale. I asked myself in
the continuation of that multidisciplinary, whether you really are busy
with that, maybe you do not want
to comment on it… to make something bigger out of it and perhaps also
to get closer to people by that. Architecture is partly scientific
and partly also art. It is also a bit of
a multidisciplinary field. Perhaps also to come closer to man
with the processes of nature. So if I understand the question correctly:
is it real? Is this an attempt to make people,
apart from inside the museum… experience a real house? The jump to the real world,
I hear in the question. Yes,
we are also carrying this out. This is really a scale model of
how it should work. With that crankshaft
in it. That is a very long,
technical story. We have done a lot of research
into how we can achieve this. Unfortunately,
for a certain budget. There it is
again. That’s not
there. Otherwise it would have been there,
rather than the model. It is of course
a thing … that we do not really know
what we will do with it… or where we will put it
or who will finance it. We will just do it. But the question is, of course:
is it then intended as a shelter? As a real architecture, as a pavilion,
or is it intended as an art installation? It is a study
into a moving environment. How you feel as a person
in a moving environment. Architecture
is something very static. While the world
is something very movable. I myself have the experience,
because I was sailing last week.. that the environment moves
all the time … so that you actually become very quiet,
very still. As soon as I walked into my room again,
in my house.. which is a sort of block
with four walls, I felt that
I had to move around. I wonder very much whether the block environment
that we have created really fits with people. This is an
experiment there. I can’t stop myself,
Ingeborg. In architecture we have
Claude Parent… he introduced the diagonal
as the most activating aspect. I also find that exciting about your pavilion.
That it moves around you on multiple levels. What is so interesting,
if I can add a little extra. If that pavilion is there in a while,
then all kinds of scientists can do research there…. About
how that effects people. I am very curious
about this. Can you analyze or feel that?
That is another thing like that. I think that behavioral scientists and medical practitioners
can undoubtedly devise methods for this. Yeah,
do you? Does it have to be a method
or can you just experience it? And can a conclusion be drawn
from experience and feeling? Yes of course.
I think we can do that with interviews as well. There are all kinds
of possibilities. There is another question
on this side. Good day,
my name is Danielle Wanders. I concern myself with the value
of creative thinking and the power of connection. You are talking very much about
science and art now. To what extent does trade
not belong there? Because the budget
is right there. And on the other hand,
I think: that trade is very much focused on the result.
On the final product. To what extent is it not very interesting
to make their acquaintance with that process? And I think that’s exactly
what you’re doing. I think that
if they understand how that works, there could be a much
better cooperation. Yes,
but we do. It always remains
a struggle. If you talk about
trade, then you talk by definition …
about producing as cheaply as possible.. and selling as expensively
as possible. This
often happens. We studied
at the Design Academy. We have tried to lay down a number of processes,
pieces with labels.. But we have moved away from that
because we had to make too many compromises. .. with the work
we did We both prefer to see a world
in which you simply do something. Something inspires
and convinces that it can be something. Instead of doing some kind of market research
about people who do not even know…. what they need
themselves I really enjoy that conversation
and we also talk a lot with those kinds of parties. But we can just make
zero compromises there. But that brings me to the question I had:
commissioning. Yes,
how does that work? Are you always the initiator
of your projects? Often, yes. We usually receive a question
from an architect, or from a collector
who has a certain space. Who says:
can you do something with it? Then we will
make a number of proposals… and then of course we will have a dialogue
with the owner of the space or the architect.. He often knows the room better than we do.
We also listen to that. That often works
like this. Usually we just start from an idea
and then we just make something. What we think fits
with our ideology. For example ‘Franchise Freedom’,
the work with drones… BMW sponsored that,
we couldn’t pay for it. We tried for years to get things done
in all kinds of ways and did research:
how are we going to do this? It is also part of what we do.
Sometimes getting something done is almost as much work
as making the work itself. We searched for BMW and
therefore it may seem like a very commercial product
for some people. But for us
it is a way to get it done. We search for that in a context
where there is entire freedom. What is interesting
then is that such a large party
wants to use it for PR purposes, for commercial purposes for their own work,
or link it to their own brand. But to us, it is also a means
to get in touch with those companies. To try
to bring the conversation deeper and to look at what other values ​​
you could work on together. We are always searching for entries
to start the conversation. With such a brand,
with a technology company. Clearly. What was very interesting
about it: BMW asked us to make a BMW logo
in the air with the drones after the piece. But without understanding
that they would break the value of the work and also the expression of the work. But that market just
thinks in a particular way. Then you have to enter into a dialogue,
explain that it is better for them not to do so. Then,
when it is up… – then it is
no longer important. Martijntje, you seem eager
to add something. This touches on what I just mentioned,
that this imagination must be broadened. But if you’re going to talk to BMW …
what you said, I wanted to pick up on that. Through this conversation, the values
​​that they see themselves can also be broadened. I would then immediately
have the skepticism:… that this is just one voice,
with a very specific world view. In which, in particular, the world is seen
as that of producers and consumers… for whom the world is something
in which you have to get the most for the least money. But that way
you get no value in it. You only get that
if you gather a lot more parties around it. Being critical for a moment,
you only get the value that is already dominant. actually want to ask Luuk
to answer that question. So: BMW comes to you
to perfect that heart The project I am currently working on is
a European consortium…. where universities from all over Europe:
Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Pisa,… and also companies,
work together So, in that sense,
that also happens in the field of science. Even on the fundamental side,
that is also one of the characteristics at AMOLF, that we are on the one hand
a kind of nursery for new technological directions, but on the other hand,
we keep applications in mind. Floris,
you’re here right now. Do you feel part of a ‘school of thought’,
as it is then called? Because you could say that your discipline
lies on that boundary of that technology. It’s a bit in how you define it,
but let’s say that idea of ​​using,… in your case,
new media … and alluding
to the potential. Do you feel a kind of kinship, globally?
With people who are doing this? I just named
education. A little bit due to the question
that arises when I look at my own students. There are few who are
on this path. I feel a lot of kinship in the world of education, at least with regard
to my own work. I often hear that people use
my videos in lessons. It does often concern
the utopia and the dystopia. I myself do not necessarily have
very bad feelings about that. Actually, all stories start
with a beginning and an end. And the utopia is a beginning
and the dystopia is the end. And with what is in between,
you have room to play with. Is that
an answer? That’s
an answer. I actually
meant to ask: do you feel part of a group of ‘peers’
who are dealing with these kinds of issues?.. Yes, I feel
a part of it anyway. Also, in connection with my involvement
in the Next Nature Network. That is a network of people who think
about these kinds of things. I think that is
how I tell my stories, via online media
and reaching a large audience, that it is something of the visual art
and design of this moment. That you not only try to target
a very small audience, but try to appeal to
as large an audience as possible. To be able to have your discussion
with everyone. How do you deal with that responsibility?
Do you answer all those e-mails? For me, it is not only the substantive responsibility, but also the responsibility of:… how do you deal with what is real,
and what is not real? I did a project in 2012,
which I just talked about briefly.. in which I pretended
I was able to fly. There I had the feeling
that I was crossing a kind of boundary.. because many people
believed in it.. and were sincerely very disappointed
that it turned out not to be true. And… By then,
fake news existed… but it has only really become a big thing
since the last elections in the United States. That is why in my project ‘the Modular Body’,
well not only because of that.. but I have decided
to be very clear in all statements …. that it was
a science fiction project. I think, especially in that area,
that you have to take your responsibilities. But that you can also make people aware
at the same time that not everything you encounter online,
is real. That you have to do good research
on the truth. Oh dear.
Is there still a question or can we leave it at this? Keep searching
for the truth. I just wanted to make a comment
about attracting budgets. Whether you will make
concessions to commerce. It may be
a cynical thought, but if you have something
that would have a military application, then money will come
from all sides. Those robots
from Boston Dynamics, for example,
are very cute creatures… If someone kicks it, it will fall over
and then it will automatically rise. Suddenly, you feel bad
for that thing. But you can also imagine a whole army of those things
with a machine gun on their heads. Like in
Starship Troopers. And I think Boston Dynamics
does not have to search for money. HI wonder: how far do you have to go in coming up with
all kinds of applications … to
get money? And
are you going to make concessions? Is there someone from the panel
who wants to respond? The military
device…. as a major catalyst of
innovation, in a nutshell,
and the associated cash flows I want to stay away
from that as far as possible. Such a military industrial complex, just to throw in
a term from the 70s, that also structures
our imaginations. I would say that artists must also hold
onto that space in order not
to be guided by it. I also see,
but I already mentioned that, some art follows
that fascination, which makes this technology
much more ‘salonfähig’. In robotics
we can indeed ask all kinds of political
and social questions. Without ending up
in the dystopia.. that the robots
will take over. Because in many ways,
it is not desirable…. that the industry and the healthcare sectors
and so on That is the way
the world works. The power of the imagination
is also where the money is. But within that frame,
keep finding and searching for space… All right,
I would like to finish. We had agreed to talk to each other
for up to four hours. A lot has passed. I do not attempt to bring that together
in three sentences. I’ll just repeat Floris’ plea to continue looking for the truth
in goodwill and evil. Help me to thank the panel, William Meyers… Luuk,
Lonneke Gordijn… Ralph Nauta,
Ingeborg de Roode… Martijntje Smits… and
Floris Kaayk.

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