The Machinery formed an important section of the earliest World Expo’s: it was the place where the newest forms of mechanization were presented to the public. Almost one-and-a-half centuries later, Het Nieuwe Instituut presents the speculative exhibition Garden of Machines, which offers a radical vision of the future.
Over time, the latest technology has decreased in size, and has sometimes even vanished from sight altogether with the advent of digital production. A stark contrast to the massive, imposing machines that characterised the industrial revolution. Rather than presenting an array of awe-inspiring machines, Garden of Machines stages the technological promise, with as underlying leitmotiv a new, optimistic story of progress for the twenty-first century.
This story takes place against the background of the Anthropocene. This new phase in the history of the earth is considered by many as the result of the rapid development of technology, whereby humankind succeeds in increasingly shaping and controlling the world, turning us into the driving force behind geological and biological change. But what if that technological development no longer just served humankind at the expense of nature, but actually benefited both? To what new types of ecological cohesion will the interaction between machines, animals, plants and people lead?
Technology and ecology
Developments in robotics, in the Internet of Things, in sensor and monitoring systems, in data analysis and in energy generation are increasingly enabling technology to function as a constructive component of ecology. Machines are getting smarter, learning to perceive their surroundings and adapt their behaviour. Garden of Machines proposes a number of scenarios for ways in which technological and organic beings can evolve further within new ecosystems.
Garden of Machines
What theatre design duo Wikke van Houwelingen and Roel Huisman have conjured up in the Garden of Machines exhibition is a series of environments that look to the future but at the same time appear very familiar – the forest, the kitchen, the motorway – in which people, animals and plants all benefit from the latest technologies. These various environments – in which humankind occupies a less central position than is customary – are based on recent research and existing technological developments and products. Organic and technological beings form a new, semi-artificial ecology in which machines learn from plants, and animals communicate with one another through the Internet. The smallest environment in the exhibition is located beneath the human skin, where nanobots work with bacteria to protect humans from illness. The largest system is the Internet itself, which scans the entire globe, not only connecting people to one another but also enabling objects, plants and animals to exchange information.
Machines increasingly learn to interact with the world around them; they learn to communicate, adapt their behaviour, and be self-sufficient in their energy supply. As such, machines are getting organic character traits, making technology no longer opposed to nature, but rather complementary to it. Take the newest energy technologies and digital means of communication that lead to machines that are able to sustain themselves as part of an ecology, creating new opportunities for humans, but also for animals, plants and complete ecosystems.
The contemporary Machinery is programmed from this framework and transforms into a garden of present and future technologies. The metaphor of the garden makes it possible to imagine the artificial and the natural as parts of one ecological system. Each scale – ranging from human skin cells to the global digital web – is represented in this ecological system. Take nanobots and artificial bacteria that use skin cells to fight pathogens and convert UV radiation into substances that are valuable to the body. Starting from the current status of technology, the exhibition thus offers a speculative symbiosis between nature and technology, as well as the possible impact of such a symbiosis on future ecosystems.
Innovation at the World Expo 1815 – now
The exhibition Garden of Machines forms part of the programme Innovation at the World Expo 1851-now, on the phenomenon of the World Expo, presented at Het Nieuwe Instituut from April 26 until August 23, 2015. Since its inception, a variety of differing ambitions have come together at the immensely popular World Expo. What prevails over all differences, however, is a strong faith in progress. In the most spectacular manner, the World Expo’s have presented a vision of a future where technological innovation is able to bring the unattainable closer. The ability of designers to capture the yet unseen forms an important incentive for Het Nieuwe Instituut to develop a comprehensive programme on the theme of the World Expo.
18/04 – 23/08
Het Nieuwe Instituut
Tuesday — Saturday
10.00 — 17.00
Sunday and national holidays
11.00 — 17.00
Project Garden of Machines
Curator Klaas Kuitenbrouwer
Exhibition design Wikke van Houwelingen, Roel Huisman
Graphic design Rudy Guedj
Music/sound design Florentijn Boddendijk and Remco de Jong
Sponsors Sedumworld BV, Dykstra Naval Architects, Nationaal Medisch Centrum, VU Medisch Centrum, Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam, Mediamatic, Florastore BV, Carolien Slottje, TU Delft, Vogelbescherming Nederland
News source: Het Nieuwe Instituut