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Xárene Eskandar
Los Angeles, US
Immortal since Apr 4, 2007
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    What happened to nature?
    How to stay in touch with our biological origins in a world devoid of nature? The majestic nature that once inspired poets, painters and...

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    In the 1970s space colonies were considered to be a viable alternative to a life restricted to planet Earth. The design of cylindrical space...
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    From Xarene's personal cargo

    Shifting and Evolving
    Project: What happened to nature?
    Adolf Loos' Ornament and Crime holds a favourite ammunition of mine in defense of immateriality:
    I have therefore evolved the following maxim, and pronounce it to the world: the evolution of culture marches with the elimination of ornament from useful objects.

    How would I define what ornament is today? Ornament, a constant in decoration culture, is surprisingly a very competent shape-shifter, constantly changing form and material. For centuries ornament has been paint on the body, beads around the wrist, embroidery on a collar. It has also seen itself as reindeer and snowflakes on holiday mugs and useless objects in modern homes.

    The stripping away of ornament lead to the International Style and what is essentially known as Modernism and it's further stripped down Minimalism. But all these styles are rather funny when they are defined by objects, because objects are mere ornaments. Ornamentation is giving style to a very basic necessity. When a simple stoop to rest your legs becomes the Barcelona chair, sadly, regardless of the absolute admiration and desire that I have for it, it becomes an ornamental mode of sitting. Therefore, objects that exceed providing the bare minimum in order for us to achieve a desired state, are ornament, and ultimately the crime of our materiality.

    The desperate and depressing question of What Happened to Nature becomes irrelevant if our culture evolves to eliminate ornament and unnecessary objects. We must shift our perception of what we need to create for survival to what is already there for us to survive on. Learning to live with our natural environment—as opposed to live off of it—is where our focus should be.

    The greater evolution of our kind is a paradigm shift from what we perceive space and architecture to be, to what it can be—or actually in the sense I intend to use it, to what it can 'not be'. There is no need to build solid, oversized ornaments for our egos. There is no need for our mortal beings to leave a disastrously lasting mark for posterity. If we look at nature, everything is made of its environment and goes back to its environment after its life-cycle. Everything is self-sufficient or hyper-efficient in the use of its environment.

    To move towards that same intrinsic understanding as other life-forms in nature, means we need to move towards immateriality and the acceptance of being a part of nature. We need to accept that we are in possession of lost qualities that make it possible for us to survive without the materials we make and build around ourselves. We need to accept that architecture should not define space, but is space and that space can be made of immaterials. This is as much a mental re-conditioning as well as physical. It is not achievable immediately and it will not be realized unless we have the guts to let go and start from somewhere. That is the ultimate evolution of our species... to return to nature.

    A good book to make us think about our relationship with our environment and to put us back in touch with the reality of our horribly excessive materialist lives is Janine Benyus' Biomimmicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. Here is her talk at TED.

    Tue, Dec 4, 2007  Permanent link
    Categories: utopian, nature, biomimmicry
    Sent to project: What happened to nature?
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    Comments:


    lateral     Wed, Dec 12, 2007  Permanent link
    That is what I find so fascinating; the possibility of returning to nature through technology. How evolution might allow for us to be reunited with our origin in an even more intimate way.

    You made me see another aspect of materialism which I hadn't considered before with your ornament.
    Xarene     Wed, Dec 12, 2007  Permanent link
    "the possibility of returning to nature through technology"
    Yes, exactly. What sets each specie apart is their intelligence. I see our technology as an advantage we have above other animals. But has that made us more intelligent? We have taken on such an incredibly destructive holier-than-thou attitude towards nature because of our technology that we are destroying both of us.

    What we need to do now is to revert to an Earth conscious mode of living through our technologies.

    We are over-productive to the point of losing our senses and our identities as human beings. We need to slow down and think about why we have been given access to these technologies and what we should do with them other than to work, work, work or blow shit up.
    kruhiu77     Wed, Dec 12, 2007  Permanent link
    While I was reading The Scarlet Letter, again i talked with my teacher about the symbolism of nature. The idea we based our whole talk upon was the idea that "nature is perfection". The great balance illustrated by nature is perfect and as a circle it has no beginning or end.

    I find your paper interesting and thought provoking because of my belief that nature presents with a perfect climate (if you will ) of what perfect harmony is.

    Now if you consider Evolution the process which moves our species to become more efficient and more "perfect" than you can draw the conclusion that our approach to nature is almost imminent on the evolutionary scale.

    The future i hope to live in involves such perfect harmonious process, a process of only recycling and replenishing the resources given to us.
    cyb0     Thu, Dec 13, 2007  Permanent link
    Great article. I think we as technology advanced species manage to build some kind of respect to the nature through that technologies. We explore and protect the space around us, using power efficient devices, such as LCD monitors, RoHS compliant computer parts, CFLs bulbs and so on. We (at least me) eliminate everything that is not essential to our work and way of life. We pay attention and much more people will do in the next years to come. I'm sure! And this is great!

    What we need to do now is to revert to an Earth conscious mode of living through our technologies.

    The revolution is in front of us! Be a part of it! Now!
    kruhiu77     Fri, Dec 14, 2007  Permanent link
    This revolution should have an image then maybe people can finally come around.
    lateral     Sat, Dec 15, 2007  Permanent link
    But has that made us more intelligent? We have taken on such an incredibly destructive holier-than-thou attitude towards nature because of our technology that we are destroying both of us.


    It is an awesome force we are trying to harness, this technology of ours. Let us hope we can use it to increase some of that intelligence we take so much pride in.

    work, work, work or blow shit up.

    Did you forget the tird option: Consume, consume, consume? ;)

    One question regarding the pure functionality of objects versus them being ornamental:
    If form follows function slavishly, is there room for aesthetics? For beauty?
    Xarene     Mon, Dec 17, 2007  Permanent link
    Form follows Function is a naturally occurring incident; there are no ifs about it.

    Nature's beauty is in the form the function takes and in the function which gives form. Both are efficient and I find it rather exciting that we happen to find the form aesthetically pleasing.

    There is plenty of room for beauty. The old question has always been... What do we consider beauty to be? Is it something that is applied and forced on, or is it something inherent in an organism's function?

    I did forget about Consume, consume, consume... sigh...

    Michael Garrett     Mon, Dec 17, 2007  Permanent link
    Need and desire seem so closely linked. Can they be separated? Doesn't desire really play a large role in our evolutionary progression? Does ornament have no function? So many questions come to mind.
    kruhiu77     Wed, Jan 2, 2008  Permanent link
    If you think of it in terms of survival, then they are very different

    i need water to live - this is an undisputed fact because without water i will die.

    but i desire a candy bar - this is not connected to mortality and it decides neither if i live or die.

    I do think that ornament serves a good psychological purpose.

    When the Neanderthals finished trying to survive and they perfected it, they started to make necklaces and beautiful pots, they became more human.

    Rourke     Fri, Jan 11, 2008  Permanent link
    Great post.

    I often find myself thinking about the definition of 'technology'. I tend to believe it is as hard an abstract to define as 'life' is. John Gray said it better than I:
    "Cities are no more artificial than Bee-hives. The internet is as natural as a spider's web...

    ...We ourselves are technological devices, invented by ancient bacterial communities as means of genetic survival - we are part of an intricate network that comes from the original takeover of the Earth. Our power and intelligence do not belong specifically to us, but to all life..." - Straw Dogs

    When our technology becomes as indistinguishable from its surroundings as bacteria is, then we'll have reached perhaps the most significant tipping point since 'life' first emerged.

    I doubt it will be we who'll be around to make that judgement though. By that stage, it will be our technology which finds itself doing the judging.
    rene     Fri, Jan 11, 2008  Permanent link
    Xarene says
    We need to accept that architecture should not define space, but is space and that space can be made of immaterials.

    A related shift can be seen in the work of several artists and architects who have been turning to water as a “material” that brings them closer to the natural world as they create living environments which defy the rigidity of conventional architecture. Diller and Scofidio’s Blur Building in Switzerland is shrouded in a perpetual cloud of man-made fog. Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson used humidifiers to produce a fine mist in his Weather Project, which featured a huge artificial sun of pure yellow light. And in Dubai, where the natural environment and artifice spectacularly clash in underwater hotels and on a plethora of man-made islands, a massive entertainment complex is planned which will be “veiled by a puff of condensation that will hover in the air atop rain-like stilts.” Meanwhile, Ice Hotels, often featuring “ice art,” are constructed every winter in Norway, Sweden, Quebec, Finland and Romania, commenting like few other destinations on the appeal of the impermanence of nature’s suspended animation.

    According to architect Quingyun Ma, a “sense of perpetuality is noble, but acting on permanence is criminal. Impermanence is the ultimate sustainability.”

    Obvious quotes:
    "Cities are no more artificial than Bee-hives. The internet is as natural as a spider's web...

    It is possible to combine unapologetic biophilia with an equal measure of committed technophilia. The irony of this juxtaposition is that in the final analysis these two conditions do not a clash at all. To the contrary, architects are discovering that the computer is an evolution machine whose digital designs perfectly simulate nature’s mutational processes while helping to technically translate them into the tangible reality of the built environment. Ultimately, the computer will be capable to reinvent nature by insinuating itself in the molecular fabric of life on a nano level, realizing the dream of science fiction authors and many of today’s young architects to “grow” whatever structures they can imagine. Who knows some architecture of the future may even be subject to seasonal change.

    b10     Fri, Jan 11, 2008  Permanent link
    Ultimately, the computer will be capable to reinvent nature by insinuating itself in the molecular fabric of life on a nano level, realizing the dream of science fiction authors and many of today’s young architects to “grow” whatever structures they can imagine

    The book Diamond Age by neal Stephenson deals with some really amazing ideas about "growing" things with nano technology that is related, conceptually, to compiling a program from "source". In this case the "source" isn't lines of code, but fundamental building blocks of matter, that are slowly coaxed into combining themselves into the desired form.

    I disagree somewhat with the idea of using technology to return to nature, but I recognize the futility of taking such a stance. I mean, if our ancestors had planned perfectly from the beginning for a world with x billion people, then maybe we could have had a chance at simply staying connected with nature the whole time, but that seems impossible now. I guess our only option is to ensure the technology we utilize is sustainable and somehow humanizing, as opposed to numbing, desensitizing, buffering the world around us (imagine technology like an ipod on your ears at all times, certainly an experience, but the best experience?)

    It is incredibly important to talk these things over, or at least think about and be aware of them, for as tech makes its way inextricably into the home and into the physical body, we need to be incredibly wary of what we are plugging into.

    ...an Earth conscious mode of living through our technologies
    alborz     Fri, Jan 11, 2008  Permanent link
    Lateral asks:
    One question regarding the pure functionality of objects versus them being ornamental: If form follows function slavishly, is there room for aesthetics? For beauty?

    Xárene replies:
    Nature's beauty is in the form the function takes and in the function which gives form. Both are efficient and I find it rather exciting that we happen to find the form aesthetically pleasing.


    I have been watching a lot of nature documentaries (the BBC "Planet Earth" series) and am always slightly distressed when I see the spectacular shots of water falls with grand music, or antelope hopping about in slow-motion. I'm torn between the feeling of awe, inspiration and beauty I feel and the sneaking realization that the only reason I find these things beautiful is because I don't see them everyday. I think our romanticizing of nature rose proportionatly with our departure from it. Basically, my point being, I'm leaning towards lateral's implication that I would miss beauty in a world without ornament.

    However, I can't really argue with Xárene when she says:
    We must shift our perception of what we need to create for survival to what is already there for us to survive on. Learning to live with our natural environment—as opposed to live off of it—is where our focus should be.


    I just wonder if ornament is another way of saying art, in which case I'm all for it. It's art (whether an artful human mind, or an artistic human creation) that tells us nature is beautiful (e.g. the Planet Earth link above) and has made us want to preserve it.
     
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