Date:28, 29, 30 March
    Time:see schedule
    Location:Baltan Laboratories
    Street:Kastanjelaan 500
    Zip code:5604 EA
    Google maps:Show location

    Posted in workshop, 28th of January, 2014


    What is the nature of a 21st century human?
    Call for participants!

    This masterclass by Rachel Armstrong and Arne Hendriks raises questions that challenge our preconceptions about the nature of humanity in the 21st century. It investigates what a culture based on humans-as-ecology might be, in contrast to the idea of humans-as-machines that shapes our modern world.

    What is the nature of a 21st century human?What is the nature of a 21st century human?
    What is the nature of a 21st century human?What is the nature of a 21st century human?
    What is the nature of a 21st century human?What is the nature of a 21st century human?
    What is the nature of a 21st century human?What is the nature of a 21st century human?


    Four fundamental pillars of existence are explored during the masterclass namely: the body, technology, environment and community. Participants will be recruited from across the sciences and the humanities and work in groups to produce an alpha prototype of what it means to be an ‘ecological’ human. Their ideas and output of the masterclass will take the form of a real-estate[1] brochure, where the value systems of ‘ecological’ humanity are expressed through the language of identity, land and desire that embodies the idea of a new production platform that underpins human development. Such an eventuality has radical implications for the way we imagine, work and live in the world in ways that are not bound by the logic of industrialization but are life-promoting, stochastic, may be shaped using existing techniques in agriculture and gardening and as such, are also directly compatible with Nature. Indeed, the outputs of this new production platform are post-natural or, “icological fabrics”[2] – that interweave nature, technology and culture – and may form the building blocks of 21st century communities and cities that can be combined in ways that are as rich and diverse in terms of their environmental performance as life itself.


    The masterclass will take participants on a journey that may change their view of what it means to be human in the 21st century at a time of ecological crisis by providing them with a set of conceptual tools. These take the form of ecological frameworks that will enable participants to explore and critique the boundaries of their own practices from first principles using a new existence framework. Specifically, each participant will work together in groups, where they encounter a series of challenges that reframe the way we may think about our lives, and ourselves so that we are no longer ‘machine-humans’ but ‘ecological- humans’. Groups will be allocated guides that are dedicated to each of the four specific themes to provide continuity throughout the masterclass should participants decide to switch between projects. Perspectives from invited inspiring speakers will also be proposed, who will share their research and insights into working in ways that may be considered ‘icological’ – where the convergence of design, nature and technology provide new opportunities for making and being.

    Fundamental philosophical assumptions about the nature of reality will be raised as well as the nature of the human body, how this may be extended through assemblage-based technology and what kinds of practices constitute a meaningful ecological existence with our environment. These forms of human expression will then be interwoven into a notion of a community using architectural tactics that deal with spatial programs to shape the idea of a place from which new images of future humans may appear. Underpinning these transformations is the ‘assemblage’, which currently exists as a philosophical proposition outlined by Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Assemblages are groupings of empowered materials, which differ from the matter from which machines are composed, as they exist at far from equilibrium states. Assemblages can therefore be considered as a technology, which possesses a degree of autonomy that can be shaped using ‘lifelike’ strategies that are drawn from the emerging field of natural computing. In this masterclass the assemblage is regarded as a real operating system that underpins an alternative technological platform than machines.

    Participants will be invited to respond to the series of talks, presentations and discussions they will encounter during the masterclass by producing a real-estate brochure themed on one of four possible sites: 8 billion city, a starship, Venice beach or a suburban home, which raise new possibilities for living. Each of these projects invites participants to live and colonize them as ecological humans by articulating their own new understanding of the body, environment, technology and community.

    The final brochures are aimed to be disseminated further, to reach new audiences and bring more people into the discussion about how we may positively and creatively bring about radical modes of thought and support new technological platforms to shape human development. The positioning of these brochures is also hoped to reveal how a new relationship with Nature can influence our value systems, economy, notions of landownership and power structures. Indeed, we anticipate that the outcomes of these discussions may help inspire new research into alternative platforms for human development that have different impacts on our ecological systems than our modern, industrial technologies.


    Rachel Armstrong is a Co-Director of AVATAR (Advanced Virtual and Technological Architectural Research) specializing in Architecture & Synthetic Biology at The School of Architecture & Construction, University of Greenwich, London. Rachel is a sustainability innovator who investigates a new approach to building materials called ‘living architecture,’ which suggests it is possible for our buildings to share some of the properties of living systems. She has recently been added to the 2014 Citizens of the Next Century List, by Future-ish, listed as one of the Wired 2013 Smart List, as one of the 2013 ICON 50 and one of the ten people in the UK that may shape the UK’s recovery by Director Magazine in 2012.

    Arne Hendriks is an artist, art historian and exhibition maker with a primary interest in defining and redefining the paradigms of human existence on Earth. His work explores the transformative power of the creative impulse and the importance of fundamental free scientific research. In his speculative design research, the strange and the familiar continuously swap places to provoke conflicting perspectives which speak about the radicality of everyday experience and the familiarity of radical intervention. Arne is also the director of the Dept. of WHAT IF, a recent start-up that investigates, formulates and disseminates alternative near-future scenarios as yardsticks to understand where we are and where we could be going. Hendriks is a coach at Next Nature within the department of Industrial Design of the Technical University in Eindhoven.

    How to apply? The call is now closed!

    This masterclass is taking place on 28, 29, 30 March, 2014 during the Age of Wonder festival. Professional artists, designers, writers, researchers and thinkers are encouraged to apply. Please, send your motivation why you want to join (max. 500 words) with a short CV/biography before March 14, via email to info[at]baltanlaboratories[dot]org. The fee for participants is 50,- Euros, including drinks and Age of Wonder festival passe-partout. 

    Download the full PDF


    Thanks to:
    This project is made possible with the gererous support of SNSREAAL, STRIJP-S Cultuurfonds & Fonds voor de Creative Industrie. More information on the Age of Wonder Festival visit our dedicated website!



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