Text by Lyndsey Walsh
Human hands have been radically transforming the natural world through the use of technology and machines. Over time, our relationship with the environment has been altered. Industrialisation has both had negative impacts on the environment but has also allowed for emerging technologies to arise. Many different facets of a now uncanny landscape have emerged, breathing life into images of a reality that up until now could only be found in science fiction. For the interdisciplinary team behind the three-year research project Farming the Uncanny Valley, this hybrid world not only uncovers a vision of potential realities for mankind but also exposes underlying anxieties and a sense of uneasiness towards these negotiations between humans and nature.
MACHT NATUR sets out to immerse its audience in the multi-sensorial world created from the nine workshops that took place as part of the “Farming the Uncanny Valley” project. The exhibition at STATE Studio focuses on themes surrounding the concept of the “Bioeconomy”, which is in line with the German Initiative “Wissenschaft im Dialog” (WID)’s 2020 science theme.
The term “Bioeconomy” has come to have a special implication for the European Union’s relationship with sustainability and the environment. As a means to reduce Europe’s dependence on natural resources, the Horizon 2020 project has designated the Bioeconomy as a responsive strategy to create sustainable practices in the use of biological resources for the agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and aquaculture. By relying on biotechnology to enhance production chains, Horizon 2020 aims to increase the levels of sustainability across these targeted industries.
MACHT NATUR exposes the how this large-scale effort towards biotechnological enhancement has been implemented in the areas of Plants (Pflanzen), Soil (Boden), Air (Luft), and Insects (Insekten). From the purchase and use of commercial bumble bees to pollinate crops in Germany to the composition of manipulated air quality, the exhibition characterizes how the bioeconomy has had significant impacts on the surrounding natural systems in Germany and highlights the range research being done by “Farming the Uncanny Valley”. This research project is made up of a large network of institutions including Universität der Kunst (UdK), Schwabe and Hülsen, YOUSE, Fraunhofer UMSICHT and STATE.
While these topics related to the Bioeconomy can be highly controversial, MACHT NATUR does not aim to offer a solution or answer questions surrounding what should be done with our increasingly manipulated biotechnological future. Instead, the exhibition aims to capture these moments of inquiry and concern being shared amongst different groups of people. Each of the nine workshops has been curated with representational artefacts that were created by the workshops’ participants. As a result, visitors to the gallery can envision this “uncanny valley” through the perspectives and experiences of not just experts but also from people just like themselves.
MACHT NATUR exemplifies the need for multiple voices and disciplines to be incorporated into the discussion about the future of nature and technology. Global notions of sustainability have already started to shift. Europe and Germany are beginning to shape how the Bioeconomy will have long term impact on modes of production, setting a course for a hopeful sustainable future. However, it is crucial to question the implications and impact this future will have for the generations that have yet to come and our planet as a whole.