The Northern Lights in your fridge, an artificial sunset on your kitchen window, a rainbow in the shower. Connected devices and appliances are one thing, but what if they could bring natural phenomena into your home in an everyday capacity?
That’s the idea being pondered in Technological Nature, a project by London-based Royal College of Art graduate Daria Jelonek. The project encompasses a short experimental film, an AV installation, and an upcoming VR experience that the artist is currently working on.
“I started thinking of how we would feel if everyday technology suddenly creates wonders, such as rainbows or auroras,” explains Jelonek to Creators. “I wondered even further what if we incorporate wonders of nature into the computational landscape that surrounds us. What if AI and Machine Learning generates wonders as we know them from nature?”
With augmented reality technology, it’s entirely possible in the future that a room we’re sat it in suddenly turns into, say, a scene from a rainforest or we’re sat atop a mountain. But in Jelonek’s film, the augmentations are more subtle.That’s not to say these tech-imitations should replace nature, though, but that they can perhaps exist alongside our experiences of going out hiking or taking a stroll in a field.
“I researched that artificial nature has the potential to have a positive impact on us, in other words: It is better to see an artificial sunset than no sunset,” the artist notes. The popularity of something like Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project can pay testament to that.
To explore this further, Jelonek lived with devices like artificial sun clocks, rainbow machines and aurora machines. She did this for six months and came to a conclusion.
“After living with those objects: yes, some artificial nature objects are quite nice. But actually we don’t need machines that recreate nature’s wonders,” she notes. “Because machines have their own nature, their own wonders. The real nature behind those objects is not the labelling ‘nature’ but things that they create unintentionally, uncontrolled, un-programmed: their sound, their smell, their haptic. This is the real nature. The real nature of a fridge is for instance the sound, but not particularly the ice.”
In the film, which Jelonek made using After Effects, Houdini, and Cinema4D, we see phenomena like an aurora happening over a radiator or a fake sunset fizzling away in a window frame, birdsong emanating from a cupboard. They are presented within the ordinariness of a home, but, lit with an uncanny light, they’re presented out of context in a way that lets us see them anew. What’s also important is the soundscape—the running water, the beep and blips of a phone receiving a new message, the hum of the fridge. The audio in the project was a collaboration with sound artist Tom Mudd.
Jelonek says she wants to use the project as a way to start discussions on how we might view both technology and nature as machines augment ever more of our everyday environment. This perhaps forces us into what Jelonek considers a “new mindset for the hybrid of traditional biophysical nature and the nature of technology.”
“The new mindset that I describe is to see objects and technology that surrounds us differently,” Jelonek notes. “If you understand that technology, such as smartphones, are made from natural material (because all material that surrounds us has its origin in nature), maybe you stop being wasteful in throwing stuff away. I don’t think that technology is entirely able [to] replace the sublime of nature. But I think that our technology will evolve its own wonders, its own sublime.”
See more of Daria Jelonek’s projects at her website here.