TEDx Phillip Beesley

A friend of mine went to the recent TEDx presentation on campus and afterwards showed me some of the speakers he found of interest. One of them is UW architecture professor, Phillip Beesley. Innovative and creative, Beesley exhibits much of his work, which include technological life installations. These are man-made environments that mimic conscious or “alive” behaviour and interact with surroundings. As stated on the TEDxUW website (http://www.tedxuw.com/speakers/philip-beesley/), “Art and technology, when designed in such a manner, allow the creator to transcend the limitations of traditional schools of thought that focus on subject/object, organic/inorganic, static/dynamic and other types of binary worldviews.”

An example and overview of Beesley’s work can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v86B9Nz_LVU

This work is called Hylozic Ground. This surreal man-made environment looks like it could be found in the movie Avatar. It has the primitive intelligence of an insect or coral reef. However, it is purely machine, and only inspired by the organic. I think it shows the potential for great shift in human-machine interaction. I think that it is a physical example of where post-humanity could develop. At this point, these structures have a very simplistic “mind”, but there are plans for advancement: for example, a structure that can read your every need and mood and modify itself to fulfill these needs. ¬†Ideas of living architecture bring a new perspective on biopolitics, as well. Rather than modifying the living with machines, we are modifying machines to replicate the living.

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1 Comment

  1. The idea that our spaces are alive (or at least exist in ways we can’t entirely perceive) is a very old one, stretching back to the household gods of the ancient Greeks all the way to the haunted house. And it’s a common trope of sci-fi pop culture as well: there’s a Simpsons Tree House of Horror episode where they acquire a sentient house system (voiced by Pierce Brosnan), and Ray Bradbury’s classic tale “The Veldt” questions what happens when children become more attached to their holographic nanny room than to their own parents (a clear reference, at the time, to the use of television). Usually, these stories focus on the potential danger and fears associated with these living spaces,but Beesley’s work suggests a way for these configurations to appear not as something threatening, but something to be embraced, to allow us to go beyond our conceptual limitations.
    –MH


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