NEXT

What’s next? we ask ourselves daily. Driverless cars and planes are soon to be a reality, whilst robots already mow our lawns and operate surgically on our bodies—often doing a more reliable job than our fellow humans! Once the stuff of science fiction, new technologies now move in short order from laboratories to consumer shelves. We expect innovation and change in every area of our lives. But who dares to predict what our world, its cities and machines, will look like in 2100? And what will we look like? What is clear is that this brave new world is increasingly a collective endeavour. Photographers look for signs of this not-so-distant world; they locate the seeds being sown and the new forms sprouting up everywhere.

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David Maisel

Interior, Referee Module 2, Whole System Live Agent Test Chamber (5370_04), Dugway Proving Ground, Utah

2014

from series Proving Ground

Courtesy the artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery, NY/Haines Gallery, San Francisco/Ivorypress Gallery, Madrid

‘Proving Ground’ seems to have a double meaning: the evident reading of a test site, and the more metaphorical reading in which one might ask, with all these weapons we so fervently strive to develop, what are humans trying to prove? That we are capable of self-annihilation?

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Simon Norfolk

The Mare Nostrum supercomputer at Barcelona Supercomputer Centre, built in the nave of an old church to help with its cooling. Among many tasks the computer has been used to model wing shapes for fighter jets, a job that requires colossal computing power.

2006

Courtesy the artist

The Mare Nostrum supercomputer, set within a church, is an odd conjunction of science, architecture and religion. Among many tasks the computer has been assigned is one used to model wing shapes for fighter jets, a job that requires colossal computing power. It raises the philosophical question, are humans part of the equation?

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Peter Bialobrzeski

Paradise Now-18

2008

from series Paradise Now

Courtesy LA Galerie, Frankfurt

Peter Bialobrzeski is acutely aware of his privileged status, having being born in the affluent side of the world: ‘all I have achieved, all the comfort I am experiencing and taking for granted’. Since 2000 he has been photographing extensively in Asia. Bialobrzeski’s title of the series of which this work is a part, Paradise Now, is clearly ironic. The time-exposure allows for the sweep of a crane to create the sense of an otherworldly visitor, while the nature can be imagined as either being under threat from the glowing towers in the distance, or about to take it’s revenge.

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Toshio Shibata

from left to right

Hino Town, Tottori Prefecture, 2009 Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture, 2014

Courtesy the artist

Shibata is interested in people, but he likes indirect representation, an approach ‘that feels as if someone were there’. Shibata chooses infrastructure as the main subject for his photography. Usually, by its nature, infrastructure is considered as serviceable – the opposite of art. But it represents the time and space of an era, and grasps something of daily life. To Shibata, infrastructure incorporates many elements of landscape, such as environment, economic conditions and technology. His perspectives are truly unusual and disorienting. He forces us to decipher his images.

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Andreas Gefeller

FR 23

2014

from series Blank

Courtesy Thomas Rehbein Gallery

Located in Seoul, South Korea, the remarkable office tower GT Tower East was designed by the Dutch architectural firm ArchitectenConsort, based in Rotterdam. With its elegantly undulating glass facade, the new high-rise brings a clear challenge to the angular architecture of the Korean capital. We are likely to see many new forms of architecture in the twenty-first century. Built space expresses a society’s material and political priorities. By documenting structures of prosperity in a technically highly developed society, Gefeller aims to offer a telling glimpse of the present impasse in finding habitation for everyone worldwide while also preserving the planet.

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Olaf Otto Becker

Supertree Grove, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore 10/2012

2012

from series Reading the Landscape

Courtesy the artist

Given the realities of global warming, there is a serious need to deal with nature in highly innovative ways in order to survive as a species. The vast Gobi desert, for example, is the fastest moving desert on earth, swallowing up over 2000 square kilometres of land annually and destroying many villages in its path. While poorer nations may face devastation, wealthier nations may be content to move indoors, developing efficient technologies to create highly artificial ‘natural’ environments, like Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, or the Eden Project in the United Kingdom.

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Irene Kung

from left to right

Grande Arche Paris, 2007 IAC Gehry NY, 2010 Gherkin London, 2008 Torre Velasca, 2010

2010

from series The Invisible City

Courtesy the artist

Kung’s series’ title is inspired by the highly imaginative book by author Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities. This is fitting as, like Calvino, Kung cleverly tempers reality with a fertile imagination. The buildings are real – and iconic – but the treatment is dreamlike, as if the structures exist on a planet far, far away, or have yet to be realised. Possibly, the cities to come will copy these forms – to some extent, at least. But it is more than likely that new materials and technologies will throw up as yet undreamt of forms.

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Christian Lünig

Installation process of the Wendelstein 7-X in 2011 / total view

2011

from series fusion

Courtesy the artist

The Wendelstein 7-X nuclear fusion reactor (also called a stellarator) is located in Greifswald, Germany. It is part of the global mission to create an eco-friendly way of making electricity. Lünig sees this as ‘probably one of the biggest problems of civilisation yet to be solved’. The photographer pairs it with ITER in France, the 35-nation collaboration to test the feasibility of nuclear fusion, whereby atoms join at extremely high temperatures and release large amounts of energy. The principle is the same as that which powers our sun and the stars.

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Michael Najjar

f.a.s.t.

The largest astronomical radio telescope on earth, called the “Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope”, is located in a remote region of China. The surface is made of 4450 triangular metal panels shaped to the form of a geodesic dome. It can be tilted by computer to shift the focus to different areas in the Universe.

2017

from series outer space

Courtesy the artist

What could be more futuristic than looking for other-worldly civilisations? The work of photographer and astronaut-in-training Najjar depicts the largest astronomical radio telescope on earth. In 2016, China built this staggeringly large instrument, called the ‘Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope’, in the remote and barely accessible southern mountainous region of the country. It can be tilted by computer to change the focus on different parts of the universe. Radio telescopes use a large parabolic dish to collect radio waves from distant sources. However, one of the main objectives of the instrument is to detect interstellar communication signals – signals from alien civilisations.

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Murray Ballard

Patient Care Bay (Bigfoot dewar being filled with liquid nitrogen), Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona. October 2006

2006

from series The Prospect of Immortality

Courtesy the artist

Ballard gives us a less-than-hi-tech vision of what seems to be almost science fiction. Cryonics is the practice or technique of deep-freezing the bodies of people who have just died in the hope that scientific advances may allow them to be revived in the future. The Alcor Life Extension Foundation claims to be the world leader in cryonics, cryonics research and cryonics technology. Alcor is a non-profit organisation located in Scottsdale, Arizona, founded in 1972. The ‘Bigfoot dewar’ is a container that can store four whole-body cryonics patients.

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Cara Phillips

White Before & After Room (Beverly Hills, CA)

2007

from series Singular Beauty

Courtesy the artist and Robert Morat Galerie

Before and after… Promises of the miraculous in everyday life: live longer, be happier, be loved! But first, invest in a more beautiful face than the one nature gave you. Once the operation is over, and the pain is gone, you’ll need visual proof for Facebook and Instagram. You’ll need to step into this booth and do the photographer’s bidding. Don’t worry, he knows what you want. He’s seen it all before. And if you’re lucky, you’ll have millions of likes, before all your countless ‘friends’ move along, to someone younger, more beautiful. But then you can come back here, and we’ll do it again!

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Robert Zhao Renhui

2013

From the series A Guide to the Flora and Fauna

Courtesy L’artista e ShanghArt Gallery

Renhui has dedicated his career to exploring questions of humanity’s relationship to nature. A selection of works from his project A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World alerts us to the futuristic, genetically modified species that are already among us. Renhui’s complete project comprises fifty-five real species of plants and animals, often ignored by traditional scientific discourse, which have been affected by aesthetic, genetic, evolutionary or ecologic influences. By choosing to not show these common plants and animals in a naturalistic environment, the artist emphasises the artificial origins of these species, designed for study, commerce or entertainment.

first column from left, from the top

Man-made grapes Artificial grapes made from gelatin, grape flavouring and artificial colouring have been passed off as real grapes in roadside markets in China.

Cauliflower The cauliflower is arguably the most modified plant in the world. Its exact origins cannot be determined, though it has been classified in the mustard family. Common types of food deriving from this family include broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts.

Painted Indian glassy fish, Mekong Deep Blue variant Certain species of ornamental aquarium fish have been artificially coloured to appeal to consumers. Different colours can be applied through ‘juicing’ the fish, in which the creature is injected with a hypodermic syringe containing a colour dye. In aquascaping competitions around Asia, the ‘Mekong Deep Blue’ variety is patented and highly sought after by aquascaping enthusiasts.

second column from left, from the top

Moon dust (ash belonging to 103 species of insects collected from a lamp cover) Extended title: Less than 4% of Singapore exists in total darkness after 10pm. Insects are attracted to artificial light sources, though no one knows exactly why. The insects are usually killed by exhaustion or through contact with the heat from lamps. After being incinerated, their bodies become a heap of ash, collected in the covers of street lamps. The ash, also referred to as ‘moon dust’, is used by scientists to study the ecological impact of light pollution on insects.

Square apple Extended title: Sold in a department store in South Korea, these square apples were created as gifts for students taking the College Scholastic Ability Test, with some inscribed with the words ‘pass’ or ‘success’. A similar square watermelon was developed in Japan in the 1980s. The cubic fruits are created by stunting their growth in glass cubes.

Fluorescent zebrafish A zebrafish encoded with a green fluorescent protein originally extracted from a jellyfish was developed by a team of scientists in Singapore in 1999. The goal was to develop a fish that could detect pollution by fluorescing in the presence of environmental toxins. They are the first commercially available genetically modified fish and are widely sold as novelty pets in the United States today.

third column from left, from the top

Fake beef It has recently been found in China that pork has been made to aesthetically look like beef. ‘Beef colouring’ and ‘beef extracts’ were added to pork to make it look and taste like beef.

Unbreakable egg A company in Japan has developed a technique to create eggs that are so strong that they cannot be broken. The only way to access its contents is to puncture a hole in its shell with a pointed tool. The egg was created by adding the plant protein of a banyan tree to a chicken, thus creating an egg with a bark-like texture.

Painted molly, Rainbow Star Warrior variant There are several methods to create artificial colours in fish and certain methods remain well-kept industrial secrets. A recent method is the use of dye lasers to tattoo aquarium fish with patterns, colours and text. It is similar to a method dating back to 1975 used by scientists to monitor movements of fish in the wild by marking them., The Rainbow Star Warrior variety created in Singapore in 2002 uses a sophisticated version of the dye laser to create colourful mollies with as many as 256 colours.

153 | Next

Max Aguilera-Hellweg

from left to right

Joey Chaos, Android Head, Rock Star, Extremely Opinionated on Political Issues, Especially Capitalism and What It Means to be Punk. Hanson Robotics, Plano, Texas from the series Humanoid Rocket Powered Arm, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee from the series Bionics

2010

Courtesy the artist

The human species continues to experiment and explore its own capacity, and the capacity of the human body. Human ingenuity has also restored bodily functions to those who have lost them, often dramatically so. To build a rocket-powered arm, it suffices to combine a mechanical arm with a miniature rocket motor, resulting in a prosthetic device that is the closest thing yet to a bionic arm. The prototype can lift (curl) about nine to eleven kilograms – three to four times more than current commercial arms and three to four times faster.

153 | Next

Reiner Riedler

Humanoid robot “Rollin’ Justin”, DLR German Aerospace Center, Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.

2016

from series WILL

Courtesy the artist

Riedler has long been fascinated with robots and here shares a vision of the near future when many of us will quite happily embrace the technology, once we comprehend its advantages – and if the price is right. Sweeping a floor will be one age-old human activity quite readily placed on the shoulders of such humanoid relatives. Researchers at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford have been pondering humanity’s deep future and its existential risks, including the analysis of superintelligence, human enhancement, transhumanism and anthropics – raising questions around whether innovation will outpace caution as we move forward.

154 | Next

Edgar Martins

Crash test centre, BMW Group Research & Innovation Centre (FIZ) Munich (Germany). Storage area for the crash test dummies.

2015

from series 00:00.00

Courtesy the artist

Attuned and anxious as many of us are, faced with the proliferating robots in our lives, we might be forgiven for thinking we are faced here with a maimed and unhappy group, incarcerated in a sanitized and harshly-lit prison. It’s a little unnerving, too, to realize these ‘humans’ are about to be subject to violent physical forces, sacrificing themselves to spare the rest of us the worst consequences of our irresponsible driving habits. To get these still pictures, Martins had to time his pictures to production breaks, scheduled or not, which he learned went against the grain in a fast-moving factory.

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Michael Najjar

orbital ascent

On 17 November 2016 at 10.06 local time an Ariane 5 rocket was launched into orbit from Guiana Space Centre.

2016

from series outer space

Courtesy the artist

In this photograph, Najjar describes the ways in which he is concerned with ‘the latest developments in space exploration and the way they will shape our future life on Earth, in Earth’s near orbit and on other planets. Today the human species is facing growing threats on planet Earth, including overpopulation, climate change, diminishing resources, and shortages in the energy, food and water supply.’ He feels that the survival of the human species might rely on terraforming, and that we ‘need to extend our existential framework of reference from one that is purely Earth- bound to one which includes Earth’s orbit and outer space in general’.

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Richard Wallbank

Heliconius sara mutant (ventral) 1_5

2016

Courtesy the artist

New CRISPR (specialised stretches of DNA) technology has enabled these Heliconius sara butterflies from the tropics of Panama to be genetically edited for the first time, altering their black wing patterning and revealing the function and importance of specific underlying genes. Genetic engineering, genetic manipulation … As the ironic question has it: what could conceivably go wrong? The ethical implications of genetic engineering and genetic manipulation are certainly profound and raise many complex questions for humanity.