NASA Record Sent To Aliens Now On SoundCloud


Carl Sagan called the project a “bottle in the cosmic ocean.”Launched in 1977, the two Voyager spacecrafts were each loaded with a golden phonograph record documenting life on Earth should either probe ever contact aliens.

In a paper published in the May issue of the journal Astrobiology, astronomers Adam Frank and Woodruff Sullivan suggest that a probability for an alien civilizations to have existed at some point in time is highly probable. According to their findings, even if you consider that only one civilization might form out of every ten billion planets, a trillion civilizations still would have appeared over the course of cosmic history.

In an article for the New York Times Adam Frank goes on to say:

“In other words, given what we now know about the number and orbital positions of the galaxy’s planets, the degree of pessimism required to doubt the existence, at some point in time, of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization borders on the irrational.”

The Voyager spacecrafts mission was devised to explore Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune before floating out of our solar system into interstellar space, hurtling away from the sun at 17 kilometres a second. Famous space guy Carl Sagan called the project a “bottle in the cosmic ocean.” Now, for your enjoyment, NASA has uploaded their message to SoundCloud.

The Voyager Golden Records are phonograph records that contain sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, and are intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or for future humans, who may find them. Neither Voyager spacecraft is heading toward any particular star, but Voyager 1 will pass within 1.6 light-years of the star Gliese 445, currently in the constellation Camelopardalis, in about 40,000 years.

The recordings contain greetings in 55 languages, from Akkadian to Wu, as well as an assortment of sounds representative of life on earth, like a heartbeat, a mother kissing her child and the whistle of a train. The golden records also carry 90 minutes of music (not upped to SoundCloud, presumably for copyright reasons), including standards like Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, First Movement. 

Carl Sagan noted that “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about life on this planet.”Thus the record is best seen as a time capsule.

Below is the example of what we think we sound like. I thought there’d be a lot more arguing:


Both craft carry with them a 12-inch golden phonograph record that contains pictures and sounds of Earth along with symbolic directions on the cover for playing the record and data detailing the location of our planet.The record is intended as a combination of a time capsule and an interstellar message to any civilization, alien or far-future human, that may recover either of the Voyagers. The contents of this record were selected by a committee that included Timothy Ferris and was chaired by Carl Sagan.

The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University. The selection of content for the record took almost a year. Sagan and his associates assembled 116 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind, thunder and animals (including the songs of birds and whales). To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, spoken greetings in 55 ancient and modern languages, and printed messages from U.S. president Jimmy Carter and U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim. The record also includes the inspirational message Per aspera ad astra in Morse code.

The collection of images includes many photographs and diagrams both in black and white, and color. The first images are of scientific interest, showing mathematical and physical quantities, the Solar System and its planets, DNA, and human anatomy and reproduction. Care was taken to include not only pictures of humanity, but also some of animals, insects, plants and landscapes. Images of humanity depict a broad range of cultures. These images show food, architecture, and humans in portraits as well as going about their day-to-day lives. Many pictures are annotated with one or more indications of scales of time, size, or mass. Some images contain indications of chemical composition. All measures used on the pictures are defined in the first few images using physical references that are likely to be consistent anywhere in the universe.

The Golden Record also carries an hour long recording of the brainwaves of Ann Druyan. During the recording of the brainwaves, Druyan thought of many topics, including Earth’s history, civilizations and the problems they face, and what it was like to fall in love.

The record is constructed of gold-plated copper. The record’s cover is aluminum and electroplated upon it is an ultra-pure sample of the isotope uranium-238. Uranium-238 has a half-life of 4.468 billion years. It is possible (e.g. via mass-spectrometry) that a civilization that encounters the record will be able to use the ratio of remaining uranium to the other elements to determine the age of the record.

The records also had the inscription “To the makers of music – all worlds, all times” hand-etched on its surface. The inscription was located in the “takeout grooves”, an area of the record between the label and playable surface. Since this was not in the original specifications, the record was initially rejected, to be replaced with a blank disc. Sagan later convinced the administrator to include the record as is

After NASA had received criticism over the nudity on the Pioneer plaque (line drawings of a naked man and woman), the agency chose not to allow Sagan and his colleagues to include a photograph of a nude man and woman on the record. Instead, only a silhouette of the couple was included. However, the record does contain “Diagram of vertebrate evolution”, by Jon Lomberg, with drawings of an anatomically correct naked male and naked female, showing external organs.The pulsar map and hydrogen molecule diagram are shared in common with the Pioneer plaque.The 116 images are encoded in analogue form and composed of 512 vertical lines. The remainder of the record is audio, designed to be played at 16⅔ revolutions per minute.Carl Sagan suggested that The Beatles song “Here Comes the Sun” be included on the record, but the record company EMI that held the copyrights to the song, declined due to copyright concerns.

The Voyager program is a continuing American scientific program that employs two robotic probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, to study the outer Solar System. They were launched in 1977 to take advantage of a favorable alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, and are now exploring the outer boundary of the heliosphere currently in interstellar space. Although their original mission was to study only the planetary systems of Jupiter and Saturn, Voyager 2 continued on to Uranus and Neptune, and both Voyagers are now tasked with exploring interstellar space. Their mission has been extended three times, and both probes continue to collect and relay useful scientific data. Both Uranus and Neptune have not been visited by any other probe other than Voyager 2.

On August 25, 2012, data from Voyager 1 indicated that it had become the first human-made object to enter interstellar space, traveling “further than anyone, or anything, in history”.As of 2013, Voyager 1 was moving with a velocity of 17 kilometers per second (11 mi/s) relative to the Sun. Voyager 2 is expected to enter interstellar space by 2016, and its plasma spectrometer should provide the first direct measurements of the density and temperature of the interstellar plasma.

Data and photographs collected by the Voyagers’ cameras, magnetometers, and other instruments revealed previously unknown details about each of the giant planets and their moons. Close-up images from the spacecraft charted Jupiter’s complex cloud forms, winds, and storm systems and discovered volcanic activity on its moon Io. Saturn’s rings were found to have enigmatic braids, kinks, and spokes and to be accompanied by a myriad of “ringlets.” At Uranus Voyager 2 discovered a substantial magnetic field around the planet and 10 additional moons. Its flyby of Neptune uncovered three complete rings and six hitherto unknown moons as well as a planetary magnetic field and complex, widely distributed auroras. Voyager 2 is still the only spacecraft to have visited the ice giants.


The golden record’s location on Voyager (middle-bottom-left)

Among scientists, the probability of the existence of an alien society with which we might make contact is discussed in terms of something called the Drake equation. In 1961, the National Academy of Sciences asked the astronomer Frank Drake to host a scientific meeting on the possibilities of “interstellar communication.” Since the odds of contact with alien life depended on how many advanced extraterrestrial civilizations existed in the galaxy, Drake identified seven factors on which that number would depend, and incorporated them into an equation.

The first factor was the number of stars born each year. The second was the fraction of stars that had planets. After that came the number of planets per star that traveled in orbits in the right locations for life to form (assuming life requires liquid water). The next factor was the fraction of such planets where life actually got started. Then came factors for the fraction of life-bearing planets on which intelligence and advanced civilizations (meaning radio signal-emitting) evolved. The final factor was the average lifetime of a technological civilization.

Drake’s equation was not like Einstein’s E=mc2. It was not a statement of a universal law. It was a mechanism for fostering organized discussion, a way of understanding what we needed to know to answer the question about alien civilizations. In 1961, only the first factor — the number of stars born each year — was understood. And that level of ignorance remained until very recently.

But our new planetary knowledge has removed some of the uncertainty from this debate. Three of the seven terms in Drake’s equation are now known. We know the number of stars born each year. We know that the percentage of stars hosting planets is about 100. And we also know that about 20 to 25 percent of those planets are in the right place for life to form. This puts us in a position, for the first time, to say something definitive about extraterrestrial civilizations — if we ask the right question.

In their recent paper, Professor Sullivan and Adam Frank  did this by shifting the focus of Drake’s equation. Instead of asking how many civilizations currently exist, they asked what the probability is that ours is the only technological civilization that has ever appeared. By asking this question, they could bypass the factor about the average lifetime of a civilization. This left them with only three unknown factors, which were combined into one “biotechnical” probability: the likelihood of the creation of life, intelligent life and technological capacity.



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Einstürzende Neubauten/ Collapsing New Buildings


Still going strong, Einstürzende Neubauten, or “Collapsing New Buildings” is playing the 18th of June at Kulttempel Oberhausen. A German industrial band, one of their trademarks is the use of custom-built instruments, predominantly made out of scrap metal and building tools.

Industrial music, is a genre of experimental/electronic music that draws on transgressive and provocative themes. The term was coined in the mid-1970s with the founding of Industrial Records by Genesis P-Orridge of Throbbing Gristle and Monte Cazazza; on Throbbing Gristle’s debut album The Second Annual Report, they coined the slogan “industrial music for industrial people”. In general, the style is harsh and challenging. AllMusic defines industrial as the “most abrasive and aggressive fusion of rock and electronic music”; “initially a blend of avant-garde electronics experiments (tape music, musique concrète, white noise, synthesizers, sequencers, etc.) and punk provocation”.


The first industrial artists experimented with noise and aesthetically controversial topics, musically and visually, such as fascism, serial killers and the occult. Their production was not limited to music, but included mail art, performance art,installation pieces and other art forms. Prominent industrial musicians include Throbbing Gristle, Monte Cazazza,SPK, Boyd Rice, Cabaret Voltaire, and Z’EV. The precursors that influenced the development of the genre included acts such as electronic group Kraftwerk, experimental rock acts such as The Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa,psychedelic rock artists such as Jimi Hendrix, and composers such as John Cage. Musicians also cite writers such as William S. Burroughs, and philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche as influences.

The birth of industrial music was a response to “an age [in which] the access and control of information were becoming the primary tools of power.” At its birth, the genre of industrial music was different from any other music, and its use of technology and disturbing lyrics and themes to tear apart preconceptions about the necessary rules of musical form supports the suggestion that industrial music is modernist music.The artists themselves made these goals explicit, even drawing connections to social changes they wished to argue for through their music.

While the term was self-applied by a small coterie of groups and individuals associated with Industrial Records in the 1970s, it was broadened to include artists influenced by the original movement or using an “industrial” aesthetic. These artists expanded the genre by pushing it into noisier and more electronic directions. Over time, its influence spread into and blended with styles including ambient and rock, all of which now fall under the post-industrial music label. Electro-industrial music is a primary subgenre that developed in the 1980s. The two other most notable hybrid genres are industrial rock and industrial metal, which include bands such as Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, both of which released platinum-selling albums in the 1990s. These three distinct genres are often referred to as simply industrial.

Originally from West Berlin, Einstürzende Neubauten formed in 1980. The group currently comprises Blixa Bargeld (lead vocals, guitar, keyboard), Alexander Hacke (bass, guitar, vocals), N.U. Unruh (custom-made instruments, percussion, vocals), Jochen Arbeit (guitar and vocals), and Rudolf Moser (custom-built instruments, percussion, and vocals).



Their early albums were unremittingly harsh, with Bargeld’s vocals shouted and screamed above a din of banging and scraping metal percussion. Subsequent recordings found the group’s sound growing somewhat more conventional, yet still containing many unorthodox elements.



Einstürzende Neubauten will be performing on 

Saturday, June 18 at 8 PM5 AM in UTC+02DJ

Stahlmusik spielt Neubautenmusik zum Tanzen
LIVE: Neubauten Coversongs u.a.
Neubautenfilme im Videoraum
Abendkasse – Kulttempel: 8 €

You can find out more about the band on their Facebook page-

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New Robots Exhibition at The Science Museum


Today’s robots are nothing short of astonishing. Those coming in the not-too-distant future are simply revolutionary – and becoming eerily like us. London’s Science Museum will open a “theatrical” exhibition on robots next year, with exhibition design completed by Drinkall Dean. Image: Space scout, 1970s, Japan.

What does it take to make a humanoid robot – a robot that can do anything we can but without the benefit of a human brain? How close are scientists to replicating some of the particularly challenging human characteristics (think fingers and toes)? Why are we even attempting to create humanoids in the first place?

Opening in February 2017,  London’s Science Museum’s next blockbuster exhibition will explore the 500-year story of humanoid robots and the artistic and scientific quest to understand what it means to be human.

Set in five different periods and places, the exhibition features a unique collection of over 100 robots, from a 16th-century mechanical monk to robots from science fiction and modern-day research labs. Twelve of the robots will be working models and you may even get the chance to interact with one.

The exhibition is split into rooms exploring five periods and places, which aim to show robots in the context of religious belief, the industrial revolution, popular culture and ideas of the future, says the Science Museum. It will also delve into recent developments in robotics research, revealing how machines are being built that interact in human-like ways and which resemble people. In an immersive section at the end of the exhibition, the audience is asked to imagine a future shaped by robotics technology.



This articulated iron manikin dates all the way back to 1582

Visualisations and details about the exhibition design are yet to be revealed, but Drinkall Dean creative director Paul Dean says each room has been designed “with its own personality and experience” to “take visitors on an unexpected journey”.

“The visitor will experience the unexpected and will move through time becoming aware of our desire to create ourselves,” he says.

He adds that the show will answer questions about what we will learn from robots and vice versa, and how robots will engage with humans in the future.

The design consultancy has worked with theatre designer Tim Hatley to help create a “theatrical approach to the exhibition”, Dean says, using “theatre materials, techniques and lighting throughout”.

It has also worked with designer David Atkinson on lighting and Helen Lyon on graphic design.

The show will go on tour after its seven-month stint at the Science Museum, so Drinkall Dean has also aimed to create something “flexible and demountable, which can be reconfigured to work within different environments”, says Dean.

Robots, which opens in February 2017, will feature a collection of more than 100 humanoid robots, and aims to analyse how humans want to “recreate themselves”, the Science Museum says. The show will feature 12 working robots which visitors can “interact with”, as well as machines that date back to the 1500s. It is also set to “bring a robot back to life”, by launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise £35,000 to rebuild the UK’s first ever robot.

The exhibition has been supported with a £100,000 grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme.

Robots will run 8 February – 3 September 2017 at Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2DD.




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Future Tech: Expert Systems


Artist Tom Estes for Art Selectronic at The Internet Yami-Ichi (Blackmarket) at Tate Modern. Estes’ work, like Science Fiction, is a sort of thought experiment and serves as a useful vehicle for “safely” discussing controversial topical issues, providing thoughtful social commentary on potential unforeseen future issues. 

In the neo-noir sci-fi classic, The Matrix, protagonist Neo is able to learn Kung Fu in seconds after the martial art is ‘uploaded’ straight to his brain. Feeding knowledge directly into your brain, just like in this sci-fi classic, could soon take as much effort as falling asleep.  In a study, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience,  researchers from HRL Laboratories, based in California, say they have found a way to amplify learning, only on a much smaller scale than seen in the Hollywood film. They  claim to have developed a simulator which can feed information directly into a person’s brain and teach them new skills in a shorter amount of time, comparing it to “life imitating art”. They believe it could be the first steps in developing advanced software that will make Matrix-style instant learning a reality. Dr Matthews believes that brain stimulation could eventually be implemented for tasks like learning to drive, exam preparation and language learning

What our system does is it actually targets those changes to specific regions of the brain as you learn,” he added.

The method itself is actually quite old. In fact, the ancient Egyptians 4000 years ago used electric fish to stimulate and reduce pain.

GlassBrain In recent years science and technology have begun to catch up with science fiction. Many of the fantasies and illusions of the past are no longer a contradiction of reality, but instead an integral part of our everyday lives.

Some of the most controversial issues to face us in the future will come from cognitive breakthroughs. The more we understand about the our own brain, the more we know about ourselves, which of course can be unnerving. But future breakthroughs in neuroscience could have a far greater effect on society. What will the world be like when technology can tell us without a doubt if you are guilty of a crime, you have cheated on your spouse, or are an employee would likely steal? How about uploading your memories for posterity or downloading the skills you need for that new job? Record your dreams for later viewing or control your computer (or any device), just by thinking about it?

We already have all sorts of ways to observe activity in the brain. Magnetic resonance imaging can show blood flow, positron emission tomography can map neurotransmitter activity, and electroencephalograms can record electrical activity. Scientists can tell what parts of the brain are active, and how active they are. That’s enough to tell what parts of the body are stimulated, sexually and otherwise. 


Preparations at the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern

Substantial mainstream research in related areas is being conducted in brain mapping and simulation, development of faster super computers, virtual reality, brain-computer interfaces, connectomics and information extraction from dynamically functioning brains. According to supporters, many of the tools and ideas needed to achieve mind uploading already exist or are currently under active development; however, they will admit that others are, as yet, very speculative, but still in the realm of engineering possibility.

However, many futuristic technologies are already in development. Hopfield networks provide a model for understanding human memory. A Hopfield network is a form of recurrent artificial neural network popularized by John Hopfield in 1982, but described earlier by Little in 1974. Training a Hopfield net involves lowering the energy of states that the net should “remember”. This allows the net to serve as a content addressable memory system, that is to say, the network will converge to a “remembered” state if it is given only part of the state. The net can be used to recover from a distorted input to the trained state that is most similar to that input. This is called associative memory because it recovers memories on the basis of similarity. For example, if we train a Hopfield net with five units so that the state (1, 0, 1, 0, 1) is an energy minimum, and we give the network the state (1, 0, 0, 0, 1) it will converge to (1, 0, 1, 0, 1). Thus, the network is properly trained when the energy of states which the network should remember are local minima. Max Tegmark, a theoretical physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge (MIT), shows how these problems can be formulated in terms of quantum mechanics and information theory. And he explains how thinking about consciousness in this way leads to precise questions about the nature of reality might help to tease apart. Any information is stored in a  Hopfield neural net would automatically have this error-correcting facility. However, he calculates that a Hopfield net about the size of the human brain with 10^11 neurons, can store 37 bits of integrated information.



20 – 22 May 2016, Art Selectronic joined the arebyte Gallery for London’s first ever Internet Yami-Ichi (Black Market) event at Tate Modern as part of Offprint London

Could human memories be uploaded and stored — just like data — in a computer? Mind swaps have been a standard science-fictional prop for decades. Just wire up the brain in a tired old body to something new, turn on the magical mind-transfer machine, and your mind gets downloaded into a new body, a computer, or a spaceship. Today, we can do computer mind swaps routinely. So why not download our memories from our aging bodies into a shiny new computer?

What if we use  data to recreate a person by simulating them on a computer?  As well as referencing SF in his work, Artist Tom Estes uses new or existing technologies. In his tiny robot figure displayed by at The Internet Yami Ichi  (Blackmarket) for Tate Modern contains human memories in the form of brainwaves. Estes uses an electroencephalograph (EEG) to record human brain waves. Small sensors are attached to the scalp to pick up the electrical signals produced when brain cells send messages to each other. Before the test starts, the scalp is cleaned and about 20 small sensors called electrodes are attached using a special glue or paste. These are connected by wires to an EEG recording machine. Routine EEG recordings usually take 20 to 40 minutes, while other types of EEG recording may take longer. 

Transferring knowledge is one thing, but transfering a whole brain is a different matter. Whole brain emulation (WBE) or mind uploading (sometimes called “mind copying” or “mind transfer”) is the hypothetical process of scanning mental state (including long-term memory and “self”) of a particular brain substrate and copying it to a computational device, such as a digital, analog, quantum-based or software-based artificial neural network. The computational device could then run a simulation model of the brain information processing, such that it responds in essentially the same way as the original brain (i.e., indistinguishable from the brain for all relevant purposes) and experiences having a conscious mind.


The Internet Yami Ichi at Tate Modern

The trick would be to program a computer to sift through the accumulated life data to look for patterns of speech or behavior. The computer would not have to be programmed to look for anything in particular. Instead, it would look for speech or behavior that distinguishes that person from others. However engineers have already developed software, called expert systems. They codify specific knowledge accumulated by experts in a given field, and assemble it into an organized form that non-experts can use. For example, the expert system could collect techniques that retiring machinists used to fabricate hard-to-make components. When new workers face similar problems, they can query the system to learn details such as what lubricant to use while cutting a certain alloy.

Similarly, someday veteran space pilots could tell the tricks of their trade to a future expert system, which could codify their knowledge for the next generation of pilots. Of course, such an expert system would not preserve either your personality or your sense of being, so it couldn’t transfer your “self” from a worn-out body into a spaceship where it could survive indefinitely. We have less idea of how to do that than we do of how to record your thoughts or how to translate them into words. But that might not be a bad thing. Would you want to spend eternity as an expert flying a slow freighter to Neptune? That’s the sort of boring place where Gordon Bell would turn his life recorder off.


As well as referencing SF in his work, Estes uses new or existing technologies. This tiny robot figure displayed by Tom Estes at The Internet Yami Ichi for Tate Modern contains human memories in the form of brainwaves. The work is reminiscent of a medieval reliquary, or an object containing purported or actual physical remains, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with saints or other religious figures.

For Artist Tom Estes this is similar to the question of The History of Art itself. Artistic-processes attach themselves to the great sedentary assemblage of art institutions to establish settled lineages and well-ordered sequences. Yet artistic activity is characterized by its antagonism towards stable temporality involving coincidences, glitches and unforeseen consequences -breaks, twists and bends in time.


 Tate Modern played host to The Internet Yami Ichi

In 2008, Giulio Tononi at the University of Wisconsin in Madison proposed that a system demonstrating consciousness must have two specific traits. First, the system must be able to store and process large amounts of information. In other words consciousness is essentially a phenomenon of information. The whole question is of objective reality versus subjective illusion. We all change the apparent reality through willful, distortion, but also reduction. So the answer to the question “Which space do we live in?” is clearly: we live in a subjective world. This is the age-old story of the phenomenology and of human intentionality. And second, this information must be integrated in a unified whole so that it is impossible to divide into independent parts. Each instance of consciousness is a unified whole that cannot be decomposed into separate components. Given that it is a phenomenon of information, a conscious system must be able to store in a memory and retrieve it efficiently. So each memory has to be integrated into an overall consciousness or identity. This consciousness must also be able to to process this data, like a computer but one that is much more flexible and powerful than the silicon-based devices we are familiar with. So for example the individual memories-to-download are part of a wider interdisciplinary project that incorporates innovative web conversations and social networks 


Within our new world of digital inter-connectivity, more and more representation and therefore our understanding of the world takes place on-line.

A discussion of ‘downloading memories’ is not complete without an extrapolation of the theories of Sigmund Freud and their wider application by Edward Bernays. Freud developed techniques to explore the subconscious,  while  Edward Bernays unleashed  the methods that could be applied to mine the hidden recesses of the mind of the masses in order to control and influence opinion. The entire field of Freud’s important work, today, via Edward Bernays, has created the basis for of mass influencing, some say manipulation, positioned to create endless versions of market controlled happiness, and how people value themselves and others.

Edward Bernays’ public relations efforts helped to popularize Freud’s theories in the United States..Bernays also pioneered the public relations industry’s use of psychology and other social sciences to design its public persuasion campaigns. He called this scientific technique of opinion-molding ‘The Engineering Of Consent:

“If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it? The recent practice of propaganda has proved that it is possible, at least up to a certain point and within certain limits.”

So while their are serious ethical questions about the potential uses of downloading memories into a human brain, it is still a Future Tech. However, you can already download your memories to a computer. The next time you want to remember a piece of information, save it as a file on your phone or computer. Lead author, assistant professor Benjamin Storm of the University of California, said:

“Our findings show that people are significantly better at learning and remembering new information when they save previous information.”

The act of digitally storing files containing useful or important data boosts memory and the brain’s ability to remember future events. This is because the brain knows the original information is safely stored, which ultimately frees up cognitive resources that can focus on learning and remembering new facts and figures. 


Q & A at Yami Ichi. Science Fiction in its purest form takes a scientific principle, poses a quest or hypothesis about that principle and then explores the effects of that principle on society and culture. In a similar manner Artist Tom Estes has always leaned toward making Live Art performance work that is participatory or immersive in some way.

20 – 22 May 2016, Art Selectronic joined the arebyte Gallery for London’s first ever Internet Yami-Ichi (Black Market) event at Tate Modern as part of Offprint London 2016. The fair showcased up to 20 local and international artists working mainly in digital and net-based practices exploring the potential of online art IRL (In Real Life). The Internet Yami-Ichi (Black Market) deals with “Internet-ish” things, face-to-face, in actual space. Both flea markets and the Internet are fantastical and chaotic mixes of the amazing and the useless. The Internet Yami-Ichi is a celebration, where together we experience the afterglow, off line, as the “buzz” of the Internet wears off. After visiting Berlin, Brussels and Amsterdam, Linz, New York and more, Tate Modern in London is the pinnacle of all Yami-Ichi’s.


Emiddio , KAAP, Irini Pigaditi, GlitcHaus, Nukeme, FZS + UMZ, Christophe Cachelin, Chloe Spicer, Mr.Nowhere, Banrei, Nye Thompson, One Life Remains, Libby Heaney, Minutiae, Cloud8Art, Rob Walker, Anna Ridler, Yinan Song, Shinji Toya, Tadeo  Sendon, Erik Zepka, Martin Lau, Julien Bader, Marta Velasco Velasco, Jordi Canals, Sigergallery, Art Selectronic, Fabio Lattanzi Antinori, 2 Loops Print, Jennifer Crouch, Brian van Lijf, Marie Namur & Pascale Loyens.





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Electric Winds



Can it be long before the film rights to this triumph-over-adversity story are snapped up, and William Kamkwamba, the boy who dared to dream, finds himself on the big screen? He had a dream of bringing electricity and running water to his village. The extraordinary true story of the Malawian teenager who transformed his village by building electric windmills out of junk is  now the subject of a new book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. This remarkable example shows how much of a contribution one could make by taking an initiative with a sound vision.

I love what this boy has done because he used his own innovative and ideas to power a village. His against-all-odds achievements are all the more remarkable considering he was forced to quit school aged 14 because his family could no longer afford the $80-a-year (£50) fees. When he returned to his parents’ small plot of farmland in the central Malawian village of Masitala, his future seemed limited.But this was not another tale of African potential thwarted by poverty.The need for action was even greater in 2002 following one of Malawi’s worst droughts, which killed thousands of people and left his family on the brink of starvation.

Unable to attend school, he kept up his education by using a local library. Fascinated by science, his life changed one day when he picked up a tattered textbook and saw a picture of a windmill. Mr Kamkwamba told the BBC News website:

“I was very interested when I saw the windmill could make electricity and pump water.I thought: ‘That could be a defence against hunger. Maybe I should build one for myself’.”

When not helping his family farm maize, he plugged away at his prototype, working by the light of a paraffin lamp in the evenings.But his ingenious project met blank looks in his community of about 200 people.

“Many, including my mother, thought I was going crazy,” he recalls. “They had never seen a windmill before.”

Neighbours were further perplexed at the youngster spending so much time scouring rubbish tips.

“People thought I was smoking marijuana,” he said. “So I told them I was only making something for juju [magic].’ Then they said: ‘Ah, I see.'”

Kudos to this lad for his perseverance. Mr Kamkwamba, who is now 22 years old, knocked together a turbine from spare bicycle parts, a tractor fan blade and an old shock absorber, and fashioned blades from plastic pipes, flattened by being held over a fire.

“I got a few electric shocks climbing that [windmill],” says Mr Kamkwamba, ruefully recalling his months of painstaking work.

The finished product – a 5-m (16-ft) tall blue-gum-tree wood tower, swaying in the breeze over Masitala – seemed little more than a quixotic tinkerer’s folly. But his neighbours’ mirth turned to amazement when Mr Kamkwamba scrambled up the windmill and hooked a car light bulb to the turbine. As the blades began to spin in the breeze, the bulb flickered to life and a crowd of astonished onlookers went wild. Soon the whiz kid’s 12-watt wonder was pumping power into his family’s mud brick compound. Out went the paraffin lanterns and in came light bulbs and a circuit breaker, made from nails and magnets off an old stereo speaker, and a light switch cobbled together from bicycle spokes and flip-flop rubber. Before long, locals were queuing up to charge their mobile phones.

2002: Drought strikes; he leaves school; builds 5m windmill
2006: Daily Times writes article on him; he builds a 12m windmill
2007: Brings solar power to his village and installs solar pump
Mid-2008: Builds Green Machine windmill, pumping well water
Sep 2008: Attends inaugural African Leadership Academy class
Mid-2009: Builds replica of original 5m windmill

Mr Kamkwamba’s story was sent hurtling through the blogosphere when a reporter from the Daily Times newspaper in Blantyre wrote an article about him in November 2006. Meanwhile, he installed a solar-powered mechanical pump, donated by well-wishers, above a borehole, adding water storage tanks and bringing the first potable water source to the entire region around his village.He upgraded his original windmill to 48-volts and anchored it in concrete after its wooden base was chewed away by termites.Then he built a new windmill, dubbed the Green Machine, which turned a water pump to irrigate his family’s field. Before long, visitors were traipsing from miles around to gawp at the boy prodigy’s magetsi a mphepo – “electric wind”.

As the fame of his renewable energy projects grew, he was invited in mid-2007 to the prestigious Technology Entertainment Design conference in Arusha, Tanzania. He recalls his excitement using a computer for the first time at the event.

“I had never seen the internet, it was amazing,” he says. “I Googled about windmills and found so much information.”

Onstage, the native Chichewa speaker recounted his story in halting English, moving hard-bitten venture capitalists and receiving a standing ovation.  A glowing front-page portrait of him followed in the Wall Street Journal. He is now on a scholarship at the elite African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mr Kamkwamba – who has been flown to conferences around the globe to recount his life-story – has the world at his feet, but is determined to return home after his studies.The home-grown hero aims to finish bringing power, not just to the rest of his village, but to all Malawians, only 2% of whom have electricity.

“I want to help my country and apply the knowledge I’ve learned,” he says. “I feel there’s lots of work to be done.”

Former Associated Press news agency reporter Bryan Mealer had been reporting on conflict across Africa for five years when he heard Mr Kamkwamba’s story. The incredible tale was the kind of positive story Mealer, from New York, had long hoped to cover.

The author spent a year with Mr Kamkwamba writing The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, which has just been published in the US. Mealer says Mr Kamkwamba represents Africa’s new “cheetah generation”, young people, energetic and technology-hungry, who are taking control of their own destiny.

“Spending a year with William writing this book reminded me why I fell in love with Africa in the first place,” says Mr Mealer, 34.”It’s the kind of tale that resonates with every human being and reminds us of our own potential.”

Due to his zeal and vision to help his fellow countrymen that he dared to make his dream come true. We should have more such people and the world will be a better place. Accomplishing something out of obscurity and carving a place for yourself in history like this Malawian shows that the human potential can never be limited, thus Africa could change if this mindset is nurtured and developed. Self-taught William Kamkwamba has been feted by climate change campaigners like Al Gore and business leaders the world over. An amazing triumph of the human spirit over adversity, one cannot help but be inspired and humbled by this remarkable and staggeringly honourable young man. One would think that it was an obvious solution for NGOs and charities working in poverty and drought stricken countries. William’s achievements portray that anyone can do anything as long as they hope to do it and don’t stop at only hoping but aim at making it happen. It shows not only that there are intelligent kids in Africa but what they lack is perhaps the resources  to make great things happen.


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Navigating Accelerationism


Conceptual prankster Tom Estes presents his work “Blitz” (2009) as a large screen digital projection for ONE MINUTE ONLY. The work was  shown as part of an exhibition and conference, Speeding & Braking: Navigating Acceleration for The Screen and Audiovisual Research Unit, LG01, at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Everything is getting faster. Computers, news, food — and even walking. Pedestrians today move quicker than they did in the 1990’s, and the more developed the country, the speedier their gait.  
When they reach their destination and sit in front of a computer, a third will abandon websites that take more than two seconds to load; 20 years ago, they were prepared to wait four times as long. What is more, our patience is only diminishing.

Modern life is too fast. Everyone is always in a hurry; people skim-read and don’t take the time to eat properly; the art of conversation is dying; technology places too much stress on the human brain. This litany of familiar complaints comes, of course, not from out own time but from the late 19th century, as collected by the American writer and XKCD comic artist Randall Monroe in his arch cartoon ‘The Pace of Modern Life’. And here we are in the 21st, in another culture that both worships and deplores its ostensibly unprecedented speed.


Speeding and Braking: Navigating Acceleration, the exhibition on May 15 at The Screen and Audiovisual Research Unit

Whether everything is getting faster and faster or not, though, it remains the case that fast things are happening. A recent investigation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Jeffrey K. Smith and Lisa F. Smith found that the mean time spent viewing a work of art was found to be 27.2 seconds, with a median time of 17.0 seconds. This modern phenomenon, is of course, directly oppositional to the ‘meditative’ quality that museums are meant to suggest. So one could say that to ‘Blitz’ a gallery, is to ‘vigorously attack’, or try to see all the works in the gallery in one go.

Tom Estes’ work ‘Blitz’ for Speeding & Braking: Navigating Acceleration introduces a new kind of artwork that functions more as art proposal for a partially realized exhibition; a document of visual and spatial modes of presentation that theorizes a different approach. The title of Tom Estes’ work is ‘Blitz’ a term which is a shortened version of the German word “blitzkrieg” (blĭts’krēg’). Blitzkrieg means “A swift, sudden military offensive, usually by combined air and mobile land forces”. In the work an individual being thrown through the air by a lightning bolt is depicted superimposed on to a Victorian Bible open to the story of Noah and the flood. 


Speeding and Braking: Navigating Acceleration, the exhibition on May 15 at The Screen and Audiovisual Research Unit

Though a work of art with very contemporary concerns, the tone of imagery in Blitz seems to have more in common with the tradition of late nineteenth century photography or film. In 1892 the Lumier brothers had already began to create moving pictures. The work, therefore, seems to suggest that a movement away from the slow and contemplative in the visual arts is not just a modern phenomenon. By the 1910’s, films like those of the Keystone Cops were an established part of popular culture and so the representation of ‘speeded action’ was already on its way.

In Estes’ ‘Blitz’ even the medium itself, a projected digital photograph, suggests speed, as a recording of ‘live’ split second action’. For Estes’ the slapstick comedy of the image is a deliberate mitigation of surrealist shock. So the work could suggest rushing about with the mad attention urges of a Play Station gamer, while catastrophic destruction on a global scale looms ever closer. 

Estes’ work is part of the exhibition- Speeding & Braking: Navigating Acceleration. In political and social theory, accelerationism is the idea that either the prevailing system of capitalism, or certain techno-social processes that have historically characterized it, should be expanded, pre-purposed or accelerated in order to generate radical social change. Some contemporary accelerationist philosophy takes as its starting point the Deleuzo-Guattarian theory of deterritorialisation, aiming to identify, deepen, and radicalise the forces of deterritorialisation with a view to overcoming the countervailing tendencies that suppress the possibility of far-reaching social transformation. Accelerationism may also refer more broadly, and usually pejoratively, to support for the deepening of capitalism in the belief that this will hasten its self-destructive tendencies and ultimately eventuate its collapse.


Speeding and Braking: Navigating Acceleration, the exhibition on May 15 included work by Esther Polak/Ivar van Bekkum, Magnus Ayers, Tom Estes, Ryan Kuo, Stefan Riebel, Emma Charles, Gary Zhexi Zhang, Lawrence Lek + Harun Farocki

Acceleration has been characterized as both reason and remedy for the challenges presented by an increasingly fraught global economy – by financial crises, ecological ruination, neo-colonial oppression and forced displacements of an unprecedented scale. The contemporary political and cultural imagination is caught between conflicting velocities: the accelerationist affirmation of technological transformation on the one hand, and decelerative or restorative movements on the other. The conference Speeding and Braking: Navigating Acceleration gathers critical responses to this conceptual deadlock that reach across and beyond such entrenched (op)positions.

Prominent theorists include right-accelerationist Nick Land. The Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (Ccru), an unofficial research unit at the University of Warwick from 1995–2003, of which Land was a member, is considered a key progenitor in both left- and right-accelerationist thought.  Prominent contemporary left-accelerationists include Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, authors of the “Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics”, and the Laboria Cuboniks collective, who authored the manifesto “Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienation”.

Along accelerationist lines, Paul Mason, in works such as PostCapitalism: A Guide to our Future, has tried to speculate about futures after capitalism. He declares that “[a]s with the end of feudalism 500 years ago, capitalism’s replacement by post-capitalism will be accelerated by external shocks and shaped by the emergence of a new kind of human being. And it has started.” He considers that the rise of collaborative production will eventually help capitalism to kill itself.


Emma Charles, Additivist Manifesto at Speeding and Braking: Navigating Acceleration, May 15, 2016

A number of earlier philosopher have expressed apparently accelerationist attitudes, including Karl Marx in his 1848 speech “On the Question of Free Trade said:

But, in general, the protective system of our day is conservative, while the free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social revolution. It is in this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, that I vote in favor of free trade.”

In a similar vein, Friedrich Nietzsche argued that “the leveling process of European man is the great process which should not be checked: one should even accelerate it…”, a statement often simplified, following Deleuze and Guattari, to a command to “accelerate the process”


Ryan Kuo, Death Driver 2016

So despite the apocalyptic imagery, Estes created the digital image ‘Blitz’ as documentation of the works physical formation- intentionally leaving the material project unrealized. This has a flattening effect which merely implies the existence of an installation in real-time, three-dimensional space. This closed circuit of illusion mimics and merges with the mass media desire for immediate novelty; anticipating the online reduction of an ‘installation’ to a single image.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the work is actually liberated from worldly concerns.  The dematerialization of Estes’ work expresses a concern with the material and phenomenological consequences of both accelerations and decelerations, as well as the aesthetic strategies afforded or precluded by them. It is concerned with the material inscription, practical harnessing and social experience of varying speeds, from the perspective of contrasting temporalities. Particular emphasis is placed on a transversal approach, reading across, and drawing into dialogue, seemingly impossible positions within the fields of visual arts, cultural and critical theory, and media and communications.


Lawrence Lek, Unreal Estate (The Royal Academy Is Yours) a virtual tour that imagines the sale of a public art gallery to a wealthy family

For Estes the process of real subsumption is the key to our globalized network society. In 1848 the world of Karl Marx was not facing global ecological catastrophe. Nor are we still in the process of emerging from a rural, agricultural based feudal system. Everything without exception is subordinated to an economic logic, an economic rationality. Everything must be measured, and made commensurable, through the mediation of some sort of “universal equivalent”: money or information.

Real subsumption is facilitated by—but also provides the impetus for—the revolution in computing and communication technologies over the course of the past several decades. Today we live in a digital world, a world of financial derivatives and big data. Virtual reality supplements and enhances physical, “face-to-face” reality—rather than being, as we used to naively think, opposed to it. Neo-liberalism is not just the ideology or belief system of this form of capitalism. It is also, more importantly, the concrete way in which the system works. It is an actual set of practices and institutions. It provides both a calculus for judging human actions, and a mechanism for inciting and directing those actions.

Capitalism is unrelenting in it’s pursuit of profit. What cannot be assimilated is marginalized or destroyed. But Estes’ emphasis is the conflict between the physical world – a world governed by laws beyond the reasoning of human culture- and our unrelenting desires.  Or as Shakespeare put it “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy“. The title of the work Estes’ work ‘Blitz’ suggests a military offensive- and indeed we humans are at war with our own environment. Faced with the choice of either completely altering of our philosophical system or facing annihilation, humans will continue to risk annihilation. Why? Because whether it is the right choice or not, the process of acceleration is so deeply ingrained we no longer have a choice.



 Reproductive Time: Technologies and Tactics discussion at the conference Speeding & Braking: Navigating Acceleration with Anne Koppenburger, Peer Illner and Scott Wark chaired by Pasi Valiaho

Speeding & Braking: Navigating Acceleration was organised by The Screen & Audiovisual Research Unit and run by Media and Communications Ph.D students at Goldsmiths College. The research unit acts as a point of reference between different practitioners and research initiatives in order to establish a common and cooperative space of dialogue devoted to screen and audiovisual media. The core objective of this group is to create meeting points between disciplines and practices so as to broaden and deepen discussions revolving around film, sonic and visual arts and screen-based media. The research unit hosts seminars, lectures, screenings, conferences and conversations.


Cyberfeminist, Annie Goh at the conference Speeding & Braking: Navigating Acceleration. Goh’s work ranges from academic reflections on cybernetics and the female voice, to the lived experience of women and transgender people in live sound engineering and electronic music.




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The Museum of Tomorrow Built for the Future


The Museu do Amanha incorporates sustainability into its structure. 

Image credit Finotti

Jutting diagonally into the sky from the old port of Rio de Janeiro is an other-worldly edifice that looks like a cross between a solar-powered dinosaur and a giant air conditioning unit. Resembling a huge alien exoskeleton, the 15,000-square-metre Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow)  brought together architects, researchers and government to create a space where climate change and the Earth’s future are its core focus. “We thought, why not make the social and political discussion of sustainability the main approach of a museum?” says Hugo Barreto, secretary general at the Roberto Marinho Foundation, which oversaw the building’s development and partly funded its construction.

Hugo Barreto, the head director of content, said the museum aimed to set itself apart from other science museums by editorializing about the near-term need for sustainability.

“When people think of the ‘Future’, it usually seems very far away. That’s why we called the museum ‘Tomorrow’. It’s closer. It depends on what we do today,” he said.

 Mixing science and art, the 230m reais (£40m/$59m) institution devotes itself to a topic that is divisive and often depressing: the need for change if mankind is to avoid climate disaster, environmental degradation and social collapse- and all within what must already rank as one of the world’s most extraordinary buildings. The two-storey building, which opened in December 2015, explores five themes: the Cosmos, the Earth, the Anthropocene, Tomorrow and Us. Inside, a 140-metre-long pearlescent gallery is flanked by parallel spaces where visitors are guided through several future-gazing displays: one is
an egg-shaped auditorium showing a 360° film about the Universe. In another, six ten-metre pillars display images and data that demonstrate humans’ impact on the planet.

The experiential art and science museum, : the metal roof is fitted with solar panels that supply nine per cent of the building’s electricity, 
and water from the adjacent bay cools the museum and feeds its surrounding pools before returning to the sea.

Calatrava’s talent has produced sculpturesque bridges and transportation hubs worldwide, and now, his sustainably-focused museum for Rio de Janeiro will also gain international attention.   The architect/engineer has just unveiled his design which will be part of a larger urban design project to transform Rio’s waterfront into a thriving cultural and residential community.

 Inspired by the natural landscape of the country, the two story museum features a cantilevered roof and facade with moving elements.  The museum retains Calatrava’s sleek signature aesthetic as it seems to be moving outward, pushing out into the bay.  The design incorporates a continuous strip of landscape along the southern lenght of the pier adding to the effect of the museum floating on top of the natural setting.

By using interactive exhibits and discussion, it encourages visitors to ponder the planet’s future — something the museum emphasises as a current concern. “The idea of ‘tomorrow’ brings a kind of proximity to the idea,” Barreto says. “The future isn’t far from what we are doing now.”

 Ten years ago this was one of the city’s poorest and most crime-ridden areas. Today it is in the midst of a vast redevelopment that should make it one of the most desirable areas in Rio. The overhead expressway – the Perimetral – has been demolished, new plazas have opened up, the poor have been driven out and the wealthy corporate residents, including Trump Tower developers, are being invited in.


Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the steel structures on the museum’s roof move like wings to capture solar energy. 

To attract them, a new Museum of Art was completed here two years ago. It is impressive, but the Museum of Tomorrow is on another scale altogether.

The main exhibition is almost entirely digital, focusing on ideas rather than objects. Asking questions about where we come from, where we are and where we are heading, it leads visitors along the 200-metre-long hall through displays ranging from the origins of the planet to our possible futures.

The journey is a little trippy, a little hippy, very worthy but almost never dull. The entrance is a “cosmic portal” containing a film co-directed by City of God director Fernando Meirelles that compresses 13.7bn years of geological change and natural evolution into eight minutes of sensory overload projected by nine projectors inside an egg-shaped cinema.

This contrasts with the next three displays, which are more elegant and thoughtful, each housed within a giant cube with commentary in three languages (Portuguese, Spanish and English). The first is an ethereal installation commissioned from US artist Daniel Wurzel that conveys the flux of matter. This is followed by an immersion into biology, DNA and the connectedness of life within and without our bodies. The final cube takes us into the nervous system, human relationships and culture with 1,200 images arranged as pillars of prayer, sensation, relationships, home life and other themes.

Next is the heart of the museum and its message – a Stonehenge-like cluster of 10-metre tall digital totems that literally overwhelm the visitor with data and images about where we are now: the Anthropocene, an era in which mankind has become a geological force. Standing in the centre of these huge screens and loudspeakers is an impressively discomfiting experience. Clips of burning forests, melting glaciers, dense traffic and Brazil’s recent toxic mudslide flash by, along with a real-time counter of global births and deaths, hockey stick graphs of ocean acidification, ozone depletion and greenhouse gas emissions, and the latest figures on consumption of energy, water and beef.

If that is not enough to convince the viewer, a dark and urgent soundtrack booms out as giant letters flash up in three languages: “We have lived on earth for 200,000 years … Since 1950 we have modified the planet more than in our whole existence … We are more … We consume more … More … More … More.”

“We hope people will come out feeling disturbed or inspired but not indifferent,” the curator Alberto Oliveira says. “If they feel pessimistic, it’s not because of us; it’s because of reality … This is all based on the best available science.”


The Museu do Amanha is part of a larger urban design project to transform Rio’s waterfront into a thriving cultural and residential community.

The museum has partnerships with Brazil’s leading universities, global science institutions and collects real-time data on climate and population from space agencies and the United Nations. It has also hired consultants from a range of related fields, including astronauts, social scientists and climate experts.

Projecting current trends 50 years into the future, the next three exhibits in the Tomorrows area feature interactive games that allow visitors to shape different futures. One measures the visitor’s ecological footprint and then calculates how many planets would be needed to support mankind if everyone on Earth had the same standard of living. Another is a collective Sims-type exercise in which four visitors make decisions – on energy sources, finance, land usage – that can enhance or diminish the survival prospects of humanity.

Given its name, many will come to this museum expecting a sci-fi fantasy future of lasers, robots and space travel. They will be disappointed. There is no technology on display.

The lives of coming generations will undoubtedly be influenced by nanotechnology, robotics, droids, artificial intelligence, geoengineering, hive minds, nuclear fusion and other staples of the commercially imagined future. The absence of any substantive exhibitions on these innovations underplays the role that industry will surely continue to have on our society. Yet it also allows for a sharper focus on human behaviour and a vision of the future that is different from those usually presented by wealthy, industrialised countries.


The museum is the most striking example yet of the regeneration and gentrification of Rio’s port district.

The world already has plenty of gadget parks, science labs and electric dreamlands. Some are commercial showcases by corporations like Matsushita or Toyota. Others are state-funded patriotic reminders of the host nation’s history of innovation (London’s Science Museum or Paris’s City of Science and Industry and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry) or commercial showcases of national corporations (Tokyo’s Miraikan)

So it is refreshing to find something different in Brazil, a country that is largely on the receiving end of innovation. Like other emerging economies with huge, fast-urbanising populations, the consequences are often environmental and social pain as much as economic gain. Fittingly, the displays concentrate on ecology more than technology, impact more than innovation.

The beautiful structure was built in the middle of a large green open expanse that includes gardens, bike paths and recreational area. The roof is formed by large flaps that open and close according to the intensity of the sun and serve not only to provide shade but also as bases for the capture of solar energy through photovoltaic panels. The building uses natural resources – for example, water from Guanabara Bay serves for the air conditioning system and is returned to the lake. With this sustainable underlying energy-conscious structure, the museum seeks LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ), awarded by the Green Building Council.

The interiors of the museum pay due homage to the great Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, designer of the country’s capital, Brasilia, and the UN HQ in New York City. Rio’s city administration funded the museum with public money to the tune of $59 million, but already it would appear the money was well spent and that the inexhaustible energy of Brazil has produced yet again a startlingly exciting modern building to house a seemingly contradictory concept – a museum about the future – the ultimate paradox.

Given this outlook, the final exhibit is unsurprisingly not about travel to a galaxy far, far away, but instead a back-to-the-pre-modern-basics appeal for sustainable values. It is a wooden structure based on an indigenous house of knowledge where communities share stories. In the centre is the only physical object in the main hall – an ancient Australian aboriginal tjurunga, which is a symbol of learning, fertility, ritual power and the ability to cope with change. Sensors embedded in the structure around it adjust the lights and sounds in the hall according to the movement of visitors – another reminder of how individuals affect the world around them.

From there, visitors exit via the rear of the building, where the glass walls look out over a “reflecting pool” on to one of the world’s most stunning and complex views – distant mountains, the polluted waters of Guanabara Bay, oil tankers, a warship, a plane flying into Santos Dumont airport, the vast span of Niterói bridge and the higgle-piggle of a city of 6 million people.

In this all-too-real today, the museum’s vision of a better tomorrow feels both anomalous and important.

As with the sustainability agenda as a whole, detractors will argue that the museum is filled with contradictions. It is reliant on sponsorship from conglomerates, such as British Gas, Santander Bank and the Roberto Marinho Foundation (which is part of the huge Globo media group) and it is at the forefront of a development that has forced many poor people from their homes.

But for anyone who believes the biggest challenges facing our species are environmental rather than economic and that the most likely solutions are behavioural rather than technological, Rio’s Museu do Amanhã may come to stand out as one of the most engaged museums in the world.




Additional image sources:

Brazil reveals the Museum of Tomorrow – today


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