Start of Studiolab

 ...and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.

Genesis  8:21 - 9:2 (King James)

I read this reference originally in Year of the Flood and it took me sometime to try and recall where I'd found it. The meaning is one of the easier to divine from the notoriously slippy Christian holy book: After the flood, God outlines the futility of cursing the earth when evil lives in man's heart. He moves on to relent control of the Earth and the harmony of nature to man's control. Man will be able to eat and command any animal, but in return, they will forever live in fear and dread of man.

There's something poignant in here about how man assumes command over animals. It's something that forms a major string for inquiry through my new project with Studiolab that started this week. This passage deals with issues around the naturalistic and moralistic fallacies as well as the 'appeal to nature' all of these ideas deal with rightn-ness or good-ness and it's relationship to what might be considered 'natural.'

Introducing the project, I used the example of parasitic wasps:

The example is a relatively well-known one but the part that I find interesting isn't necessarily the cruelty in nature but the power the wasp and the larvae have over the other creature. Using a virus to re-write its entire nature and enslave it.

This isn't unique to parasitic wasps either. Another example is Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, sometimes known for creating 'Zombie Ants'

Again, it's the element of mind-control - the virus hijacks the ant's brain and makes it climb to around 25cm off the ground where it settles to allow the virus to grow. Also, snail zombification is a similar process but relies on the ingestion of the parasite by a bird.

These are kind of exotic and jungle-based examples but one of the most common hijackers actually effects around 25% of all humans and is based on the cat and mouse relationship in domestic environment: Toxoplasma Gondii

This little guy convinces mice to become fearless so that they seek out open spaces and no longer fear cats. The cat then eats the mouse and the Toxoplasma grows in the cat's gut. Exposure of the mouse to cat poop then infects the mouse again leading to the cycle continuation. There's lots of stuff about it because it's believed to also infect 25-50 per cent of human and potentially be a cause of schizophrenia.

Weeknotes 4

1. Guest Crittin at the AA

2. The Theroux Theory of Yewtree

Max Clifford was arrested as part of the Police's eventual crackdown on decades of sex abuse in the mainstream media: Operation Yewtree.  I think it would be hard to find someone that will lament the man - as he is with all the endearment and charm of typhus - but it has at least sprung up the Theroux theory of Yewtree: That everyone whom Louis Theroux has interviewed will eventually be arrested under Yewtree.

3. Fiscal Cliff / Osbourne

Has The US Gone Off The Fiscal Cliff?  Interesting little website if you've got any remedial interest in the state of the world's economic anchor. The ongoing countdown to a potential (though who really knows) Armageddon. Whether it's good or bad and who exactly will suffer or benefit is also shrouded in an oblique mystery. A cut in deficit sounds good but a new recession and raised unemployment could be bad.

They claim to refresh it every five minutes and I actually really love the idea of this printed wall in someone's office that contains these links. A link between paper and web that I think, probably naively, works better than BERG's Little Printer.

4. New Myspace? 

That's right. Jesus, do we actually even need this? And the song, it's all so earnest. It's like a desperate drunken ex-lover begging for your attention. Is there a donate button somewhere? Emotionally it might be easier than going through with the regrettably Machiavellian re-signup process.

Extinction and The Closed Loop

Megalosaurus Statue, Crystal Palace Park, 1852

Dinosaur bones and fossils have been being unearthed for as long as people have been digging walls. The first Chinese documentation has them put down as the evidence of dragons. A similarity that survives today in conservative Christian thought.  Christian Europe historically documented these creatures as the bones of those who died in the Great Flood.

The first descriptions and scientific papers on what might now recognised to be dinosaurs appeared around the beginning of the 19th century. In 1842 Sir Richard Owen coined the genus Dinosauria to refer to the growing discoveries of unrecognised and inexplicable specimens.

The early age of Dinosaur Mania that followed Sir Richard Owen led to the discovery of hundreds of specimens around the world including Antarctica but the way dinosaurs were thought of then were not how we might recognise our conception now. Obviously the visual interpretation and reconstruction of fossils was often flawed and vaguely humorous by today's standards but the idea that dinosaurs were extinct was simply not even considered.

Even at the end of the Industrial Revolution, paleontologists, anthropologists, biologists and naturalists still supported Plato's idea of the Great Chain of Being - the chain of life flowing from God to the lowest creatures, via Angels and Man. This belief didn't allow for 'spaces' and certainly the idea that God would allow His work to just 'die off' was incomprehensible. The dinosaurs were simply 'somewhere else.' Just take a look at Conan Doyle's Lost World and the plethora of science fiction about the hidden earth in the form of Jules Verne and HG Wells that tell us how the popular conscience suspected that the answers to all the world's unexplained secrets simply lay beyond view.


The hidden world can be taken quite literally. It was around this time, at the turn of the twentieth century that the gaps in the map were beginning to be filled-in. All but the deepest jungles and had been mapped and the community of nations was well established and in full communication. So it's only natural that inquiring minds would look for the Earth's hidden places underground, under the sea, and over the mountains. The industrial revolution and the power of the established empires in Africa and Asia had sated the public imagination with the idea of limitless growth and resources. Few could consider that somehow the earth had limits - that it was once different - that whole species could become extinct and that there was simply nowhere else to go. 

The end, the limited narrative in nature is a difficult idea for civilisation to face. We now approach the end of the Mayan calender with much pomp and lack of real circumstance. The Mayan's calendar didn't cycle when it ended, the world ended. So the solution for the Mayans was to add another, longer calendar on top so that time would continue, and another one on top of that, and another one and so on until the last one which ends in a few days. 

The Mayan calendar is as indicative of the understanding of the limited resource and possibility of civilisation and nature as the unfinished map and the dreamy sci-fi of the early twentieth century is indicative of the industrial civilisation's reluctance to accept it.

Weeknotes 3

1. Identity Land

Droog Lab's are exhibiting Identity Land: Space For A Million Identities at Z33. A great looking project that brings together individual interventions from various designers at dismantling the focus of national identity. There's a newspaper as well as a site where you're invited to submit a square meter of land into a homogenous post-nation nation to be shared by everyone.

In a similar way to Israel's Aircraft Carrier at this year's Bienniale, they have a little shop selling partly satirical toolkits and gifts about Identity Land. It's a real shame that the least accessible stuff is the work itself. As for the projects, there's stuff from a team of mismatched footballers, a mirrored coin, a national anthem (all national anthems simultaneously) an identity-less vehicle and some contradictory opinions.

2. German Pavilion

Every year it seems there is a debate about the future of the German pavilion at the Giardini in Venice. This year the spat over the presence of overtly Nazi architecture in an event ostensibly aimed at international harmony is fired up again. A lot of Germans want to see it taken down and replaced by something more generic. As a friend pointed out to me - Germany doesn't have a unique architectural aesthetic apart from it's Speer period of Nazi roman classicism. The image below shows Hitler visiting the Giardini in 1934 at the opening of the pavilion.

I think the pavilion should stay. Germany did a consummate job of erasing it's Nazi history from it's own city-image after WWII and the pavilion, as it is supposed to, marks an analogical symbol of the ideals of the period and the minds that built the building.

Rather than dwelling on what that meant at the time, perhaps Germany could do some cheery exhibitions in there for a change and try to show how it's progressed and got over its Nazi stigma. 

3. Auger Loizeau - Sublime Gadgets

New exhibition from James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau featuring a couple of things that they've updated but we've seen before like the domestic fly catchers and a couple of new gadgets. It looks great and their clever little gadgets speak volumes about our domestic and consumer drive for useless junk but also connect us to more existential things like the threat of meteor disasters, counting ripple or filming our last ever journey.

It's on in Switzerland though.

4. Unicorns

North Korea announces that it's proved the existence of the Unicorn. Nice one.