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The Hall of Machines was an important element of the first World Expo’s. In the nineteenth century, this was where the newest forms of mechanisation were shown to the public. Almost a century and a half later, Het Nieuwe Instituut  presents a sequel with the speculative exhibition Garden of Machines.

Over time, the latest technology has decreased in size, and has sometimes even vanished from sight altogether with the advent of digital production. A stark contrast to the massive, imposing machines that characterised the industrial revolution. Rather than presenting an array of awe-inspiring machines, Garden of Machines stages the technological promise, with as underlying leitmotiv a new, optimistic story of progress for the twenty-first century.

The Anthropocene

This story takes place against the background of the Anthropocene. This new phase in the history of the earth is considered by many as the result of the rapid development of technology, whereby humankind succeeds in increasingly shaping and controlling the world, turning us into the driving force behind geological and biological change. But what if that technological development no longer just served humankind at the expense of nature, but actually benefited both? To what new types of ecological cohesion will the interaction between machines, animals, plants and people lead?

Technology and ecology

Developments in robotics, in the Internet of Things, in sensor and monitoring systems, in data analysis and in energy generation are increasingly enabling technology to function as a constructive component of ecology. Machines are getting smarter, learning to perceive their surroundings and adapt their behaviour. Garden of Machines proposes a number of scenarios for ways in which technological and organic beings can evolve further within new ecosystems.

Garden of Machines

What theatre design duo Wikke van Houwelingen and Roel Huisman have conjured up in the Garden of Machines exhibition is a series of environments that look to the future but at the same time appear very familiar – the forest, the kitchen, the motorway – in which people, animals and plants all benefit from the latest technologies. These various environments – in which humankind occupies a less central position than is customary – are based on recent research and existing technological developments and products. Organic and technological beings form a new, semi-artificial ecology in which machines learn from plants, and animals communicate with one another through the Internet. The smallest environment in the exhibition is located beneath the human skin, where nanobots work with bacteria to protect humans from illness. The largest system is the Internet itself, which scans the entire globe, not only connecting people to one another but also enabling objects, plants and animals to exchange information.

18/04 – 23/08/2015

Het Nieuwe Instituut
Museumpark 25

Garden of Machines
Klaas Kuitenbrouwer
Wikke van Houwelingen, Roel Huisman
Rudy Guedj
Florentijn Boddendijk and Remco de Jong
Sedumworld BV, Dykstra Naval Architects, Nationaal Medisch Museum, VU Medisch Centrum, Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam, Mediamatic, Florastore BV, Carolien Slottje, TU Delft, Vogelbescherming Nederland

This project is part of the programme track Annual themes and the folder World Expo.

The exhibition GLASS does not only show the evolution of the oldest man-made material, but also how glass has been an engine of progress for centuries.