14 January 2023Welcome to the Californian symbiocene
A beautiful and stricking signal of the Symbiocene movement is the book Second Nature, work by photographers Işık Kaya & Thomas Georg Blank. Their images focus on cell tower trees that became part of the Southern California landscape. These camouflaged communication and surveillance infrastructures can be described as a “societal preference for ‘fake’ aesthetics over ‘ugly’ reality”.
With the uprise of mobile devices, the infrastructural needs of the telecommunication industry have exploded, and since the 1980s, cell towers have started to fill the planet. The scenery changed dramatically when an antenna was transformed into an artificial tree for the first time in 1992. Since then, this kind of camouflage has evolved into a global phenomenon that raises fundamental questions about the relationship between humans and nature.
There is no reliable data on how many of these “trees” now exist, but in 2013, the industry estimated 1000 to 2000 in the US. During our research in 2020, the team found more than 1000 in Southern California alone. While they can be found all over the world, their numbers are particularly high in California. It does not seem like a coincidence that this kind of artificial flora flourishes in close proximity to the hyperreal spectacles of Disneyland and Hollywood.The images from the series focus on the camouflaged communication and surveillance infrastructures that have become part of the California landscape and are photographed exclusively at night.
Maybe these are early signs of the upcoming “symbiocene” that will be characterised by symbiocentric human intelligence that replicates, in all aspects of social life, the symbiotic and mutually reinforcing, life-reproducing forms and processes found in all living systems. The symbiocene will be that period in Earth’s history where humans symbiotically reintegrate themselves, emotionally, psychologically and technologically, into nature and natural systems.
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