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(Un)natural Phenomena – Daria Jelonek’s Technological Nature

When you think of a rainbow, it’s something you expect to see stretching across the sky rather than in your apartment, arcing out of your phone. In media artist and designer Daria Jelonek’s recent project Technological Nature, several natural light phenomena are separated from the more familiar outdoor contexts where we’d normally encounter them, and instead rendered in an indoor context with everyday materials and devices such as phones, light bulbs, and mirrors. After spending six months living with rainbow and aurora machines, a dawn simulator alarm clock, and other devices that recreate natural light phenomena, Jelonek decided to make these technologies redundant and recreate their desired effects herself. In a video documenting some of her experiments, we see auroras hovering over a radiator and billowing out of a fridge, rainbows in closets and shooting out of phones, and the brilliance of the sun reflected in a bathroom mirror.

The cinematography is eerily sterile and the only warmth in the piece comes from field recordings of birdcalls and rainfall that starkly juxtapose the score of noise, feedback, and machine hum. More than anything though, Technological Nature sounds empty – didactically devoid of life – save Siri’s signature tones that bookmark the beginning and end of the short. In Jelonek’s words, the project starts a conversation about our ever-evolving estrangement from nature:

…recent research suggests that you don’t need special machines to recreate nature, especially since our everyday objects are also able to create light phenomenas if the conditions are right … This ongoing art research project is a starting point for discussion about how humans will live with the increasing amount of technology and the degradation of biophysical nature. Can nature and technology be viewed in a different way in times of AI, machine learning and ubiquitous algorithms?

Technological Nature was created using Created using After Effects, Cinema4D, and Houdini; the project was produced as part of Jelonek’s Information Experience Design coursework at RCA. If you’re interested, be sure to check out its other manifestations as a WebVR experience and an accompanying installation.

Project Page | Daria Jelonek