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Judith van der Elst

At 2017’s CLICK Seminar, the main issue to be discussed was these Quirky Ecologies that we are, and that we are only slowly becoming aware of. In this interview Judith van der Elst talks about the theme she was doing a keynote on at the seminar; ‘Machine Wilderness’.

Technological development has introduced novel signals in our environments that impact other than human signal space in ways that we are today only beginning to understand. Signs in the auditory sphere are characterized in that each species occupies a specific frequency range at a specific time, thereby allowing the signal to be transmitted without interference. Unknowingly, humans have impacted this configuration through the introduction of industrial sounds. It is not unlikely that such configurations are in place in different modalities – within and outside the human sensing range. Yet, in our efforts to understand these multimodal processes, we enter and colonize these in-between places with potential unintended consequences.


Each organism on Earth is equipped with a set of sensing organs, uniquely attuned to its specific environment. If we consider the senses the primary source of knowledge, the collective of sensory stimuli or signals that can be sensed by organisms constitutes the limit of knowledge of the world. Communication between species can occur in the regions of sensory overlap, in semiospheres central to the concept of biosemiotics.


The Machine Wilderness project reimagines the role of technology in living landscapes, through in situ prototyping of ecological robotics and hybrid systems. Through collaboration across the arts, geosciences and land-based practices, it builds a novel spatial framework within which innovative crossover practice can take on new meaning. Deviating from the traditional view of modern science, Machine Wilderness emphasizes that knowledge is rooted in embodied learning, whereby a myriad of sense stimuli underpin cultural specific ontologies in different multimodal configurations.



The Outside - the quirkiness of these days

Interview: Jens Hauser, Denmark 2017
Camera: Elisabetta Saiu
Editing: Elisabetta Saiu
Production: Barbara Scherfig
Copyright: Kulturværftet/CLICK Festival 2017


Interview. 16:17 min.