Rotterdam Studio Abroad: Smart Countrysides

The 2016 Spring Rotterdam Study Abroad Studio will be a collaborative effort with Niklas Maak and Sebastien Marot exploring new forms of research and engagement with the countryside. The studio will explore the countryside’s political form, its potentials as a new space for testing the implication of tech and data-driven innovation, analyze the effects of our increasing absence on off-the-radar developments, while simultaneously facilitating a space for mental release, forging new social neo-rural coalitions which could develop and counter the typical lamenting of its losses. The studio will develop a set of specific research projects and theories connected to the countryside by looking at technology, big data, migration, culture and design. The outcome of the studio can include written and visual essays, explorative design proposals, a framework for an exhibition, etc. etc. and will be developed with the participants in the course of the studio. The studio aims to develop a new speculative research toolkit rooted in anthropology, humanities, data sciences and design which includes observational fieldwork, data-mining, archive research and conceptual design and master planning. The aim is to do part of the research through active engagement with companies connected to the countryside.

Smart Countryside
The countryside is the first area which has automated all faculties of our primitive origins and through robotics and tablets successfully lifted man’s damnation committing him to labor his land: it is the breeding ground of dramatic robotisation and new genetically enhanced species declared through a brutal dictionary of modernity: Enviropig, Discovery, Galactor, Robocrop, iHerd, Agrocommand, Darwin, Weed ID, Solid State Fermentation, etc. It is the area where through a combination of technological and genetic engineering will create sustainable organic agriculture to secure our most immediate needs by proxy.

As the digital economy takes refuge in the countryside it increasingly houses its proxy too: it exploits its age-old sense of demise and desperation for opportunistic tax-break based distribution, data warehousing and energy through enormous scale-less hyper-Cartesian architecture, serving the increasing whimsicality of the city. As such it remains as a terrain of heavy economic, physically storing and controlling our most intimate moments and vital needs, while through our increasingly out of the spotlights of legal entities, becoming the perfect platform for off-the-radar experimentation.

New Rustic Countryside
A space coexisting with its complete opposite: its inhabitation increasingly consisting of the noncommittal presence of urbanites in perpetual flow. The space of collective mourning on the death of its culture, its nature, its values. New neo-rural occupants virtuously committed to low-density or no-density, accept it as a refuge for our new spiritual engagements to acting local, driving to second homes hungry for that not found in the city: darkness, isolation, authenticity, the ultimate Kantian sublime ‘back-to-basic’. An existential need for a counterbalance, a space for mental release, for testing and releasing of senses apparently obstructed in urban life. Its backwardness, used as a platform for a global mystification and validation of our supposed origins. Life as wellness. A world increasingly off our radar because of a physical and mental absence while we are in recovery mode – therefore giving immense freedoms to ‘those left’. It could also be considered a new collective space to start from scratch again, specifically to newcomers who fled other worlds.