It’s the middle of the night in the San Andreas mountains and a deer is wandering through the undergrowth. The crickets are really loud, sometimes an owl hoots, and traffic can be heard in the distance beyond the regular clip-clop of hooves. The animal heads downhill towards a cluster of houses, gallops through a courtyard and runs out onto a highway where it’s narrowly missed by a speeding car. For a while it wanders slowly down the middle of the road as vehicles slow to a stop to let it pass until eventually, inevitably, it’s hit by a truck. But count to three and it’s upright again, unharmed, and trotting down the verge once more.
You’re watching a deer cam with a difference. Animal cams are generally popular because they let us watch creatures in the wild and from a safe distance, a reality TV for birds, bears, and numerous other species. But the San Andreas Deer Cam is being live streamed direct not from a forest or a woodland clearing, but from a video game. Artist Brent Watanabe has programmed the animal directly into Grand Theft Auto V, and you can watch it live on Twitch TV. Needless to say, in that kind of environment it frequently gets shot or hit by a car, but since it’s indestructible it just pops up again and keeps on running. It’s not completely immortal, however, because the project is due to end on April 20th 2016.
Watanabe explains that the San Andreas Deer Cam is a live video stream from a computer running a hacked modded version of Grand Theft Auto V. The mod creates a deer and follows it as it wanders throughout the 100 square miles of San Andreas, a fictional state in GTA V based on California. The deer has been programmed to control itself and make its own decisions, with no one actually playing the video game. The deer is ‘playing itself’, with all activity unscripted… and unexpected. If you donate money to the Deer Cam, it goes directly to The Humane Society. Find out more at his website and make sure you see it before the closing date.
A while ago I reported on the Room with a View scheme at Dorset County Hospital. It feeds live images of the countryside to large LCD screens in isolation rooms used for immuno-compromised patients with leukaemia and other blood cancers. During those terrible nights when a seriously ill patient lies awake in pain, or is afraid and cannot sleep, they can at least look forward to the arrival of the sun.
The new project has been inspired by the concept of technobiophilia – ‘the innate attraction to life and lifelike processes as they appear in technology’ – to develop new ways in which mediated nature can be applied to medical science.
The organisers are seeking content for the new channel and would love to hear from any artists interested in showing their work this way. Please contact email@example.com for more details.
It’s interesting how family relationships evolve. I am the eldest of three kids. I was quite the loner in the family but my brother and sister were very close and shared a lot of interests, like fishing and messing about outdoors. I preferred to stay in my bedroom and read. This picture shows a typical family outing: that’s my brother Steve in the foreground, he’ll be trying to spot fish in the river. Next to him is Carolyn Black – she looks like she’s grubbing around for insects or whatever. And in the background is me, bored stiff and gazing in desperation at the photographer (Dad, no doubt), and probably moaning ‘can we go home now?’.
Some evenings the whole family would sit together in front of our tiny TV watching those marvels of early nature programming – Hans and Lotte Hass, Armand and Michaela Denis, Jacques Cousteau, and David Attenborough of course. But me, I hated those programmes. Even though they were in black and white, in my eyes every single one was stained with blood as one species relentlessly hunted and devoured another. I could not see how this was suitable family entertainment. Of course looking back now, I realise these programmes were huge technical achievements which shared the natural world in ways that had never been done before, but at the time they just felt plain wrong, not to say deadly boring, and they only served to reinforce my status as a family outsider who had absolutely nothing in common with the rest of them.
The years passed. As we grew up, my sister Carolyn and I had virtually nothing to say to each other. She was 5 years younger and we attended different schools. I do remember a brief interaction around 1966 when I was 15 and she was 10 when I advised her to give up Sunday School and embrace Communism instead. This she duly did (temporarily anyway). As a result, I was severely reprimanded for my act of cultural and family sabotage, and perhaps that put us off talking to each other for another decade or so.
We both married and each had two kids, but we lived a hundred miles apart and seldom saw each other. Then things started to change. I got divorced, and discovered that she was always there for us no matter what the difficulties. As we spent more time together we started to get to know each other in different contexts but culturally we remained very different. She lived in the countryside and still grubbed around in the long grass, except by then she was making art from what she found. I lived in the city, and I still stayed at home reading books and (by then) playing with computers, except that I was writing books about what I found.
However in recent years our professional and artistic interests have gradually started to grow together. Always an artist and maker, she began applying those sensibilities to curating and managing large outdoor public art projects, often with a technological slant – she taught herself html and made websites, for example. For several years she worked with the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail, then in 2012 she managed ExLab, a large Dorset-based public art project, before setting up her own business Flow Contemporary Arts which partners with other organisations to provide encounters with art in unusual places.
At the same time that Carolyn’s outdoor art projects were opening new conceptual territories I was busy writing Technobiophilia, and our conversations about nature and technology converged more and more until I decided to ask if she would consider creating some chapter plates for the book. I wanted the design to have some natural texture and I thought that images drawn from her knowledge of both art and technology would be perfect signifiers for my writing. After all, during the eight long years it took me to research and write Technobiophilia, she was the main person I discussed it with, and it was certainly influenced by her insights. I wasn’t sure if she’d agree, though, and I probably wasn’t sure if we could collaborate in that kind of way. After all, sisters always have their own agendas! Plus, she’s very busy, and creating 6 images which complement a long and very transdisciplinary book is not an easy job. But I’m pleased to say that she promised to help. Her account of how she made the images can be read on her blog Chapter-plates for Technobiophilia, drawn by me. A fascinating mission of mind-bending & re-thinking image making, and I recommend it as an intriguing account of the creative process in action. Since completing the chapter plates she’s also helped me by taking a set of publicity photos. Over the years I’ve had pretty uncomfortable experiences with photographers, but I don’t mind making a fool of myself by lying down in a damp bluebell wood if it’s only my sister behind the lens.
The chapter plates are in black and white, which somehow links us back to that old photo of the three of us together and to those grainy TV nature programmes which divided us. I like that synergy.
And our brother? Sadly, I see much less of him than I might. He lives a long way away now and has a very different life, but he still goes fishing.