For a long time now, I’ve had a fascination with the future. Whether daydreaming real-life predictions or losing myself in speculative fiction, notions of what the future may hold fill me with both hope and dread. In storytelling, we tend to hear a lot about the forthcoming fate of humanity, but there’s more to life than mankind, what about the other species that inhabit our Earth? In Rehousing Technosphere, a six-minute experimental animation from Copenhagen-based Wang & Söderström, we get a premonition of how technology may influence evolution in years to come.
If you’ve never heard of the term Technosphere before, it’s a moniker coined to describe the impact technology, and its evolution, has had on the environment. If you think of the Earth split into subsystems, then the atmosphere refers to all the air, the lithosphere the land, the hydrosphere the water and the biosphere all living things. Which all made sense before the industrial revolution, but now things have changed and so this unfortunate label was born.
Not that you need to understand all that to enjoy Wang & Söderström’s short and Rehousing Technosphere isn’t interested in explaining this all too deeply either. Running throughout the film’s 6-minute duration there’s a sparse expository voiceover, providing some backstory to the on-screen world, but generally this feels like a film more interested in exploring certain topics and concerns than providing a cohesive narrative thread. As the duo explained, when we discussed their aims for creating this piece:
“Rehousing Technosphere posits an expanded idea of home, of care and connection from micro to macro, to shine light on a more integrated, nuanced notion of life and living. If the cocoon of the caddisfly larva, the mound of an ant colony, and the beaver’s lodge are each a creation of creatures who modify their surroundings by design, then the aeroplane, the clock, and the internet are creations that similarly modify our surroundings in turn. From the simplest objects to the most sophisticated in our world, all technology – made by humanity or otherwise – is a part of nature. The ecology of technology, perhaps the most powerful force on our planet, calls for speculative perspectives that revaluate our role as custodians of something infinitely more intricate than ourselves. The film is part of our practice of on-going research into making the digital more human, haptic, and sensual. How we think about technology shapes how we build and use it.”
While thematically Rehousing Technosphere is an absolutely fascinating film to dive into, it’s also a short which works on a purely visual level as well. Playing like an unconventional wildlife documentary, the 3D animation feels both familiar and alien and while certain elements are recognisable, others are strange and surreal. Particular attention has been paid to the textures and lighting to make this world appear believable and although the overall look is far removed from reality, the short does encourage reflection on humanity’s impact on the biosphere and what it will mean for the evolution of wildlife.
For me, this is where Wang & Söderström’s film truly succeeds. It would be easy to write it off as style over substance, but from an ecological perspective it provokes so many real-world questions it really left an impact on me. It’s not the first 3D animation to tackle environmental issues in this fashion – Hybrids and The Beauty both had similar approaches to marine life – but Rehousing Technosphere takes a more lyrical, and less blunt, approach to their message, letting you do some of the work to put the pieces together. And for me, this is always more satisfying.