Watch Blade Runner Black Out 2022 – a Dark Slice of Anime Heaven Scored by Flying Lotus

Dear 2120,

We’re big on fictional dystopias in my time. Maybe this is down to some warped, Freudian impulse or maybe it’s just plain, old human boredom manifesting itself in decadent, thrill-seeking fantasy. In any case, I’m pleased to report that Blade Runner 2049 just got propped-up by Blade Runner Black Out 2022, an Anime short-film made as a prequel to the main event, scored by Flying Lotus with music by the illustrious Kuedo. Watch the whole thing here.

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 13.29.02 pm

With 2049 weighed down by mounting soundtrack complications, this expansive cyberpunk gem directed by Cowboy Bebop creator Shinichiro Watanabe is a breath of fresh, wide-eyed replicant air in the increasingly cynical human media racket surrounding the new Blade Runner movie.

Who knows, Blade Runner 2049 might still be great. But this tight, little short packing deliciously melancholy Anime-noir is kind of amazing. Denis Villeneuve needs to stay at the top his game to keep up with Blade Runner Black Out 2022.

 

Building for 2120: the Pragmatic Utopianism of Bjarke Ingels

Dear 2120,

Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. This is part of the reason, I think, that Bjarke Ingels’s hedonistically sustainable, pragmatically utopian architecture has managed to stay out of Letters to 2120 up until now. On the utopian side of things, he’s undoubtedly a shoe-in. However, as an occupational side-effect of my work with design coming out of KiBiSi (which Bjarke constitutes one third of), I guess I’ve watched the global design media lose their collective shit over the charismatic starchitect and his inspired, information-driven buildings on one occasion too many. It seemed to me that everyone had had their fill of Ingels and then some, so I thought it pertinent to give him a miss. At least until the tidal wave of hype had subsided.

Thing is, though, that I keep coming back to his conceptual ingenuity and unparalleled story-telling ability. It’s inspiring. On more than one occasion I’ve found myself thinking that the man is the personification of the old adman expression ‘lightning in a bottle.’ He’s Don Draper without the alcohol, tortured soul and annoying, forced facial expressions – with an added, disarming infusion of giddy, boyish enthusiasm.

Of all the contemporary cultural moments featured here so far, I’d say that his work probably stands the biggest chance of making it to 2120. Which is down to the simple fact that they’ll have a hard time tearing down all of that robust construction over the course of a century. Even if he’s not your bag, you’ll have to admit that he’s a seriously prolific son of a bitch.

courty

The pyramid-shaped Via 57 West Courtscraper in New York designed by Bjarke Ingels Architects. 

If I were to sum up BIG architecture glibly and superficially, I’d say that it’s the real-world manifestation of all that ingenious, uninhibited free-thinking you did when you were slurping on your homemade bong in the 8th grade – realized on a momentous scale and backed up by some pretty hefty, multinational budgets. Take one look at their sci-fi-inspired, smoke-blowing power plant-turned-skiing slope, and you’ll realize that the stoners have won.

Somewhat inevitably when an organization achieves success on BIG’s scale, there’s been backlashy murmurings here and there, allegations of implementing cheap materials, criticism of gender imbalances at partner level and claims positing Ingels as a ‘shameless self-promoter.’ All of which amounts to critique that would have stopped, stunted and impeded the careers of lesser, more fragile architects.

Bjarke Ingels, on the other hand, just goes ‘Yes is More.’ Which could be loosely translated into: ‘The haters can suck it – let’s get on with the more pressing business of blowing everyone’s mind with trailblazing construction.’

mimami
One of the twisting towers that make up Grove at Grand Bay in Miami, Florida.  

The ‘Yes is More’ maxim has the added benefit of placing BIG, forthrightly and unpretentiously, in a lineage of paradigm-shifting, world-shaking architecture. First there was Mies Van der Rohe’s modernist ‘Less is More’ dictum; then came Robert Venturi’s postmodern antidote in the form of ‘Less is a Bore’; and now there’s BIG and its ‘Yes is More’ manifesto, the deceptively simple yet unequivocally clever, new rallying cry for a new age that’s charmingly zealous, unflinchingly ambitious, empathically intelligent, and genuinely down-to-earth all at the same time. This succession of characteristics is central to BIG’s sensibility, I think, and it translates directly into Bjarke Ingels’s prodigious gift for architectural story-telling:

For me, the true merit of BIG and Bjarke Ingels lies in turning problems into challenges. Instead of approaching the ecological crisis with downcast, puritanical, crypto-protestant eyes as most of us are inclined to do, he turns it into problems that can be solved in a pragmatic way balanced with a utopian mindset. The process of solving it to the best of human ability, in a way that fuels our collective imagination, becomes a gratifying game. A kind of fun obstacle course, which matter-of-factly names and demystifies our fears by compartmentalizing them into decipherable complications that makes the future markedly less unpredictable, volatile and scary in the process.

It’s easy and very human to succumb to the notion that we have to pay for our sins and make sacrifices for our ignorance and inadequacies. For all our gung-ho secularism, the narrative of redemption still runs deep in our supposedly post-religious veins. As a dubious consequence, never has guilt-tripping the public into buying a bunch of self-righteous, hokey products they don’t really want or need been so easy. But what if it doesn’t have to be that way? What if we don’t have to kiss modernity and technology goodbye as a means of appeasing our new secular God, the vengeful Mother Earth? What if we don’t have to wear crap sandals and go vegan to have a decent future? What if we can judo-trip the the multitude of problems we face, not only solving them in process, but slapping them around a bit to make their pressing energy work to our advantage? That’s the inviting, seductive question posed by Bjarke Ingels’s ‘Yes is More’ manifesto. And one that he consistently answers in style with uplifting, ‘unremittingly radical’, and downright incredible architecture.

hyperloop

BIG design for the Dubai Hyperloop high-speed transportation system.

My money’s firmly on this guy’s legacy being around in 2120. With a little bit of luck, you guys will eat the synthetic dust of my great-great-grandchild who’s puffing away on her space-age bong while casually skiing away from a giant smoke ring that lights up the Copenhagen horizon.

 

Special Request’s ‘Brainstorm’ is the Perfect Soundtrack for Fighting off White Walkers with a Flaming Sword

Dear 2120,

One of my main worries about this extremely one-sided correspondence is that you’ll have no idea what the hell I’m talking about. To that end, I’ve decided to merge a contemporary, cultural phenomenon known as Game of Thrones with Special Request’s latest junglist piano house banger in the attempt to accurately convey how music can make people feel about things in 2017.

Screen Shot 2017-08-23 at 10.30.56 am

Picture the scene: you’ve been walking for ages in an unforgiving winter wasteland with only the obstinate, smart-alecky interjections of a hideously scarred, smelly sociopath called The Hound to keep you company. The quest: acquire a hissing, undead corpse for the Dragon Queen. It’s the only way she’ll ever believe there’s an army of White Walkers coming to kill life itself. Things go awry at some point and you end up in the middle of a frozen lake surrounded by a vast phalanx of hungry zombies in various stages of rot and decay. The Hound is a belligerent fuckhead, so he throws rocks at your enemy, which ends up setting everything in motion, including the patch-eyed, Lord of Light servant’s flaming sword.

Enter Special Request’s ‘Brainstorm’:

 

As the undead army approaches, you press play on your medieval/fantasy soundsystem to get pumped for battling the Night King’s army of skeletal reprobates with your boss weapon forged from newly excavated dragonstone.

 
gots

The booming kick makes the rocky foundation you’re standing on reverberate with the golden age of rave – and you have to slap some sense into the ginger wildling to keep him from busting trippy, Fiorucci Made me Hardcore/ 90s warehouse moves. The dead-eyed freaks come at you in droves and the Kool Keith sample eggs everyone on. You’re putting up a formidable fight, swords singing and gleaming in the pale winter light, White Walker heads fly left and right. At some point, though, you run out of steam and the Walkers start eating your buddy’s face and pulling people into the lake.

But then. A soaring, HI-NRG piano riff accompanied by slaying diva vocals lights up the sky; the Dragon Queen Khaleesi has arrived on her surly dragon to save your ass and incinerate the enemy. You barely manage to hang on to the scaly beast at it leaves and in your mind’s eye you can’t help but notice how Paul Woolford’s hardcore barnstormer of a track makes the perfect soundtrack for fighting off White Walker’s with a flaming sword.

If you’re a connoisseur of popular culture in the 2010s, this will all make perfect sense. If you’re not, I suggest you start reading up on things. Some people have given up on GOT here. They don’t know what they’re missing.

‘Brainstorm’ by Special Request is out now on Houndstooth

The Trailer for ‘Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams’ has Landed

Dear 2120,

I can’t speak to the newsworthiness of this in relation to people living a hundred years from now. All I know is that few sci-fi writers have managed to mess so masterfully with my head as Philip K. Dick, which makes the appearance of a trailer promoting a TV show based on a range of the volatile writer’s short stories something of an event here in my present. When the space head who dreamt up shadowy, literary masterpieces like ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ gets his small screen debut, you can’t not post about it. At least not if you’re a nerd like me.

The trailer isn’t exactly mind-blowing, and it looks like they might have borrowed a little too heavily from Black Mirror, but I’ll reserve final judgment for when ‘Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams’ lands in my digital entertainment system.

Afrofuturist Writer Octavia Butler Predicted the Rise of Trump in 1998

Dear 2120,

Grasping the bigger, more significant perspectives of your era can sometimes be a challenge when all you have at your disposal is the sluggish, old human sensory apparatus. Our 2017 brains have limited processing capabilities, which makes it difficult to comprehend and analyze the total sum of everything that goes on around us. When you’re caught in the hurricane of all these overwhelming, hectic impulses and impressions, your memory is compromised and your ability to make connections between cultural, technological and political events is stretched beyond its means like a cheap balloon enlarged by the ruddy cheeks of an overzealous 7-year-old.

However, some people, particularly certain science-fiction writers, are blessed with the ability to make those connections, enabling them to process the relevant information of the present and make startlingly accurate predictions about the future. Cases in point are George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four“, Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and, as it was just highlighted in the New Yorker yesterday, Octavia Butler’s 1998 novel ‘Parable of the Talents.’

octavia_butler

I have to admit that I’d never heard of Butler (despite Queen Beyoncé mining Octavia for inspiration on her latest album), but that’s an oversight I intend to rectify posthaste. As Abby Aguirre puts it:

‘In the ongoing contest over which dystopian classic is most applicable to our time, Octavia Butler’s “Parable” books may be unmatched.’

Lately, with the rise of Trump, people have been falling over themselves in the quest to name the classic dystopian book that most aptly describes the present ‘Trumpified’ moment. Orwell’s media-controlled totalitarianism and Huxley’s culture held captive by trivial hedonism are inevitable science-fictional touchstones, but maybe Octavia Butler’s ‘prescient vision of a zealot elected to make America great again’ (actual words) is the novel that got it right. In ‘Parable of the Talents’:

The Donner Administration has written off science, but a more immediate threat lurks: a violent movement is being whipped up by a new Presidential candidate, Andrew Steele Jarret, a Texas senator and religious zealot who is running on a platform to “make American great again.’

In 2120, you might be asking yourself why we’re not doing anything if some people can see the train hurtling at us at breakneck speed. I can only say: good question. At the moment, a lot of people don’t really seem to care what smart novelists have to say.

Monday Music: Bullion’s Blue Pedro

Dear 2120,

Thought I’d share a newish track with you. I can’t decide if it’s really stupid or really great or an interesting mix of the two – which might be what makes it really great, to be honest. It’s been a while since I’ve heard news from Bullion, and Blue Pedro is an interesting proposition to say the least. Regardless of what you think of the music, I can’t help thinking that making a track, which sounds like the next Hobbit movie (in which Gandalf and Bilbo throw caution to the wind, venturing out to sea for a rowdy knees-up with their jolly dwarf brethren) is a pretty ballsy move. After more than half a decade of moody techno ruling the airwaves, this shines a joyful little light on my Monday. Have a listen:

 

Maybe it’s just the jam you need to set your Mars-based graduation party on fire?

Designing for 2120: An Interview with Lars Holme Larsen

Dear 2120,

Permit me, if you will, to intervene in your daily routine, which might involve managing an army of problem-solving artificial intelligence serfs utilizing vast amounts of accumulated data in the efforts to overcome the many challenges thrust upon you by us, your cerebrally impaired ancestors. That is, if the futurist predictions of my next interviewee turn out to be true.

larsenlarsen

Lars Holme Larsen.

On that note, I’d like to introduce you to my former employer and one of 2017’s very best designers: the award-winning Lars Holme Larsen, former Head of Design at KiBiSi and the current Founding Head of Design at Kilo. Other than being a world-class creative responsible for products like AIAIAI’s prize-winning TMA-2 Modular headphones, Carlsberg’s biodegradable Green Fiber Bottle and a diverse range of other bold, aesthetically sustainable design, Lars is also a very reflective man who spends a lot of time anticipating what the future might bring and how to go about meeting the inevitable challenges. You can probably guess why I’d like to talk to this guy.

A proud father of three, he has vested interests in creating a future where the next generation can grow up without having to navigate a gnarly, sci-fi-dystopian scenario. This has made Lars steer his design company, Kilo, in a socially responsible direction that could have lasting, positive impact on our resource-depleting consumption through forward-thinking, design-driven innovation.

Other than that, Lars’s products have this rad, iconic and timeless character to them. An innate, archetypal quality that comes with labouring incessantly over them and tweaking every little detail for a vast number of hours. This makes them look like they could last for the next 1000 years and survive several apocalypses. I mean, look at them:

Aiaiai_TMA2_Preset_03

AIAIAI’s TMA-2 Modular Headphones.

Oblong_02 (1)

Bulbul’s Oblong watch. 

Aiaiai_Packaging_01_v2_72dpi

The packaging for the TMA-2 Modular headphone system.

LampThe Bend lamp. 

Despite his somewhat grave concerns for the future, talking to Lars actually makes me feel sort of hopeful. Like everything’s gonna be alright. If it all goes according to the Kilo plan, at least, I’d say his game-changing take on idea- and solution-driven design will have positive repercussions that you should be able to feel all the way up to 2120.

Could you start out by introducing yourself and your design philosophy to our future readers? One thing that’s stuck with me is your concept of aesthetic sustainability.

Aesthetic sustainability is actually a philosophy that grew out of the Danish design tradition. It’s about creating a product with a certain aesthetic and quality that we perceive as appealing. We can see it as a part of our daily lives; today, tomorrow, in 5 years and in 10 years. That’s how the concept of the ‘classic’ came to be. A certain level of quality is required to survive. Or that you can update, make repairs, reupholster it and so on. I’m pretty taken with that product cycle. Designing the product that’s needed, as opposed to just designing a product. The one that you max out on all parameters, making it the best that you can get or the standard in its category.t was easier to design an aesthetically sustainable chair in the 50s because of the simple fact there weren’t that many different chairs then. Today, it’s been varied to a degree where there’s an overwhelming abundance of stuff, and you probably don’t need that many new chairs. Unless you can design a better chair.

scoop-3

The Scoop chair from +Halle designed by KiBiSi.

Generally, the biggest challenge right now is the speed with which we consume. There was a time when we would get a leather jacket and a pair of jeans, and we never really had to replace them. At some point, people started going: ‘Hey, we can sell that stuff.’ That’s when you started having two fashion seasons. Then there were four seasons. And now you get the feeling that they launch something new every week. For me, that’s one of the biggest ‘stealers.’ The way we’ve taught humanity to consume. Because we’re slowly but surely digging our own grave. I come from that cycle, but I’ve tried to take Kilo into a different direction, which means that we say no to a lot of clients and invest more in products and companies that can make a difference in the world.

Carlsberg_GFB_02At step in the right direction: Designed by Kilo and made from sustainably sourced wood fiber, Carlsberg’s new Green Fiber Bottle creates 0% waste. 

So time in a crucial factor in all this? The speed of consumption is the biggest challenge in creating sustainable design?

Yes, because the cycle is accelerating. You can interrupt it in two ways; either the consumer does it, meaning that they have to refuse to consume at the current speed. The other way is for companies to find a way of slowing down the rate and still make money. The thing is that there are commercial interests invested in the contemporary cycle of consumption. If we don’t buy all the shit they throw at us it stops. But maybe it isn’t a case of one or the other, maybe it’s a case of both. Consumers should be aware of the resources that we’re sitting on, and the way we manage it. The problem is that we all want what new and what’s fresh. But do we really have to have a new phone every year?Producing these kinds of products leaves a relatively large footprint. When I look at what’s going on at the moment, I feel fortunate that I’ve been born in a good place on this planet. With good fortune, comes responsibility. And when you’re sitting on the resources, it’s only fair that you carry a bigger share of the burden and give back.

 

‘..maybe AI is actually what might save us. For example, discovering the cure for cancer is within foreseeable reach. The scientific process is accelerating, and if we get much better and effective at treating the accumulated data through AI, who’s to say that we can’t solve similar problems within a year – instead of, say, 10 or 20 years?’

 

Looking at recent development in a positive light, maybe AI is actually what might save us. For example, discovering the cure for cancer is within foreseeable reach. The scientific process is accelerating, and if we get much better and effective at treating the accumulated data through AI, who’s to say that we can’t solve similar problems within a year – instead of, say, 10 or 20 years? But ultimately, this also creates a huge problem if people don’t leave Earth. We’re 7 billion people now and we’ve fucked it up. If that number keeps on rising at the same pace without the corresponding number the other way, you’re looking at insurmountable, fundamental challenges relating to how we live. All of this makes 2120 an interesting concept. I’m basically what you could call a decent person. I don’t get a kick out of cheating, I don’t think it’s cool to trash things. I believe in working in a conscientious way with what you’ve been given within the existing framework. And I have to live with how I work, which means that certain things probably take longer – and they don’t become extreme since it’s all placed in the middle somewhere to make all the ends meet.

Is being a decent person something you think will still be relevant in 2120? Are you an optimist as far as that stuff in concerned?

A quick glance at the world would seem to suggest that values are slipping. But I believe in love as a fundamental value that ties people together. Part of this is being inclusive and getting close to other people. This is my reservation about social media; it makes you think that you’re close to other people, it makes you think that people love you – but you can be damn sure that most of them don’t.

 

‘When I design I want to create the standard by which all other designs are met. I’d like to create icons that live forever. Then again, it’s hard to say what the future brings. It’s essentially a dream.’

 

Tell me about the thoughts behind AIAIAI’s TMA-2 Modular?

The TMA-1 which we designed in 2009 has now been transformed into TMA-2 Modular. Working from a circular approach, we’re meeting the consumer in a way which was totally new at the outset. It’s essentially about getting the user to buy into the product by constructing their own, unique headphone from a range of components. This flexibility creates less waste since we don’t have to go keep coming out with entire headphones in a steady succession. We can just introduce new parts and components. This means that consumers don’t have to throw an entire product on the scrap heap, they can just upgrade, making it a concept that’s much less harmful to the environment while simultaneously being better for the bottom line.

Modular_01

To me, that’s an ingenious way of securing the product’s relevance for the future – by making environmental concerns and business interests coalesce.

Yes, to a certain degree. But when we’re all running around with an implant in our jaw, we’ll probably be looking back and saying: ’Hey man, do you remember that time when we all rocked headphones?’ By which I mean to say that this concept also has a lifespan that stops if we look further ahead. But you have to play the cards you’re dealt within your given framework. For us, this has been a way of creating an innovative solution that’s good for business while being socially conscious.

novelist2

Grime rapper, Novelist, rocking the TMA-2 Modular headphones in his London studio. 

And it’s not just about headphones. This can apply to other industries as well. Maybe it’s not that smart to just make something out of straw, you know? You have to design products that meet the market. But this is about how we conceive systems around consumption. I personally think it’s a good idea, plain and simple. Designing is about sampling different bits of culture, and I think it works when these bits come together in the right way. That’s when you get products that stand the test of time, like the TMA-1 headphone. It’s a powerful link between different bits that doesn’t go away. Ticking off all these different boxes that creates the good idea, is what it’s about for me. When I design I want to create the standard by which all other designs are met. I’d like to create icons that live forever. Then again, it’s hard to say what the future brings. It’s essentially a dream.

 

‘Nothing we make is ever 100% perfect. Reality sucks.’

 

But you have still have the ambition, right?

Of course. When we’re in the studio, we set the bar high and we go for creating unparalleled design. Still, nothing we make is ever 100% perfect. Reality sucks. There are so many parameters you have to contend with. The end result of the design process is the best you can possibly get – within the context existing at the time. If we talk about design in 2120, I don’t think TMA-2 Modular will still be around. But I think it’s in a museum somewhere. TMA-1 is at SFMOMA in their permanent design collection and I hope that the way in which TMA-2 Modular is conceived might have some kind of place in history.

sfmomis

AIAIAI’s TMA-1 at SFMOMA

Which of your products do you think stands the biggest chance of making it to 2120?

Assuming we haven’t trashed the planet completely, it’s… This is going to sound lame, but the best design I’ve made are my kids. If we include them in the design category, I can tell you that they’re much more work (laughs). With respect to my other designs, I hope that some of the products we created have helped spur positive developments. In terms of relevance and the future, we’ve just designed a product called Woobi, which is an anti-pollution mask for children.

woobi

Designing for the next gen: designed by Kilo, the Woobi Play anti-pollution mask for children filters at least 95% of dangerous airborne particulate matter. 

If we can say one thing for certain, it’s that we’re not going to get less pollution in the coming years. So that might still be around since it’s made for the next generation. Woobi is part of a general shift in our strategy, which is to stop the design of superfluous products and start to react to a rapidly changing world with appropriate products. Obviously, changing things is not going to happen from one day until the next. Considering the fashion industry and its all-consuming need for newness, behavioral change is a slow, incremental process.

Going back to artificial intelligence, is that something you could see yourself being a design partner on?

Possibly. I think that the human brain can only invent and design so much during its lifetime. If we’re to survive as a species, I don’t think it’s the human brain that will answer the pressing questions related to overcoming the daunting challenges. That will likely be facilitated by AI. The fact that you can crunch accumulated data and work at a rate, which is out of the range of human capacity presents undeniable advantages. In the efforts to fix problems that we created, but are unable to fix, I think artificial intelligence might be a significant factor.

 

‘I think design in the future will be used as a tool to solve problems and overcome challenges for humanity.’

 

This is a hard question, but what do you think good design will look like in a hundred years?

First of all, the aesthetic notion, the concept of beauty, which we currently operate with is firmly placed at the top of the Hierarchy of Needs. It’s only relevant in a world where we don’t really have any challenges. I think design in the future will be used as a tool to solve problems and overcome challenges for humanity. Going forward, our obsession with how we look and what kind of clothes we wear will be completely irrelevant.

At some point in my career it became extremely important to me to not be one of those designers that just added to the consumption party. Saying no to certain things comes with the territory when you think in those terms. I’m not an artist. I don’t have a need to create just for the sake of it. I do, however, want to take part in making things better by creating solutions for the ambitious clients that we work with.

That sounds like it might be the future of design.

I sure hope so. It might not be the easiest way to make money, but if I can balance these elements in way, so that I can make decent living for my family, and take part in creating a better world, I’m happy. In my heart of hearts I believe there’s a universality that can last into the future, and I think it’s based on creating essential solutions instead of just random solutions.

marceldett

Berghain-resident DJ, Marcel Dettmann, using the TMA-2 headphones. 

I am not an artist, I see my job more as a midwife helping the design to evolve. We only add the ingredients needed – no more, no less. I’d rather clean out and find the fundamental substance. You have to work at this. When you’ve invested enough love and hours into a given product, it starts to take on a universal and iconic character that straight-up minimalism just doesn’t have. That’s the goal; to establish that universality. An example of this is the Green Fiber Bottle we designed for Carlsberg, which is 100% biodegradable and has the potential to create lasting change by way of its circular concept. To me that has universal relevance.

Any last remarks for our readers in 2120?

In 2017, we’re at a point where things are so fucked that it can’t be about me or you – it’s about us. There’s something very wrong about the richest 1% of the world population owning the same as the 99 % remaining. Creativity has to be focused on improving lives for all of us. We need multinational companies who are interested in creating a better future, and getting consumers interested in changing things.

This interview was translated from Danish into English. Keep up with Lars’s prescient design solutions over at: www.kilodesign.dk