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Scary Beautiful: The Future and Human Kinetics

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Thinking about and prototyping the future often means pushing out boundaries and subverting expectations. It means rejecting and reinventing expected models, forms and interactions. And the momentum of the future finds expression in so many different ways. Often in big, obvious ways, but also in small, subtle, yet unforgettable ones.

For me, one of the most striking, often unintentional, expressions of the future is motion. New things move in new ways, or cause us to move in new ways. Think of the awkward, compelling kinetics of early computer graphics, of Second Life, or of people interacting with new technology. Have you ever walked in a hallway filled with people texting on their phones?

Inevitably, the visceral and the kinetic are secondary, accidental canvases upon which the raw power of new technologies and modes of being find expression. Yet, it’s obvious from the way the human body moves: here is something new.

I came across two videos this week, and together they form a kind of dialectic around human kinetics and the future.

First, this striking video of dancing Japanese robots in which the machines synthesize organic human motion in a mesmerizing fashion:

Second, this equally striking video in which a human model walks across a room in Leanie van der Vyver’s experimental “Scary Beautiful” boots. When you watch this video, don’t focus on the boots themselves; they are exaggerated, inverted high heels. Watch instead the way the model’s body moves as she walks across the floor like a primitive mechanical insect:

Mesmerizing as well, no?

Apparently, the shoes are a reaction by van der Vyver to the obsessive construction of perfection. Here’s a statement from the South African designer:

“Humans are playing God by physically and metaphorically perfecting themselves. Beauty is currently at an all time climax, allowing this project to explore what lies beyond perfection. Scary Beautiful challenges current beauty ideals by inflicting an unexpected new beauty standard.”

And yet, here’s the heart of it: watch the model. Does not that mechanical motion suggest, perhaps even celebrate, a crude robotic kinetics? Yes, the ongoing search for a perfection that is not humanity, but its technological mirror. Not a new beauty standard for humans, but for something else entirely. An awkward, imperfect prototype of the kind of scary mechanical beauty more fully realized in the dancing robot video.

Author: Eric Kingsbury

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