Jonathon Keats’ work is on display at the Same Art Museum, Via NPR
Humans have long looked to animals for design inspiration. From basic camouflage to a quiet bullet train in Japan to the Wright brothers’ wings, the process called biomimicry is a basic tenet of human engineering.
Jonathon Keats has turned it on its head.
The artist and philosopher’s latest exhibit, at the Samek Art Museum at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, is a thought experiment on the selfish ways we humans innovate.
The central question of the works: We steal the animal kingdom’s evolutionary inventions, so why shouldn’t the animal kingdom steal ours?
“What I’ve observed as I’ve researched these inventions is that they’re really great for us, but not necessarily so good for the species that came up with them in the first place,” Keats told NPR Here & Now host Robin Young. “Or more broadly, that our technologies have made the world much more difficult for life on the planet aside from us.”
He didn’t need to create anything new to show the absurdity of human problem-solving — all he had to do was give our technology to animals. The pieces in his exhibit are based on actual problems, and demonstrate solutions that are technically within the realm of possibility.
Take for instance, his “GPS For Birds” model:
The problem is well-documented: Climate change is threatening bird populations because their normal migration patterns now lead them to spots where they no longer can nest safely. Keats’ proposed solution is a sort of drone magnet, which would neutralize a bird’s natural compass and create a new migration pattern that would lead them to a safer place to nest.