Metahaven and Constant
Metahaven is a Dutch design group based in Amsterdam founded by Daniel van Der Velden and Vinca Kruk. They’ve already had many exhibitions including the moMA PS1 in New York and the Museum Of Modern Art in Warsaw. The group released several films and graphic designs focusing on contemporary political and social issues. For instance City Rising (2014); a homage to Constant Nieuwenhuys’s ‘New Babylon’; a utopian architectural project based on the idea of an alternative, fully automated society in which human labour has become unnecessary and individualism is odious. The film is an exploration of the conditions of life, work, and love in neoliberal times where the architectural models of Constant’s ‘New Babylon’ are displayed in the video. This is a general example of what Metahaven deals with. Especially in Metahaven’s latest project called The Sprawl (Propangda About Propaganda), this comes forward.
City Rising: https://vimeo.com/96565633
The Sprawl is a multi-channel video installation, feature-length film and episodic online documentary that considers the “ways in which fantasy can be designed so as to seem or feel like a truth”, as Daniel van der Velden describes and states that the Internet has become a disorganized geopolitical superweapon. Where, for example, funny cat videos distract us from urgent matters and that’s where The Sprawl jumps in; to ask pressing questions about the internet few others dare to ask. Looking at the design; The Sprawl is a paranoid, digital trip in which the form and content keep on influencing each other in combination with futuristic beats and sounds by Kuedo, green screen-manipulations and glitch elements which deliver a chaotic and high pressuring image to the viewer.
All the different parts of The Sprawl, the so called “Shards”, can be found on the website sprawl.space; the interface of the project.
THE SPRAWL (PROPAGANDA ABOUT PROPAGANDA) — Official Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bs7NFbE2NS8
Deeper meanings: The Contemporary Individual
In both Constant’s ‘New Babylon’ and Metahaven’s The Sprawl, there is an interesting and different way how they approach and think of the individual. Constant claims for his utopia to fully act well; every individual should free himself from daily routines such as work, to become an adventurous and playful person, the ‘Homo Ludens’. So as a community all individuals can create a new society where everything is adjustable as long as the community acts together. Metahaven puts a question mark over the reliability of the internet and the information flows the individual engulfs. Is it objective and what is fantasy and what is real? The internet makes extensive use of propaganda where the individual only gets the information the internet or the power wants them to get. The Sprawl is trying to clarify that third parties and the internet forms the individual by deciding which and what kind of information we can assume to be relevant, while in ‘New Babylon’ the individual is a free thinking person. So can we actually call ourselves individuals with all the contemporary propaganda thrown at us? Should we act more towards Constant’s ideas? Is Metahaven pushing us into the right direction?