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How we live now: photographs that capture the 21st century


Wild River, Florida, from the 2005 series Fake Holidays by Reiner Riedler. Photograph: © Reiner Riedler


Civilisation, a new photography exhibition and accompanying book, is an ambitious attempt to document the human experience of the modern world

What does the 21st century look like? What are the resonant images of a civilisation that aspires to be global? These kinds of questions were the starting point for a project that formed in the mind of William A Ewing, who had been a museum director, curator of international exhibitions and writer about photography for nearly 40 years.

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Neri Oxman’s swarm of Fiberbots autonomously build architectural structures

Neri Oxman and her Mediated Matter group at MIT have created a swarm of robots designed to rapidly build high-strength tubular structures by winding fibreglass filament around themselves.

Oxman and her team have developed a digital fabrication system, comprised of 16 robots and a separate design system used to control them.

Each robot in the swarm is identical and works simultaneously, using a fibreglass winding system to autonomously construct self-supporting composite tubes up to 4.5 metres tall.

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The mind gardener: the machine that turns your thoughts into art



‘We tend to find them alarming’ … detail of an AI-derived image in Huyghe’s show. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist and Serpentine Galleries; © Kamitani Lab / Kyoto University and ATR

He has made art out of bees, cancer cells, painted dogs and genetically modified GloFish. Now Pierre Huyghe is entering consciousness itself – with the help of AI and 50,000 bluebottles

‘Iwas looking for something that could write itself, that could self-generate, evolve or mutate,” says Pierre Huyghe. Impeccably grizzled and sparkly eyed, the French artist sits vaping discreetly in dappled sunshine beaming through the upper windows of the Serpentine Gallery in London. Downstairs, Huyghe’s new exhibition is being installed. After our interview I’ll try for a glance through the gallery door. The show is not available for sneak peeks. I’ll try again, unsuccessfully, a week later. It’s not that they won’t let me in, the polite, dust-covered curator explains, it’s that they can’t. Not yet.

I’m not surprised: Huyghe is exacting. Autonomous, changing, self-regulatory systems such as colonies of bees, dividing cancer cells, flu virus, ants’ nests and groups of creatures cohabiting in an aquarium are this artist’s preferred raw materials. They tend to make his work tricky to install.

While he also makes film and sculpture, over the last decade Huyghe has become known for reimagining the artwork as ecosystem. He deposits groups of objects – some evidently alive, others not so – into an environment, then retires and allows nature to take its course.

Last summer I made a pilgrimage to his acclaimed ecosystem After ALife Ahead. An eight-hour journey from London ended in a rain-soaked trudge through the German city of Münster, to city margins where the urban fabric dissolves into

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