I’ve been collecting examples of eccentric engineering to scope out this idea. The following projects are mostly from drawn from the work of artists creating technologies for others. This is a rather anti-disciplinary idea that draws from engineering, art and experimental design and I plan to post details of projects from other areas to give multiple perspectives on these ideas.
Spela Petric, Naval Gazing
Spela Petric has a number of works that realise eccentric design ideas. In particular is this piece Naval Gazing, 2014 which she describes as an example of non-human architecture.
“The habiton is a kinetic kunst-machine, which simultaneously acts as a platform for the attachment of organisms, creating a travelling, uncontrollable transient biotope in the north sea.” What’s interesting about this piece and is that it is non-specific infrastructure. It is a technological intervention that is intentionally agnostic to lifeforms and thus functions as a sort of ambiguous art/biology experiment.
Plant Sex Consultancy
Petric is also one of the artists behind the Plant Sex Consultancy, 2014, a project developing erotic technologies for plants. Working with Pei-Ying Lin, Dimitris Stamatis and Jasmina Weiss, this work augments vegetal reproduction strategies with delightful appendages and charming 3d printed strap ons.
Ian Ingram, Danger Squirrel Nutkin
Danger, Squirrel Nutkin!, 2009 sees the development of non-human communication technologies. Made by Ian Ingram, it is a robotic squirrel warning system that communicates with squirrels via robotic tail movement.
Center for Tactical Magic, Cricket Activated Defense
Similarly, the Center for Tactical Magic’s Cricket Activated Defense System is a warning system for illegal logging activity in California’s redwood forests. It is a system that listens for the crickets’ unique auditory responses that indicates human activity in their vicinity. These crickets position themselves on the borders between logged and unlogged regions, and so when the system picks up their distress call, it theoretically deploys anti-loggin missiles.
The device is a form of extreme bioengineering that simply recombines consumer surveillance products (essentially “bugging” devices) with model rockets - both trickle-down goods from the military-industrial complex.
Natalie Jermeijenko, Green Light
Much of Natalie Jeremijenko’s work attempts to connect humans and non-humans in novel, entertaining ways and introduce non-human agendas into human systems. I’ve chosen this piece Green Light as it is an example of a device with a coupled agenda, in that it supports both vegetation and humans, porting sunlight collected outside.
Tega Brain, Coin-Operated Wetland
My own work Coin Operated Wetland also continues this thinking on infrastructures that structure mutualistic relationships with other organisms.
It is a large scale installation that takes the form of a closed water system, where a wetland is coupled with a laundromat so that both human and wetland benefit from one another. This project crystalises a design approach based on compromise, where efficiencies are traded for technologies that benefit more than only humans.