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About

Contact: LY (at) LIAMYOUNG (dot) ORG

Liam Young is a speculative architect and director who operates in the spaces between design, fiction and futures. He is cofounder of Tomorrows Thoughts Today, an urban futures think tank, exploring the local and global implications of new technologies and Unknown Fields, a nomadic research studio that travels on expeditions to chronicle these emerging conditions as they occur on the ground. Described by the BBC as ‘the man designing our futures’, his visionary films and speculative worlds are both extraordinary images of tomorrow and urgent examinations of the environmental questions facing us today. As a concept designer he visualizes the cities, spaces and props of our imaginary futures including work on the forthcoming features Swan Song, starring Mahershala Ali and Awkwafina for Apple TV and Folding City for Chinese Production company Wanda in addition to production designing an unannounced new sci fi series for eOne. With his own films he is a BAFTA nominated producer and has premiered with platforms ranging from Channel 4, SxSW, the New York Metropolitan Museum, The Royal Academy, the BBC and the Guardian. His work has been collected internationally by museums such as MOMA, the Met, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Gallery of Victoria and M Plus Hong Kong and has been acclaimed in both mainstream and design media including features with Wired, New Scientist, Arte, Canal+, Time magazine and many more. His fictional work is informed by his academic research and has held guest professorships at Princeton University, MIT, and Cambridge and now runs the ground breaking Masters in Fiction and Entertainment at SCI Arc in Los Angles. He has published several books including the recent Machine Landscapes: Architectures of the Post Anthropocene and Planet City, a story of a fictional city for the entire population of the earth.

Links
Tomorrows Thoughts Today
Unknown Fields
SCI Arc Fiction & Entertainment Post Graduate Masters Program

Planet City

Humans dominate the planet. Following centuries of colonisation, globalisation and never-ending economic extraction and expansionism we have remade the world from the scale of the cell to the tectonic plate. But what if we radically reversed this planetary sprawl? What if we reached a global consensus to retreat from our vast network of cities and entangled supply chains into one hyper-dense metropolis housing the entire population of the earth? Planet City explores the productive potential of extreme densification, where 10 billion people surrender the rest of the planet to a global wilderness.

Although wildly provocative, Planet City eschews the techno-utopian fantasy of designing a new world order. This is not a neo-colonial masterplan to be imposed from a singular seat of power. It is a work of critical architecture – a speculative fiction grounded in statistical analysis, research and traditional knowledge. It is a collaborative work of multiple voices and cultures supported by an international team of acclaimed environmental scientists, theorists and advisors. In Planet City we see that climate change is no longer a technological problem, but rather an ideological one, rooted in culture and politics.

This is a fiction shaped like a city. Simultaneously an extraordinary image of tomorrow and an urgent examination of the environmental questions facing us today.

The Planet City book is available from URO Books

Director Liam Young
Commissioned by NGV Melbourne & Ewan McEoin
Production Design Liam Young
Visual Effects Supervisor Alexey Marfin
Costume Director/Producer Ane Crabtree
Visual Effects Case Miller, Aman Sheth, Vivian Komati, Yucong Wang
Original Score Forest Swords (Matthew Barnes)
Vocals EMEL
Lead Researcher Case Miller
Researcher Pierce Myers
Narrative Consultant Jennifer Chen
Main Costume Assistant Courtney Mitchell
Costume Assistant Ela Erdogan
Costume Artists Holly McQuillian, Karin Peterson, Kathryn Walters (Zero Waste Weavers), Aneesa Shami (High Altitude Bot Herder), Yeohlee Teng (Code Talker), Courtney Mitchell (Beekeeper), Ane Crabtree (Nomadic Worker, Algae Diver, Drone Shepard)
Fiber Artist Janice Arnold
Mask Artists Liam Young (High Altitude Bot Herder, Code Talker, Algae Diver, Drone Shepard), Zac Monday (Zero Waste Weavers)
Costume Still Photography Driely S
Costume stills Photoshoot Produced by Eva Huang
Performed by David Freeland Jr, AJ and Miguel Alejandro Lopez, Joy Brown of Jacob Jonas The Company

Planet City Book

Planet City is a project exploring the productive potential of extreme densification, in a speculative future where ten billion people surrender the rest of the planet to a global wilderness. It imagines a radical reversal of planetary sprawl, where the world’s population retreats from our vast network of cities and entangled supply chains into one hyper-dense metropolis housing the entire population of the earth.

The Planet City book features original short stories set within the city by Kim Stanley Robinson, Qifan Chen, Nalo Hopkinson, Ryan Griffen and XIA JIA and original non fiction essays by Benjamin Bratton, Holly Gene Buck, Saskia Sassen, Ashley Dawson, Giorgos Kallis, Ewan McEoin, Amaia Sanchez-Velasco and Andrew Toland.

It is a vision of the future that runs counter to our current world, where humans dominate the planet. Where centuries of colonisation, globalisation and never-ending economic extraction and expansionism has remade the world from the scale of the cell to the tectonic plate. Although wildly provocative, Planet City eschews the techno-utopian fantasy of designing a new world order. This is not a neo-colonial masterplan to be imposed from a singular seat of power. It is a work of critical architecture – a speculative fiction grounded in statistical analysis, research and traditional knowledge. It is a collaborative work of multiple voices and cultures supported by an international team of acclaimed environmental scientists, theorists and advisors. In Planet City we see that climate change is no longer a technological problem, but rather an ideological one, rooted in culture and politics.

This is a fiction shaped like a city. Simultaneously an extraordinary image of tomorrow and an urgent examination of the environmental questions facing us today.

Preview copies are available in Australia now from URO Books

The book is available for international shipping from the NGV Bookshop

Planet City is edited by Andrew Mackenzie, with Charles Rice and Mark Campbell as contributing editors and book design by Stuart Geddes. Planet City was commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria for the NGV Triennial 2020. The book was supported by The University of Technology Sydney.

Planet City Costumes

The 15-minute short film version of Planet City depicts scenes from a planetary festival held in the imaginary city, a 365-day procession that moves through different neighborhoods changing form as it intersects with significant cultural celebrations. To capture the festival a set of festival costumes were developed for the film in collaboration with Hollywood costume director Ane Crabtree The Handmaid’s Tale, Westworld) and a group of designers and textile artists from around the world.

Planet City

Humans dominate the planet. As a consequence of hundreds of years Following centuries of colonization, globalization and never-ending economic extraction and expansionism we have remade the world from the scale of the cell to the tectonic plate.

But what if we radically reversed this planetary sprawl? What if we reached a global consensus to retreat from our vast network of cities and entangled supply chains into one hyper-dense metropolis housing the entire population of the earth? Planet City explores the productive potential of extreme densification, where 10 billion people surrender the rest of the planet to a global wilderness.

Although wildly provocative, Planet City eschews the techno-utopian fantasy of designing a new world order. This is not a neo-colonial masterplan to be imposed from a singular seat of power. It is a work of critical architecture – a speculative fiction grounded in statistical analysis, research and traditional knowledge. It is a collaborative work of multiple voices and cultures supported by an international team of acclaimed environmental scientists, theorists and advisors. In Planet City we see that climate change is no longer a technological problem, but rather an ideological one, rooted in culture and politics.

This is a fiction shaped like a city. Simultaneously an extraordinary image of tomorrow and an urgent examination of the environmental questions facing us today.

Director Liam Young
Production Design Liam Young
Costume Director/Producer Ane Crabtree
Main Costume Assistant Courtney Mitchell
Costume Assistant Ela Erdogan
Costume Artists Holly McQuillian, Karin Peterson, Kathryn Walters (Zero Waste Weavers), Aneesa Shami (High Altitude Bot Herder), Yeohlee Teng (Code Talker), Courtney Mitchell (Beekeeper), Ane Crabtree (Nomadic Worker, Algae Diver, Drone Shepard)
Fiber Artist Janice Arnold
Mask Artists Liam Young (High Altitude Bot Herder, Code Talker, Algae Diver, Drone Shepard), Zac Monday (Zero Waste Weavers)
Costume Still Photography Driely S
Costume stills Photoshoot Produced by Eva Huang
Performed by David Freeland Jr, AJ and Miguel Alejandro Lopez, Joy Brown of Jacob Jonas The Company
Commissioned by NGV Melbourne & Ewan McEoin

Where the City Can't See

Where the City Can’t See is the first narrative fiction film captured entirely with laser scanners. Set in the Chinese owned and controlled Detroit Economic Zone (DEZ) and shot with the same scanning technologies used by autonomous vehicles, the near future city is recorded through the eyes of the robots that manage it. Across a single night a group of young car factory workers drift through Detroit in a driverless taxi, searching for a place they know exists but that their car doesn’t recognize. They are part of an underground community that work on the production lines by day but at night, adorn themselves in machine vision camouflage and the tribal masks of anti-facial recognition to enact their escapist fantasies in the hidden spaces of the city. They hack the city and journey through a network of stealth buildings, ruinous landscapes, ghost architectures, anomalies, glitches and sprites, searching for the wilds beyond the machine. We have always found the eccentric and imaginary in the spaces the city can’t see.

Where the City Can’t See is commissioned by Abandon Normal Devices and St Helens Heart of Glass & University of Salford Art Collection. Produced by Liam Young and Abandon Normal Devices, with support from Forestry Commission England’s Forest Art Works and funding from Arts Council England.

Directed by Liam Young
Screenplay by Tim Maughan
Staring Levon Rector and Monique Sypkens
VFX Supervisor Alexey Marfin
Choreographer Thomasin Gülgeç
Dancers Thomasin Gülgeç, Eryck Brahmania, Sabrina Gargano, Laura Wood
Post Production Jacob Falk, Daniele Profeta, Paul Krist
Teaser Track 'Deep Breathing' by Shigeto Courtesy of Ghostly Records
Technical Consultants Scatter
LIDAR Costumes Liam Young and Jennifer Chen
Facial Camouflage Consultant Adam Harvey

UK Crew
Assistant Director Jennifer Chen
Styling by Elizabeth Black and Susan Marsh
Hair by Kaizo Hair / Shoreditch
Makeup by Philippe Miletto
Produced by AND Festival

LA Crew
On Location Jacob Falk and Alexey Marfin
Makeup Cheyanne Armstrong
Photograher Eva Huang
Runners Hamzah Mohammed and Jiansen Huang

Additional support from Leica, Ghostly Records

Where the City Can't See LIDAR Camouflage Costumes

For the animated film Where the City Can't See a series of LIDAR scanner camouflage costumes and algorithmic textile patterns we developed on computerized silk looms. The costumes would both glittering and exuberant to the human eye but create glitches and distortions when captured using the laser scanning technology that driverless cars use to navigate and map the world. The reflective silk and synthetic threads scatter laser light and render the body as a distortion within the data set.

Where the City Can’t See is the first narrative fiction film captured entirely with laser scanners. Set in the Chinese owned and controlled Detroit Economic Zone (DEZ) and shot with the same scanning technologies used by autonomous vehicles, the near future city is recorded through the eyes of the robots that manage it. Across a single night a group of young car factory workers drift through Detroit in a driverless taxi, searching for a place they know exists but that their car doesn’t recognize. They are part of an underground community that work on the production lines by day but at night, adorn themselves in machine vision camouflage and the tribal masks of anti-facial recognition to enact their escapist fantasies in the hidden spaces of the city. They hack the city and journey through a network of stealth buildings, ruinous landscapes, ghost architectures, anomalies, glitches and sprites, searching for the wilds beyond the machine. We have always found the eccentric and imaginary in the spaces the city can’t see.

Seoul City Machine

Seoul City Machine is a city symphony from the urban landscape of tomorrow. Narrated and scripted by an AI chatbot trained on smart city data sets the film is a love letter from the City Operating System to the citizens it affectionately manages.

The film is a portrait of a city where machines and technology are now the dominant inhabitants of space. Our guide to the city is the disembodied voice of its urban operating system software. The script and dialogue has been generated through a conversation with a real artificially intelligent chatbot designed and built for the project. We listen as the city machine voices its own creation story and introduces itself to its citizens. Seoul City Machine is an abstract sequence of vignettes, fragments and moments of a future Seoul, a city in which all of the hopes and dreams, fears and wonders of emerging technologies have come true. Using contemporary Seoul as a visual backdrop the present day city is overlaid with cinematic visual effects to depict an autonomous world of machines where the sky is filled with drones, cars are driverless, the street is draped in augmented reality and everyone is connected to everything.

Directed by Liam Young
Co-Directed by Alexey Marfin
Cinematography by Nils Clauss
Written by Mitsuku Chatbot in conversation with Liam Young
Music by Jambinai

Unravelled

Before we wear them, our clothes make journeys of tens of thousands of miles in their process of production, making textiles the most globalised industry on the planet. Unknown Fields reveals the unseen effects the ‘fast fashion’ supply chain, as it begins in the cotton fields in India, moves through textile mills, dye yards, garment factories and, finally, the shipping ports.
Fast Fashion’s rolling tide, dumps mountains of cheap clothing on the high-street shores. Worn for one wild night and destined to be discarded. The whims of the style minded have set in motion a global industry that is reshaping developing economies half a world away.
Unravelled is a film and collaborative textile artwork that reveals the way traditional craftsmanship in the fabric and textile industries is being put at risk by the disposable nature of ‘fast fashion’. The project will involve using traditional craft expertise; working collaboratively with a network of locally-based artists in India to create a narrative fabric artwork and film.

The textile is made from a gold thread produced by the yarn producer of this type in the world and refined from the rusted metals of the old container ships in the Indian shipbreaking yards. It is woven by hand and displays a pattern encoded with the voices of its makers, the last generation of master weavers whose craft has been destroyed by the automated looms of global manufacturing. The accompanying film depicts a sacred procession of a young Indian textile worker walking slowly through a series of dramatic scenes, endless cotton fields, huge textile mills and factories of the vast textile industry supply chain, as she is gradually wrapped in the fabric piece, which it undergoes a series of transformations - weaving, dyeing, sewing, pressing - until she is completely cocooned in it, standing at the huge Indian container port of Alang amongst the mega ships that will export to the west.

Unravelled, 2019
Unknown Fields
In collaboration with the Architectural Association
Film directed by Unknown Fields and Tushar Prakash
Director of Photography Ravi Kiran Ayyagari
Starring Monica Jha
Produced by Unknown Fields
Co Produced by Amondo Films and CCCB
Textile designed by Unknown Fields and produced in collaboration with Shashi Kant/Varanasi Weavers and Artisans Society
Supported by CCCB and the Graham Foundation

Renderlands

Renderlands is a mixed reality film set in the outsourced video game companies and render farms of India. A renderfarm worker has fallen in love with the digital model of a beautiful Hollywood actress after spending his 14 hours a day endlessly rotoscoping, rendering and compositing her into blockbuster films. He has lovingly airbrushed across every pore on her face, every strand of her hair as he erases the stunt wires and 3d models her superhero silhouette, scene by scene, frame by frame, day by day. By night, when the fluorescents are switched off and everyone else has gone home they walk hand in hand through the streets of a city he has collaged together for them from scavenged VFX movie models, and the leftover 3D game assets that remain on Indian studio hard drives after a studio production is cancelled. Constructed from these real digital fragments of the film and game industries, Renderands is a portrait of a contemporary Utopia that exists in the thickness of the screen, a virtual city that stretches from Hollywood to downtown Bangalore, a world of demolished landmarks, drowned streetscapes, alien invasions, synthetic actors and outsourced dreams.

Directed By Liam Young
Screenplay by Tim Maughan
VFX supervisor Alexey Marfin
Starring Evan Bittencort, Alexis Codding, Ravi Naidu and the renderfarm workers of Mumbai and Bangalore
Interviews with Rajesh Rao and Siddhartha Jayakar
3D Artist Paul Krist
US director of photography Armeen Monahan
India director of photography Tushar Prakash

Machine Landscapes: Architectures of the Post Anthropocene

The most significant architectural spaces in the world are now entirely empty of people. The data centres, telecommunications networks, distribution warehouses, unmanned ports and industrialised agriculture that define the very nature of who we are today are at the same time places we can never visit. Instead they are occupied by server stacks and hard drives, logistics bots and mobile shelving units, autonomous cranes and container ships, robot vacuum cleaners and internet-connected toasters, driverless tractors and taxis. This issue is an atlas of sites, architectures and infrastructures that are not built for us, but whose form, materiality and purpose is configured to anticipate the patterns of machine vision and habitation rather than our own. We are said to be living in a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, in which humans are the dominant force shaping the planet. This collection of spaces, however, more accurately constitutes an era of the Post-Anthropocene, a period where it is technology and artificial intelligence that now computes, conditions and constructs our world. Marking the end of human-centered design, the issue turns its attention to the new typologies of the post-human, architecture without people and our endless expanse of Machine Landscapes.

Available now on Amazon

Edited By Liam Young

Contributors: Rem Koolhaas, Merve Bedir and Jason Hilgefort, Benjamin H Bratton, Ingrid Burrington, Ian Cheng, Hyphen Labs, Cathryn Dwyre, Chris Perry, David Salomon and Kathy Velikov, Deborah Harrison, Paul Inglis, Victor Martinez, John Gerrard, Alice Gorman, Adam Harvey, Jesse LeCavalier, Xingzhe Liu, Clare Lyster, Geoff Manaugh, Tim Maughan, Simone C Niquille, Jenny Odell, Trevor Paglen, Ben Roberts.

Choreographic Camouflage

Choreographic Camouflage is a performance collaboration between speculative architect and director Liam Young and acclaimed choreographer Jacob Jonas. The dance performance and film presents a new vocabulary of movement that has been designed to disguise the proportions of their body from the skeleton detection algorithms used by modern city’s surveillance networks to track and identify individuals. The work engages with the context of these systems as deployed against protestors in Hong Kong, where Chinese authorities have developed software to follow an individual by mapping their unique walk or gait. The necessity to wear masks to prevent the spread of the Corona Virus has restricted the effectiveness of facial detection systems. Body tracking and gait detection has now become the dominant form of surveillance in Asia and soon globally. These programs scan massive databases of collected images and cctv footage, searching for predefined human forms and proportions that suggest two legs, a torso, two arms and a head. Working with dancers from The Jacob Jonas Company a series of new dance movements have been developed to distort the proportions, symmetry and form of the body in order to render it invisible to the body detection software that is now being rolled out by city’s around the world.

Director Liam Young
Choreographer Jacob Jonas
Technical Lead, Shuruq Tramontini
Director of Photography, Horacio Martinez and Pannyhire

Jacob Jonas The Company
Managing Director Jill Wilson
Executive Producer Tonia Barber
Assistant Choreographer Anibal Sandoval
Featuring Jacob Jonas The Company Performing Artists: Joy Brown, James Blackston, Miguel Lopez Jorge, Emma Rosenzweig-Bock, Mike Tyus, Jill Wilson

In the Robot Skies

Directed by speculative architect Liam Young and written by fiction author Tim Maughan, In the Robot Skies is the world’s first narrative shot entirely through autonomous drones. In collaboration with the Embedded and Artificially intelligent Vision Lab in Belgium the film has evolved in relation to their experiments with specially developed camera drones each programmed with their own cinematic rules and behaviors. The film explores the drone as a cultural object, not just as a new instrument of visual story telling but also as the catalyst for a new collection of urban sub cultures. In the way the New York subway car of the 80’s gave birth to a youth culture of wild style graffiti and hip hop the age of ubiquitous drones as smart city infrastructure will create a new network of surveillance activists and drone hackers. From the eyes of the drones we see two teenagers each held by police order within the digital confines of their own council estate tower block in London. A network of drones survey the council estates, as a roving flock off cctv cameras and our two characters are kept apart by this autonomous aerial infrastructure. We watch as they pass notes to each other via their own hacked and decorated drone, like kids in an old fashioned classroom, scribbling messages with biro on paper, balling it up and stowing it in their drones. In this near future city drones form both agents of state surveillance but also become co-opted as the aerial vehicles through which two teens fall in love.

Directed by Liam Young
Written By Tim Maughan
Starring Maia Watkins and Moe Bar-el

Produced by Dani Admiss
Music by Forest Swords
Sound Design Aneek Thapar
Director of Photography Vini Curtis
Drone Costumes by Jennifer Chen
Human Costumes by Maharishi
Motion Graphics by Zhan Wang
Camera Drone pilot Liam Young
Tethered Character Drone Pilot Denis Stretton
Special Thanks Alexey Marfin
Drones supported by DJI

Commissioned by Channel 4 Random Acts and STUK, Belgium.

Tales from the Dark Side of the City Book series

This box set brings together the first 6 volumes of the Unknown Fields Tales from the Dark Side of the City book series. Together these stories form an atlas to the territories and stories of a reimagined city that stretches across the entirety of the planet. They are a tour through a city that sits between documentary and fiction, a city of dislocated sites; of drone footage and hidden camera investigations, of interviews and speculative narratives, of toxic objects and distributed matter from distant grounds. The Dark Side of the City is a collection of tales from the constellation of elsewheres that are conjured into being by the city’s wants and needs, fears and dreams.

Unknown Fields is a nomadic design studio that ventures out on expeditions into the shadows cast by the contemporary city, to uncover the alternative worlds, alien landscapes, industrial ecologies and precarious wilderness set in motion by the powerful push and pull of the city’s desires. The dislocated landscapes we survey - the iconic and the ignored, the excavated, irradiated and the pristine - are connected to our everyday lives in surprising and complicated ways. They are embedded in global systems that form a vast network of elusive tendrils, twisting threadlike over everything around us, crisscrossing the planet, connecting the mundane to the extraordinary. Unknown Fields make provocative objects and films from this expedition work, exploring the dispersed narratives that coalesce to form a contemporary city.

By Unknown Fields (Kate Davis & Liam Young)
Book Design by Neasden Control Centre & City Editions
Books are available separately or the box set can be purchased from here, here and Amazon

Breastmilk of Volcanoes

Unknown Fields have travelled through the energy landscapes of the Bolivian Salt Lakes and the Atacama Desert to see where the electricity that powers our technology is stored. Here the ground is charged with potential, for buried beneath the mirror of the world’s largest salt flat, the Salar De Uyuni, is a grey gold called lithium, the key ingredient in batteries, a substance in every one of our pockets, in every gleaming device, and every electric car. With their flock of camera drones Unknown Fields have developed a film capturing the technicolor lithium mine evaporation pools as they stretch across the ancient salt flats. This grey rush territory is also a landscape of Incan mythology and sacred mountains, where a traditional indigenous narrative describes this shimmering white expanse being created from the mixing of the tears and breast milk of a weeping mother volcano who has just lost her lover. The film is a new creation story for the material that powers our technology. We power our technologies from the tears and breastmilk of sacred volcanoes.

Filmed and Directed by Unknown Fields
In collaboration with Luca Films
Supported by The Royal Academy London

Transmissions from the Drone Orchestra

Two fearless innovators, musical pioneer John Cale and architectural visionary Liam Young, transformed the Barbican’s Theatre with a brand new audio-visual collaboration, Loop 60 Hz: Transmissions from the Drone Orchestra. For nearly 50 years, John Cale has thrived at the vanguard of a myriad of creative disciplines, from setting the stage for an underground, noise-bending attack on rock and roll with the Velvet Underground, to his current genre-bending music of today. In his urban futures practise Young has been telling stories about the possibilities of drone technologies in the near future city. Typically associated with militarised applications, Young repurposes his collection of choreographed flying machines as both disembodied instruments and nomadic audio infrastructure, to create an immersive live music performance and visual spectacle.

Known for experimenting with technologies and industrial sounds in his music, Cale once tuned his instruments to the hum of refrigerator motors, the frequency of modernisation. For this new commission he joins forces with speculative architect and storyteller Liam Young to explore the soundscape of a new generation, the distant rumble of drone propellers for a sellout season of live performances for the Barbican Theatre in London.

A flock of autonomous DJI copters are programmed as aerial dancers and are mounted with specially engineered wireless speakers to broadcast the instruments of the band. Other copters are dressed in elaborate costumes to disguise their form and reflect light across the audience below. Against a score of original compositions and selected tracks from Cale’s seminal career this collaboration with Young imagines the possibilities of the drones as emerging cultural objects. If these technologies are no longer unseen objects overhead, or propelled along classified flight paths but brought into close and intimate relations with us then how might we see them differently. When their transmission fades, when the drones lose their signal and without their protocols for terror and surveillance, do they drop from the sky, do they fall in love or do the drones drift endlessly, forever on loop.

Bevis Bowden’s film catalogues the Barbican performance on the 12 & 13 September 2014.

An accompanying making of documentary produced by The Creators Project chronicles the teams development of a new ultrasonic tracking system that supported autonomous drone flight and programmed choreographies and the design of drone couture costumes.

Directed by Liam Young and John Cale
Software Lead Andreas Müller
Producer Keri Elmsly
Project Manager Aymie Backler
lighting design Dan Terry
Lead Pilot Denis Stratton
Drone Pilots Oliviu Lugojan-Ghenciu, Alan Perin, Ayhan Dawood, Dan Bishop
Drone Technician Philip Tarry

Costume production
Drone Costume design Liam Young
Costume production team Samantha Lee, Oliviu Lugojan-Ghenciu, Jennifer Chen, Zhan Wang, Harry Kay, William Gowland, Dimi Constantinides, Quiddale O’Sullivan, Chris Cooper, Charlie Carr Gomm, Panja Göbel, Richard Strange

John Cale's Team
Producer Nita Scott
Project Engineer Dustin Boyer
Sound Engineer Rob Verschoor
Monitor Engineer Eric De Bie
Surround Sound Engineer Rob Donnelly Jackson

TEAM ARM pre-production
Pre-production Lead Ralph Esposito
ARM Studios, Los Angeles studio/rehearsal facilities

Rare Earthenware

Unknown Fields have used toxic mud from a radioactive tailings lake in China to craft a set of three ceramic vessels. Each is sized in relation to the amount of waste created in the production of three items of technology – a smartphone, a featherweight laptop and the cell of a smart car battery. Each vessel is the material shadow of valuable technological object. The project follows a well-concealed journey taking place across global supply chains. It retraces rare earth elements, which are widely used in high-end electronics and green technologies, back to their origins, the mine sites where they are first wrenched from the earth. An accompanying film charts the unmaking of these objects of technology - reversing their journeys from container ships and ports, through wholesalers and factory floors, all the way back the banks of the barely-liquid radioactive lake in Inner Mongolia that is continually pumped with tailings from the rare earth refining process. The unmaking of our technologies is the making of these vases, carefully crafted from their toxic byproducts.

By Unknown Fields
Commissioned by The Victoria and Albert Museum
Unknown Fields in partnership with the Architectural Association
Film and Photography in collaboration with Toby Smith, Ceramics work in collaboration with the London Sculpture Workshop, Animation assistance from Christina Varvia

New City

New City is a series of animated skylines of the near future. In intricate detail they depict a speculative urbanism, an exaggerated version of the present, in which we can project new cultural trends, environmental, political and economic forces. Photographs taken on expeditions around the world with nomadic studio Unknown Fields, to document these emerging phenomena and weak signals have been meticulously stitched together and extrapolated to form each city skyline. In this way ‘New City’ slips between the real and the imagined, between the documentary and the visionary, where speculative fictions become a way of exploring a world that the everyday struggles to grasp. To accompany the animations the authors Jeff Noon, Pat Cadigan and Tim Maughan have been invited to inhabit each skyline, to breathe life into its characters and cultures and give form to its streets and spaces through a suggestive narrative fragment. Original New City soundscapes have been developed by Coldcut and Forest Swords

Directed and Designed by Liam Young
VFX Supervisor Alexey Marfin
Project Team Zhang Wang
Soundscapes by Coldcut with additional sound design by Aneek Thapar
Taobao Village Soundscape by Forest Swords
Authors Jeff Noon, Pat Cadigan, Tim Maughan, Liam Young

Brave New Now Book

Brave New Now is a collection of specially commissioned short stories set in the fictional future city 'Under Tomorrows Sky' developed by speculative architect Liam Young. A collection of science fiction authors were invited to inhabit the city, to breathe life into its characters and cultures and give form to its streets and spaces through narrative. It is a speculative urbanism, an exaggerated present, in which we can imagine the wonders and possibilities of emerging biological and technological research. Authors include Warren Ellis, Bruce Sterling, Tim Maughan, Jonathan Dotse, Rachel Armstrong, Samit Basu and Anil Menon. These speculative fictions are illustrated with a collection of photographs of the present, gathered from a group of photographers who venture out into the world documenting the weak signals and emerging phenomena that have been extrapolated into our imaginary city. In Brave New Now it is not clear what is fact and what is fiction, but rather the two productively intertwine. The two modes of working sit side by side and we slip suggestively between the real and the imagined, between the documentary and the visionary, where speculative fictions become a way of exploring a world that the everyday struggles to grasp.

The future is not something that washes over us like water, it is something we must actively shape and define. Some of the people we meet in the Brave New Now are swept up in what the city could be, others are reserved and look on with caution. It is a place of wonder and of fear. We meet friends and strangers, we hear their stories, and we imagine our own life here. We have not walked these streets before, what things may come, in the Brave New Now.

Preview of Brave New Now foreword here
Ebook available for download from Amazon and itunes

Brave New Now
Editor: Liam Young
Authors: Warren Ellis, Tim Maughan, Jonathan Dotse, Bruce Sterling, Rachel Armstrong, Samit Basu, Anil Menon.
Photographers: Michael Wolf, Greg Girard, Neil Chowdhury, Vincent Fournier, Thomas Weinberger, Charlie Koolhaas, Greg White, Daniel Beltrá, Victoria Sambunaris, Christina Seely, Brice Richard, Bas Princen.
Concept Art: Daniel Dociu, Hoving Alahaidoyan.

This digital publication was commissioned by Close, Closer chief curator Beatrice Galilee, Art Direction by Zak Group and graphic design by Raquel Pinto.
The support of The British Council has enabled a discounted distribution price of Brave New Now ebook.

All Up in My Grill

Unknown Fields traveled through Madagascar to catalogue the push and pull of economy and ecology and meet the illegal traders of the world’s luxury brands. As the beat drops and the stage lights strobe, popstars dripping with bling flash their jeweled gold teeth for the camera in a flurry of choreographed dance moves. A world away, in a hole in the ground in the wild west mining town of Ilakaka, Madagascar, another ensemble of bodies move in rhythm, to dig dirt by hand out of the bottom of a precious gem mine. An accompanying film maps the choreographies and characters of the hidden black market supply chain that ties the shimmer of luxury to the dusty Gemfields of Madagascar. Here it is cheaper to pay workers in rice than it is to buy and maintain mechanical mining equipment. The human conveyor belts of Ilakaka shovel dirt in perfect synchronization, each man paid with 50g of rice, their bodies repurposed as digging machines.

Unknown Fields have used the amount of rice the human conveyor belt consumes in a day to manufacture a precious stone that embodies the systems through which these worlds are intimately and profoundly connected. The red Madagascan rice grown endemically on this treasured island is a staple food of the miners and has been collected locally and shipped to gem specialists for carbon analysis. By subjecting the rice to extreme heat and pressure in the laboratory, Unknown Fields have formed a synthetic stone encoded with the sum of the human conveyor belt’s labor. After manufacture, the gemstone has been set into a gold tooth, ready for that million-dollar smile and the outrageous lyric. From kilojoules, to carats. In the glare of this cheeky gold grin we see the cost of luxury, of beauty, of a daily allowance of rice, of 20 men shoveling at the bottom of a hole.

All Up in my Grill by Unknown Fields. Commissioned by Middleborough Institute of Modern Art. Film and Photography in collaboration with Toby Smith

City of Drones

Musician John Cale and Tomorrows Thoughts Today’s Liam Young have joined forces with digital artists FIELD to develop a new interactive, digital work for BBC’s The Space. Charting the story of a lost drone drifting through an abstract vertical cityscape, players are invited to pilot a virtual craft and remotely explore this imaginary world. The machine vision of the drone reduces the city to pure geometry as flightpath algorithms plot courses along the narrow streets. Samples from Cale’s original soundscape compositions echo across the landscape and we see the city through the eyes of the drone, buzzing between the buildings, drifting endlessly, in an ambient audio visual choreography.

For nearly 50 years, John Cale has thrived at the vanguard of a myriad of creative disciplines, from setting the stage for an underground, noise-bending attack on rock and roll with the Velvet Underground, to his current genre-bending music of today. In his urban futures practise Liam Young has been telling stories about the possibilities of drone technologies in the near future city. Typically associated with militarised applications, Young repurposes his collection of choreographed flying machines as both disembodied instruments and nomadic audio infrastructure, to create an immersive live music performance and visual spectacle. FIELD creates expressive audio-visual artworks – from digital paintings to high-end visual effects and generative design across all media, always looking for the drama in the code.

Known for experimenting with technologies and industrial sounds in his music, Cale once tuned his instruments to the hum of refrigerator motors, the frequency of modernisation. For this new commission he joins forces with speculative architect and storyteller Liam Young to explore the soundscape of a new generation, the distant rumble of drone propellers for this digital landscape and a live performance for the Barbican Centre in London.