FAD tried to catch up with John Mack in the Summer last year when he was showing A Species Between Worlds in a month-long exhibition in New York. We tried, we failed, but now it’s here in London at the London Design Biennale exhibiting on the USA pavilion until June 25th.
Since 2016, author and artist John Mack has committed himself to one of the most pressing conversations of our times: the digital takeover of human consciousness.
With this perspective, Mack founded Life Calling, a non-profit organisation dedicated to preserving our humanity in the ‘Digital Age.’ In Life Calling’s signature program, ‘A Species Between Worlds’, Mack uses digital game design as a means to highlight the modalities of perception that bring about our disconnection from nature, including clues that might lead us back to our unity with it. With a passion for visually capturing not only the surrounding landscape but also the effects of connecting to either the natural or the virtual, Mack crisscrossed the United States of America, from Maine to Hawaii, photographing over forty-five US National Parks.
‘I’m really excited about the London Design Biennale and our exhibition which has been selected for the USA pavilion,’
‘It’s ground-breaking because we’re bringing the current issue of AI into today’s design space and exploring how AI and technology are designing us as a species and our environment.’
‘I really hope that people will walk away from the exhibition with a different way of understanding their own reality and with greater choice about how to design their own lives.’John Mack
In this installation, Duratrans printing and lightbox framing take on the character of large flatscreens, while weathered wooden frames remind visitors of a sensual, natural quality of a fading past. With this juxtaposition, combined with a custom-designed augmented reality app, Mack explores who we are in relation to our environment and looks for clues as to whether or not a balance between nature and today’s increasingly seductive technology can be attained. While the exhibition points to attention-grabbing apps such as email, Meta, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat among others, Mack chose the augmented reality game Pokémon GO® as a representation of addictive apps in general. Originally released by Niantic Labs in 2016, Pokémon GO® uses location-based technology to reveal stripped-down virtual versions of the surrounding environment. Mack calls attention to the app’s digital, barebones graphics that have come to substitute our greater reality, leading us to critically rethink our ever-deepening engagement with virtual technology. The flat, primitive renderings symbolise humanity’s widening divorce from the intricate depths of our true nature.
Visitors to his installation at London Design Biennale will be immersed in various worlds, where Mack’s real-world images from over 45 US National Parks are juxtaposed with a custom augmented reality (AR) app, exploring who we are in relation to our environment, and showing humanity’s widening divorce from the intricate depths of our true nature.
Mack is relishing bringing his unique perspective on the digital world, Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence to the design-savvy visitors to the London Design Biennale.
‘The audience will be there specifically for design, but the twist I put on it is that we’re speaking about inner design, rather than how to design the outer world. You can’t separate the design from the designer, the creation from the creator, so how can we design ourselves in such a way that the designs we make reflect more of our inner humanity?
‘We’re not trying to change people’s lives – I’m just trying to show that life can be changed. Whether or not they want that for themselves is completely their decision.’John Mack
Jane Hartley, the US Ambassador to the UK, visited the US Pavilion and had an hour-long meeting with John Mack on the opening morning of the exhibition.
John Mack is an author, artist and founder of the nonprofit, Life Calling, whose mission is to preserve our humanity in the Digital Age. Over the past decade John has expressed concern over the effects on our humanity in the wake of our increasing dependence on smart-devices. In September 2022 Mack debuted Life Calling’s signature program A Species Between Worlds: Our Nature, Our Screens in New York City, a public educational forum and immersive exhibition which serves as an invitation to contemplate our relationship to our devices and the surrounding world while inciting the introspection needed to prevent the loss of our humanity. A Species Between Worlds coincided with Mack’s publication of A Land Between Worlds: The Shifting Poetry of the Great American Landscape, a collection of poetry, and Notes to Selfie: Bits of Truth in a Phoney World, a volume of thoughts and aphorisms. Mack recently published Notes to Psyche: Mindful Thoughts for Thought-Filled Minds, part of the Handbook Series by Life Calling.
Mack was an honoree of The Explorer’s Club 50: Fifty people changing the world who the world needs to know about. He is a frequent speaker at conferences and universities on the subjects of technology, awareness and consciousness and has served as an adjunct lecturer for the Graduate program of Design at the University of Lisbon. Additionally, Mack serves as a board member of Fairplay, an organization that strives to create a world where kids can be kids, free from the false promises of marketers and the manipulations of Big Tech.