Next Generation: VR creator Bas Jansen asks, is there a place for humans?

Freya Hutchings
March 2nd 2020

This story is part of Next Generation, a series in which we give young makers a platform to showcase their work. Want to see your work here? Get in touch and plot your coordinates as we navigate our future together.

Meet Bas Jansen, 3D artist and speculative world builder, with a degree in 3D animation from the University of Arts, Utrecht. Jansen is currently deepening his theoretical knowledge by studying Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. In his latest VR film, Artificial World - where futuristic, other-wordly beauty meets ethical probing - his dual educational background is made wonderfully evident.

Jansen is inspired by science fiction novels, films and artists’ visualizations of the future. Blade Runner, Brave New Word, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the artworks of Roger Dean, Wayne Barlowe and Ernst Haeckel inform his work. Artificial World has made the official selection at numerous film festivals, and has won awards including 'Best Technical Performance VR' (Riga Digital Forum, 2018), and 'Best Immersive Animation' (ANIMA, 2019).

Artificial World depicts a future in which an AI is entrusted as nature’s new creator. The film dares to ask, “are humans good for this planet, or is the planet better off without us? Is the role of AI becoming bigger than we can control, and will it become god-like?”

Indeed, Jansen draws on complex issues surrounding the relationship between humans, nature and technology. Moral questions are interwoven with mesmerizing aesthetics, a combination that is both wondrous and confronting. Jansen told us, “I like to create beautiful futuristic worlds that allow people to dream, but also worlds that make them think critically about their own existence and impact.”

Playing with the boundaries of what we know, Jansen's rendering of the future draws from the spheres science, technology and religion. How each viewer responds to the film is dependent on their own unique viewpoint: “whether my film is utopian or dystopian is an open question. It is not necessarily either, because it depends on which perspective you take.” Jansen further reveals, “there are moments that will make you stop and reflect on ourselves and the world we have created.” Certainly, the artist makes full use of VR's ability to immerse the viewer in an unfamiliar scenario, to suspend their notions of reality and present them with a different outlook.

So why watch the film? For Jansen, the power of speculative imaginings of the future is that “if you know a possible future then you can be prepared for it, or steer away from it. You may take actions to avoid a world you don’t want.” He further recognizes how the forging of new perspectives may be fundamental for the survival of the planet: “there are a lot of issues that we want and need to think about. There is an urgency. For example, climate change issues ask to be visualized in multiple ways.”

Beyond the alternative reality presented in Artificial World, the young filmmaker is optimistic about the relationship between nature and technology: “we should take responsibility for what technology does to nature, but also embrace how technology can positively impact it too. It has the potential to replenish nature and help it thrive."

Additionally, rather than limiting ourselves to preservation and restoration initiatives, Jansen encourages us to embrace the possibility of transformation. He believes "beautiful things can happen when we create change; changing the planet isn’t necessarily bad. We can create new and better things. Not only for humans, but for the planet as a whole.”

Curious to see the film? Next Nature Members receive it in their mailbox next Friday. Not a member yet? No worries, there's still time to become a member today!

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What is your view on the coronavirus?


Siri Beerends: I really embrace the idea that viruses can teach us a lesson in modesty. It is necessary that our position as the dominant species on the planet is being challenged. I also agree that it is a mistake to think that we are becoming Gods. But unfortunately, this is actually what is happening now. Corona doesn’t teach us to be modest, it teaches us how we can -as quickly as possible- go back to business as usual: saving our capitalistic economy.

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