Doug Michels + Stan VanDerBeek + Dolphins + Space Travel
I’ve written about the late Ant Farm member Doug Michels in a previous post, and his idea for a dolphin/human space colony which he called “Bluestar.” Whenever Doug used to update me with illustrations and brochures for his interspecies space station, I wondered if he was joking. I realize now that he was taking what was being revealed about dolphin intelligence (a neocortex more highly convoluted than our own), and thinking long term about its social implications. In Doug’s longsighted speculative future, dolphins would inhabit a watery sphere inside of a ring inhabited by humans, and interspecies communication via sonar would be fluid, so-to-speak.
A 1967 publication The Mind of the Dolphin by C. Lilly (a countercultural scientist) had inspired not just Doug, but the artist Stan VanDerBeek. This article by Jürgen Claus about VanDerBeek is published in MIT’s LEONARDO, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 229–232, 2003, and begins:
“In 1982 at the second Sky Art Conference in Linz, Austria, Stan VanDerBeek opened his lecture with this surprising statement: “I dedicate my lecture to the intelligence of the extraterrestrial whales.” Since the publication of John C. Lilly’s The Mind of the Dolphin in 1967, we had become accustomed to the idea of sharing an intelligent brother- and-sisterhood with the dolphins and the whales; but what did Stan mean by his dedication to “extraterrestrial whales”? One year before his sudden death in 1984, this realistic visionary already considered everything part of an interconnected space, one super- and extraterrestrial network.”
VanDerBeek is primarily remembered for his MovieDrome, an immersive dome cinema created in Stony Point, New York. According to Jürgen Claus, “From 1957 on, VanDerBeek produced film sequences for the Movie-Drome, which he started building in 1963. His intention went far beyond the building itself and moved into the surrounding biosphere, the cosmos, the brain and, yes, even extraterrestrial intelligence.”
VanDerBeek’s interest in a universal visual language culminated in one of his last unrealized projects, Culture: Inter-com– an attempt to create a comprehensive picture language (read his proposal and manifesto). Another resource for all things Stan is the UMBC site, Where Is Stan VanDerBeek?