This will be the most important, most asked question of the year. Maybe the decade. Maybe the century.
Even the question itself begs questioning. Do we ask, “What is real?” As in, is this news, video, media authentic? Did this actually happen? Or was it manufactured, a deep fake? Or, as in, is this social movement, or this trend, say, trompe l’œil cakes, real? Are these authentically part of the zeitgeist or just meaningless white noise?
Or, do we ask, “What is real?” As in, what does real mean anyway? Do your actions in the metaverse count? Are those real actions? Is an NFT real artwork? Are your Discord and Telegram friends real? Is a rendering of a room a real interior design?
Maybe the question should be, “Who cares?”
But there is one thing we can always come back to as authentic, as real, as worth exploring, as the medium with the legitimate hidden truths of life.
That is the natural world.
This issue was inspired largely by a week I spent in the Galápagos Islands. When I first arrived I was told, geologically speaking, the islands were relatively young, maybe only five million years old. I watched 100-year-old giant tortoises lumber in and out of ponds, hammerhead sharks swim below me, birds dance and sing for their mates.
I never asked once, “Hey, are these real? Are these the authentic Galápagos Islands? Is this actually a volcano?”
There’s always inspiration and lessons to learn from nature. Throughout this issue you’ll find an exploration of natural materials, colors, textures: Artist Lee Bae’s career-long curiosity of charcoal, designers Batten & Kamp’s creative fusing of acrylic and stone, sculptor Laetitia Jacquetton’s rock and glass creations, artist Sisan Lee’s shapeshifting metal and stone pagodas, and Anton Alvarez’s extruded clay color explosions. And, working in perhaps the most abundant natural resource, space, we visit Snøhetta cofounder Kjetil Thorsen’s architecture and design headquarters in Oslo.
Choosing a cover feature is always one of the most difficult parts of assembling a magazine. For this issue we visited artist Felipe Pantone’s impressive studio in Spain. The artist’s work, which captivates millions in person and on social media, has something very much in common with the birds and animals of the Galápagos—it relies on a masterful use of color and presentation to attract and audience.
Chris Force is the editor-in-chief of Sixtysix.