Just spotted this event on the staff mailing list.
Professor François Laruelle
‘In-the-Last-Humanity: On the “Speculative” Ecology of Man, Animal and Plant’
June 3, 5pm, 2013
Central Saint Martins
Lecture Theatre E002, Granary Building, 1 Granary Square, London.
This is the 3rd in a series of lectures Professor François Laruelle is giving at the London Graduate School, London. This talk is presented with the support of the School of Art, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts.
Following the lecture there will be a reception and book launch for the translation of Laruelle’s Principles of Non-Philosophy, trans. Anthony Paul Smith and Nicola Rubczak (Bloomsbury, 2013).
Professor Laruelle has taught at both the University of Paris X and the Collège international de philosophie, and is a Visiting Professor at the London Graduate School, Kingston University, London. He is the author of over twenty books, including Philosophies of Difference (trans. 2010), Future Christ (trans. 2010), Principles of Non-Philosophy (trans. 2013), and, most recently, The Concept of Non-Photography (2011) and Anti-Badiou (2011, trans. 2013).
This event is open to members of the public (no reservation required, but come early to get a seat).
For further information, contact Prof John Mullarkey – firstname.lastname@example.org
Apparently, there is also at talk by Michael Marder on 8 May at UCL where he will be talking about his recent book Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life. It hasn’t been advertised externally, so I don’t know whether it’s a public event. More information welcome!
I am participating in a workshop called ‘It’s Not What You Think – Communicating Medical Materialities’, an interdisciplinary workshop, at the Medical Museion in Copenhagen (8-9 March 2013).
There are still a few spaces left for people who are interested in the topic. Please submit up to 300 words, one page of text/image, a short piece of audio or video, or a small package communicating why they would like to take part to email@example.com by December 1st. Decisions will be announced after Christmas.
The workshop responds to growing cross-disciplinary interest in the material relationships between embodied experience and a techno-scientific world – and to the difficulties many of these disciplines have with communicating why materiality is important, and the effects it has on us. As an experimental meeting place for people with a wide range of interests in materiality, medicine and communication – from STS scholars and anthropologists to artists, designers, museum curators, and media scholars – the format will also be experimental, utilizing object sessions, shared discussions and trips to the archives. We plan to delineate some shared problems, for which we can develop partial solutions, pragmatic fixes, and novel approaches.
Invited participants confirmed so far include Sam Alberti (Royal College of Surgeons), Ken Arnold (Wellcome Collection), Annamaria Carusi (U Copenhagen), Sarah Davies (Arizona State University), Sandra Dudley (School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester), Anthony Dunne (Royal College of Art, London and Dunne & Raby Design Studio), Maja Horst (U Copenhagen), Jenell Johnson (U Madison-Wisconsin), Angela Last (Central Saint Martins College Of Art and Design, London), Lucy Lyons (City & Guilds of London Art School), David Pantalony (Canada Science and Technology Museum, and U Ottawa), and Thomas Söderqvist (U Copenhagen).
Feel free to email Louise Whiteley on firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. The workshop is supported by the NNF Center for Basic Metabolic Research section for Science Communication.
Image source: Michael C.C. Lin from the forthcoming book Architecture in the Anthropocene: Design, Deep Time, Science and Philosophy, edited by Etienne Turpin (Hong Kong: MAP Office/MAP Books Publishers, 2013)
Next year, I will be participating in an AAG session entitled ‘Re-evaluating the Anthropocene, Resituating ‘Anthropos” (session abstract posted below). The session is organised by Harlan Morehouse (University of Minnesota) and Elizabeth Johnson (University of Wisconsin). Am very much looking forward to the discussions! Here is my presentation abstract:
We are the World: Ideologies and material representations
For the majority of social theorists, human relations with materiality, the world and the cosmos have been connected to fear and alienation, and to the instrumentalisation of these sentiments to gain political influence. At any moment in history, representations of materiality have been used politically to deny aspects of human/world relations and to undermine productive responses. Current examples include the denial of anthropogenic climate change and, conversely, calls for the abolition of democracy, deemed ‘unable to deal’ with the consequences of future planetary transformations, in favour of more authoritarian structures.
The work of authors such as Hannah Arendt, Mikhail Bakhtin and Simone Weil acknowledges the importance of thinking at and beyond the planetary scale to counter the instrumentalisation of alienation and the construction of ‘preferred realities’. For these authors, identification with the world and the cosmos has nothing to do with escapism or ‘materialising’ humans, but with warding oneself against being reduced to passive matter by ideologies that deny certain material relations through idealised constructions. For Weil, for instance, to identify with the universe means to cultivate a preoccupation not with tangible materialism, but with an intangible one, focused on thoughts and ‘the perpetual exchange of matter’, in which humans take part.
Bringing together past and present writing on materiality, this paper seeks to highlight the significance of representing human-world relations for constructions of political agency and to propose early and mid-twentieth century conceptualisations of ‘great reality’ as one potential pathway for thinking the human as a geological political agent.
Call for Papers: Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (Los Angeles, April 9-13, 2013)
Re-evaluating the Anthropocene, Resituating ‘Anthropos’
In 2000, Crutzen and Stoermer gave name to a new geological epoch. The “Anthropocene” demarked a post-Holocene present and future in which human activity was understood to be the dominant agent of change in the global environment (2000). Understandably, such a sweeping claim has been viewed unfavorably within critical geographical and environmental scholarship, generating arguments that Crutzen and Stoermer’s concept only offers a new, albeit negative, story of human’s mastery of the earth’s processes. Nigel Clark (2011), for example, has suggested that the term neglects the presence – and force – of terrestrial processes that exist independently from human relationships. Similar criticisms have emerged from the substantial and diverse literature on more-than-human geographies, which aim to dislodge anthropocentrism by granting nonhuman actors and processes more prominent positions in everyday events as well as the meaning and experience of social, political, and historical change (cf. Latour 2004, Serres 2010, Bennett 2011, Badmington 2000, Braun and Whatmore 2010, Castree et al. 2004).
These perspectives have been instrumental in shaping critical responses to Crutzen and Stoermer’s hyperbolic claims. However, recent work in philosophy and the humanities invites an alternative reading of the “Anthropocene,” one that that is more sympathetic to these critiques and that does not elevate or reinscribe humanity as the principal agent of global environmental change, but rather situates it as one force in a field of material processes (Morton 2012). Further, such a reading would recognize unique states of affairs that signal the “collapse of the age-old humanist distinction between natural history and human history” (Chakrabarty 2009) – a sentiment paralleling the suggestion that the Anthropocene announces a shift from the human as biological entity to that of humanity as a geological agent. In these sessions we wish to revisit the idea of the Anthropocene in order to work towards a politics capable of responding to the epistemological and ontological challenges posed by 21st century environmental uncertainty. In spite of its originary hyperbole, the idea of the Anthropocene nevertheless compels us to rethink life amongst the myriad and strange mixtures of social, natural, and socio-natural processes, and in doing so come to terms with materialities that far outstrip the relative inconsequentiality of a human experience of space and time. Or, to echo Morton, it inspires us to ‘think big, and maybe even bigger than that’ (2010). Framing questions include, but are not limited to:
• How does the introduction of global, geological humanity as a singular subject challenge, complement, and/or modify discourses of critical environmental thought?
• If we identify the ‘anthropos’ of the Anthropocene with something as ‘massively distributed in space and time’ (Morton 2010), what limitations do we (as individuals) experience? And what are the implications for considering issues of environmental ethics, responsibility, and politics?
• In what ways does the meaning of “human” change in the movement between biological and geological agency?
• How might critical environmental thought acknowledge the crucial role independent terrestrial processes play in the constitution and experience of material realities while acknowledging humanity’s capacity to shape the earth at multiple scales and in numerous ways?
In light of the above, the organizers of this session welcome novel socio-ecological perspectives that critically reflect on the idea of the Anthropocene, examining its impacts on 21st century environmental thought and politics. Please send inquiries / abstracts of no more than 250 words to Harlan Morehouse (email@example.com) and Elizabeth Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org) by October 5th 2012.
Badmington, N. (2000). Posthumanism. New York, Palgrave.
Bennett, J. (2010). Vibrant Matter. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Braun, B. and S. Whatmore (2010). “The Stuff of Politics: An Introduction.” Political Matter. Minneapolis, MN: U. of Minnesota Press.
Castree, N., C. Nash, et al. (2004). “Mapping posthumanism: an exchange.” Environment and Planning A 36: 1341-1363.
Chakrabarty, D. (2009). “The Climate of History: Four Theses.” Critical Inquiry 35(Winter): 197-222.
Clark, N. (2011). Inhuman nature : sociable life on a dynamic planet. Los Angeles ; London, SAGE.
Crutzen, P.J. and Stoermer, E.F. (2000). “The Anthropocene.” IGBP Newsletter 41(17): 17- 18.
Latour, B. (2004). Politics of Nature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Morton, T. (2012). “On Entering the Anthropocene.” A lecture at the Environmental Humanities Symposium, University of New South Wales, August 23, 2012. Available at http://ecologywithoutnature.blogspot.com/2012/08/on-entering-anthropocene-mp3.html
Morton, T. (2010). The ecological thought. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press.
Serres, M. (2010). Biogea. Minneapolis, MN: Univocal Press.
Image source: Soundfjord
Am currently working on some radio programmes and sound workshops for my new project. Here is a workshop at the SoundFjord Gallery that sounds rather exciting. Would definitely attend it if I wasn’t making sounds somewhere else at that time. In case you are able to go, here are the details from their website:
Material Studies is a monthly improvisation workshop lead by Matthisa Kispert, Blanca Regina and Andrew Riley, and on occasion a special guest – past guests have included Ryan Jordan, Iris Garrelfs – first initiated at SOUND//SPACE held at V22 Summer Club from May to July 2012.
Philosophy: “Material Studies is an open-to-all, playful collective exploration of the sounds within matter.
Avant-garde art, be it musically, visually or performance based often appears as somewhat elitist, with a defined hierarchy between those who create the work (the artists) and those experience it (the audience). To people who have not had the fortune of being taught all the codes of the artform, the pieces and the settings in which these are shown can be uncomfortable and alienating.” – The Material Studies Group
The Material Studies project seeks to open these experimental artforms to anyone who wishes to participate in the collective, improvised sonic exploration of various materials and objects, whether by actively working with the objects, passively absorbing the interactions of others or by expressing a response to the sonic exploration through visual or written acts.
The use of traditional instruments, terminology and tools of manipulation will be avoided. Participants will together develop an improvisational language based solely on the sounds that can be teased out of various everyday objects, with each session being themed around a particular material or object.
No expertise or previous experience is required, instead the sessions focus on the communicative potential of collective improvisation, where every participant needs to listen and react to everything that is happening around, where every gesture has an influence on everything else.
The underlying principle of the project is to promote a corrosion of the space between the artist-performer and the contemplator-audience and to promote the idea that we are all valuable as artists regardless of education or class.
Next workshops: SATURDAY 13 October 2012 | SATURDAY 03 November 2012 | 2.30 – 6 pm
£5/£4 concs per workshop
It is essential to RSVP [helen_at_soundfjord.org.uk] | Pay on the door
An example from Material Studies:
Next year, I will be participating in a two-day workshop at the Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen. The workshop revolves around materiality and its place in the academy, in particular the exploration of possibilities to relate the ‘messy, material processes of science’ in the space of the academy, science communication and public engagement. As the organisers phrase it:
‘How can we communicate about and through materiality – within academia, across disciplinary boundaries, and in public realms flowing with political, ethical, and practical eddies stirred up by a discussion of things?’
These and other questions will be explored through the theme of medicine and the body.
More information can be found on the regularly updated website.
The end of the world has never looked so good – at least that’s how you might feel if you’ve watched the recent string of apocalyptic movies. These films include something for everyone, from the highly stylised (Melancholia) to the ‘realist’ (The Turin Horse), although these distinctions cannot always be clearly made, and there is also the inevitable rom-com option. Exiting the cinema after watching ‘The Turin Horse’, having gone through the ‘Melancholia’ experience just a few days before, my companion joked that Béla Tarr’s film could be described as ‘Melancholia for the 99%’.
What I find interesting about many of these films, which include Another Earth and Seeking a friend for the end of the world, is that they seem to be more about the inner world (collapse of the human psyche) than the ‘outer world’ (collapse of the physical environment). The guiding question for Mike Cahill, the director/co-writer (with Brit Marling) of Another Earth, for instance, is about forgiveness: ‘Who needs to meet themselves the most?’ And how would they react? The only material destruction in the film appears to be that of one character’s body – whose reaction to a possible meeting with himself ends in self-mutilation to rob himself of his sensory perception. In Lars von Trier’s film, the ostensibly most stable, rational character turns out to be the most fragile, and the most fragile, irrational character’s state is revealed to bear the greatest strength.
Amongst all the celebratory and condemning reviews (there does not seem to be anywhere in between) only one article (in the New York Times) seems to touch on this theme. The quote, to me, could have been taken straight from Mikhail Bakhtin’s writings on ‘cosmic terror’:
‘There is a grim vindication — and also an obvious, effective existential joke — in Justine’s discovery that her hyperbolic despair may turn out to be rooted in an accurate and objective assessment of the state of the universe’.
One could argue about the differences between the ends for Bakhtin – to embrace chance, death and other disturbing features of the universe as a means of counteracting fear of earthly (political) power – and the ends for von Trier. According to A O Scott’s New York Times review, von Trier’s aim may be to show how the world ‘deserves its awful fate’. Indeed, the director himself comments that he intended to make a very pessimistic film. In an interview he mentions how he watched Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris in preparation:
‘Tarkovsky constructs all of his films as worlds. And each time, he gives the impression that this world explodes. It’s because of him that I believe in spirits, in phantoms. Do you remember the last plan of Solaris, which included this hallucinatory camera movement? This was really my source of inspiration for the end of Melancholia. I wanted the concluding moment of the film to be the most pessimistic that I’ve ever done, as, as far as I am aware, my films all end too nicely.’
In Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse, the human-cosmic relations seem equally present, but they take a much more material dimension. In his book Béla Tarr, Le Temps D’Après, Jacques Rancière notes how The Turin Horse sees ‘cosmic relations’ taking the place of social relations. Instead of human characters putting obstacles in the protagonists’ way, the latter are pushed back to the house by extreme winds or become increasingly paralysed by dwindling resources. The story is centred around the very basics of life: matter and energy. This is not a film about individuals, but about infrastructure and about humans-as-infrastructure, supporting and perpetuating patterns. Béla Tarr sums it up as follows:
‘We are doing very little things, but every day we are doing the same things – you are getting weaker and weaker, you have less and less energy and you are getting older. You cannot live with anything in your life, you can do the same thing but in a different way and unfortunately, you are going down, and I am going down, and everything is going down.’
According to Tarr, this material commonality is also reflected in the casting process, in which the same characteristics are sought for in human, animals and the landscape equally. In fact, Tarr notes how the horse is more important than the human characters.
In terms of their sensory approaches, Tarr’s and von Trier’s films also move in opposite directions. Although they can both be described as beautiful, hypnotic and interested in transmitting the reality in which the characters live, there is a marked difference, which already begins with the different speeds at the films are shot. Tarr uses 30 cuts for 147 minutes to show the slow disintegration of his characters. Von Trier also messes with time, however his inspiration is less realism than surrealism, notably Dali’s soft clocks. In Melancholia, the apocalypse takes place in a spatially and temporally distorted, dream-like state, although this, for him, has not always worked to his aesthetic satisfaction. After previewing the first scenes of the film, von Trier found them too stylised: they looked too much like a perfume advert– ‘but I wanted apocalypse!’ Another inspiration seems to have been opera and its dramatic expressiveness, which, for von Trier consists of the condensation of strong emotion into short intervals of time. Every image was supposed to announce the end of the world.
By contrast, Tarr’s imagery, while also intensely sensually engaging, seeks to underline materiality and the absence of emotion – including the absence of the spiritual. Prompted about this fact, Tarr comments:
‘The god created this fucking shit, what we have. We just wanted to show you how we disappear, and I don’t know who is the god. But if you remember, Nietzsche stated, God is dead.’
Yet this focus on representing materiality does not only seem to be about the non-existence of God, but also about the non-existence of (productive) thinking and doing. The sudden monologue in the middle of the film appears to mark this lack, the impossibility of change. Not only, according to the deliverer of this speech, has there ‘never been and could never be any kind of change here on earth’, but ‘change has indeed taken place’. This change is being described as the dissolution of potentially resistant forces through their self-destruction after the realisation that neither god(s), nor good and bad exist. In Melancholia, the world, too, appears to have been lost already, as embodied in the character of Justine. Even before the planet is destroyed, she ceases to connect to it: food tastes ‘like ash’ and the earth ‘is evil’. The apocalypse comes as a much needed release.
Does this leave us with two unrepentantly hopeless films? Here, Rancière offers some rare optimism: while, in all of Tarr’s films, the characters never manage to break out of established patterns and always end back where they started off, the closure this implies also suggests openness. Not only is there an infinite variety of patterns and ways to explore these patterns, but with every repetition there seems to be room for something more, something that suggests that the ‘closed circle is always open’. As he aptly puts is: even ‘the last morning is still a morning before’.
Image: ‘Land Marks’ by Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla
Terra Infirma – Experimenting with geo-political practices
Friday, 27 January 2012, The Arts Catalyst, 50-54 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5PS
What does the ‘geo’ in ‘geo-politics’ actually do?
In this workshop we would like participants to imagine how geo-politics could be thought differently. As a starting point, we have taken the contrast between the ‘biopolitical’ and the ‘geopolitical’. Whereas the ‘bio(s)’ in biopolitics does a lot of conceptual and ‘practical’ work against a rising importance of biological life for politics, by comparison, the ‘ge(o)’ in geopolitics seems to form a mere stage set for human politics. Could the ‘geo’ potentially play another role in relation to political practices?
Particularly with the arrival of ‘planetary issues’ connected to climate change and resource shortages, topics such as natural disasters, ‘land grabbing’, atmospheric data and geo-engineering are showing a growing presence in the political arena. Not only do these issues highlight the dependence of humans on a certain physical stability of our planet, but also the limits of dealing with this interdependence, whether it is in terms of political practices (e.g. how to deal with ‘naturally transforming territories’) or theoretical applications. These limitations have prompted experiments around how we could re-think the geo-political. The philosopher Michel Serres, for instance, has proposed to rethink geo-political relations through the term ‘Biogée’ (from Greek ‘bios’ – life; ‘gē’ – earth), through which he attempts to re-connect the separated spheres of ‘life’ and ‘earth’ to form a ‘contemporary global state’ (in both senses of the word). Similarly, geographers have started to experiment with the geo-political, from drawing on ‘geophilosophies’ and artistic engagements to establishing a dialogue between human and physical geography.
So far, most of the experimentation seems to have taken place in the context of climate change, however, the examples-so-far suggest that other areas of geo-politics could likewise benefit from creative attention to the ‘geo’.
We seek to discuss points and questions emerging from preliminary experimentation with the ‘geopolitical’, including but not limited to the following:
- What (else) could the ‘geo’ in geopolitics do?
- In what ways does the ‘geo’ already surface in ‘geo-politics’?
- What could theories of materiality contribute?
- What kind(s) of dialogue could exist between the bio- and geo-political?
- Dangers of simplistic links between the ‘biopolitical’ and ‘geopolitical’ (e.g. the potential return of social Darwinist interpretations)
- The role of technologies in shaping notions of the ‘geo-political’
- ‘Material interventions’ into geo-politics, e.g. artistic provocations
- What kind of work could the ‘geo’ do, for instance, in policies around climate change/geo-engineering?
- How could the ‘geo’ be embedded in public engagement?
In each session, speakers give a short paper or commentary, which will then be discussed with the workshop participants.
10:00 Registration & Tea/Coffee
10:15 Welcome and introductions
10: 30 Session 1 – Theoretical Provocations
Chair: Angela Last
Nigel Clark – ‘When am I?’ Geopolitics and Stratigraphic Uncertainty’
Kathryn Yusoff - ‘Geologic Life or how to get up with dead things’
Joanne Sharp – ‘Displacing geopolitics: imagined geographies from the margins’
13:30 Session 2 – Methods & Materials
Chair: Alan Ingram
Nelly Ben Hayoun & Carina Fernley – ‘The Other Volcano’
Angela Last – ‘Public visions across scales – The Mutable Matter project’
Bron Szerszynski – ‘Making Climates’
15:00 Tea Break
15:30 Session 3 – Embedding Experimental Geopolitics
Chair: Gail Davies
Andrew Barry - ’Geopolitical fieldwork’
Alan Ingram – ‘Contested visibilities: geopolitics and contemporary art’
Gail Davies (discussant)
The workshop is supported by the UCL Department of Geography and an ESRC Fellowship (Grant No. PTA-026-27-2869). We are able to refund reasonable travel costs for attendance at the workshop. Please contact Angela Last email@example.com for more information or to reserve a place.
A poster for the workshop can be downloaded here.