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Eight Fragments on Eight Stones – CORES

September 27, 2020 Leave a comment

Rick Silva and Nicolas Sassoon’s new art project CORES is launched online. With Elise Hunchuck, we had the pleasure of writing the text, “Eight Fragments on Eight Stones”, to accompany the digital animations based on rock scans. See below an excerpt and check out the whole piece online!

“Here, on the lithosphere, where the earth meets the sky, there exists a long history of how rocks and stones can be seen as images and can be read as texts. A multitude of worlds has been interpreted through surfaces of stones as they depict worlds. Imaginary or not, they reflect historical events — a vertiginous array of scales, landscapes, and — sometimes — ruined cities. But they also include abstract forms and lines that offer geological points of origin for questions, including those of art and aesthetics. From the poetics of stones to the geological, we are nowadays more likely to count, classify, and catalogue than romanticise: geological surfaces and stratifications are measured and mapped such as in the cartographic codes for lithographic patterns. From sandy and silty dolomite to sandstone and shale, quartzite and granite to igneous rock the surface and subsurface are a slowly-unfolding inscription of different minerals.”

Read and see the rest on CORES website.

Seed, Image, Ground

August 25, 2020 Leave a comment

The new video essay Seed, Image, Ground is the most recent example of our collaborative work with Abelardo Gil-Fournier emerging from our project on vegetal surfaces and media aesthetics. Launched today, the video was commissioned by Fotomuseum Winterthur as part of their cluster Situations/Strike. Below the introduction text and the video! Please contact me or Abelardo for any queries related to possible video installation versions of the piece.

***

Seed, Image, Ground (2020)

Seed bombing is a technique used in forestry, agriculture, and environmental restoration where biodegradable containers filled with seeds and soil nutrients are dropped from flying aircrafts to the ground. Conceived after WW2 by an RAF pilot, its use has been fostered during the last decade, linked to the increased deployment of robotic aerial vehicles in environmental monitoring.

Seed, Image, Ground works with selected promotional images and videos related to seed bombing. It combines them with footage showing the movements of seeds and leaves, and the growth of plants. The video essay concerns the link between images, seeds, aerial operations, and transformation of earth surfaces into data. It acknowledges how the history of botanic knowledge and visual surveys of green surfaces is a history of images, and how the latter is also a history of circulation, speed, and motorised aircraft. Such images operate much beyond visuality.

Seed, Image, Ground offers an alternative way of understanding “the strike.” From metaphors of war to guerrilla farming, from agricultural techniques and reforesting to the automation of airspace and environmental management, the observation of growth of vegetal surfaces unveils connections to parallel histories of the logistics of military perception.

Sound design by María Andueza Olmedo. Research for the video essay was supported by the project Operational Images and Visual Culture, situated at the department of Photography at the Academy of Performing Arts, Prague. The project is funded by Czech Science Foundation project 19-26865X.

 

A Recursive Web of Models: Studio Tomás Saraceno’s Working Objects

My article on Studio Tomás Saraceno’s work is now out in the Configurations journal.

Screenshot 2020-07-23 at 14.39.37

The text follows up from the Palais de Tokyo show On Air (curated by Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel) and I’ve tried to articulate these points in the article in a couple of different contexts. While there is clearly lots (more) to be said about questions of artistic practices with animals (including multispecies ethnography), and what that implies for the field of environmental humanities, I am here a tad more focused on the question of the image, the model, and the exchange between art and science. Admittedly, “art and science” is a rather low res description of many of the actual workings of what happens in such practices, which is also why I have mobilised the term working objects (hat tip to Daston and Galison) in this context (while I acknowledge that so much more could be said). And keep your eyes open for Sasha Engelmann’s work on Studio Saraceno’s work btw.

In the meantime, see also the video “Studio Visit with Tomás Saraceno“.

Geologie médií

March 22, 2020 Leave a comment

The Czech translation of A Geology of Media is now out and available with Karolinum publishing house (Prague) as Geologie médiíAlso the Czech translation of What is Media Archaeology? is forthcoming (probably 2021) as well as a book focusing on my work (planned to be out in 2021).

Screenshot 2020-03-22 at 14.12.44

 

Abstraktioner (en svensk översättning)

January 27, 2020 Leave a comment

The exhibition Weather Report: Forecasting Future that featured at the Venice Biennial 2019 Nordic Pavilion opens soon at Kiasma in Helsinki. My text that was written for the exhibition curated by Leevi Haapala and Piia Oksanen is available in the catalogue in English but also, now, thanks to the translator Mats Forsskåhl it has been translated into Swedish. Please find the text below.

Abstraktioner– om hur man kan vara här och där på samma gång

Prognoser och förutsägelser är bra för många saker. Du kan anta att någonting kan tänkas inträffa, du kan förbereda dig. Du kan varna eller ge försiktigare puffar. Du kan tjäna pengar, eller se till att någon annan förlorar pengar. Prognoser kan fungera i vardagslivet, och de fungerar definitivt för militären; du kan kartlägga och förekomma; du kan övertyga och bygga upp argument om saker som inte ens existerar ännu, annat än kanske som prognoser.

Traditionellt har det varit nödvändigt att särskilja på prognoser och profetior. Profetior var trots allt den främsta tekniken för att spå framtiden långt innan tillkomsten av moderna teknologier som förenade observation och statistiska resonemang. Prognoser erbjöd ett redskap för att försöka förstå den dynamiska naturen hos fenomen som vädret.[1] Meteorologin och klimatologin har trätt fram som komponenter i ett systematiskt försök att tänka över olika skalor för storlek: dessa vetenskapsgrenar har belyst hur lokala observationer drar nytta av information om globala mönster, och vice versa.[2] Vädret blev redan tidigt teknologiskt, baserat på statistik och data, behandling och kunskap. Och som teknologibaserat möjliggjordes det och integrerades i 1800-talets nyaste medieteknologi, nämligen telegrafin.[3]

I fråga om telegrafi och väder är synkronisering en avgörande, underliggande faktor. Men det handlar inte bara om synkronisering över avstånd mätt i rummet, som när en flock fåglar skapar mönster av rörelse på himlen, då tåg ansluter till varandra enligt tidtabell eller då geografiskt avlägsna observationstorn kan jämföra data. Prognoser och förutsägelser synkroniserar som teknologier i tid. Synkronisering över tid etablerar en länk som är osäker men likväl nödvändig, inte bara här eller där utan som koppling mellan de två baserat på antagandet att det också finns en jämförbar enhet för tid. Prognoser som synkronisering övertygar oss att detta, här och nu, på något sätt är relaterat till det där, där borta – vad som kanske kunde hända om den statistiska sannolikheten håller sina försiktiga löften. Estetik och tid passar bra ihop. I bästa fall tar de form, är produktiva, synkroniserar, skär tvärs över flera existerande register, tvingar fram förfall och producerar kvalitativa språng. En nyupptäckt tröskel i tiden är som en ny form för att se, en ny form för att uppleva, ett sätt att stiga ut ur sin egen kropp. Båda är också spekulativa.

Alla som har haft att göra med väder vet att dess fenomen kan inträffa eller likaväl inte göra det. Det är en vanesak i det avseendet att det anknyter till kroppen och dess förväntningar samtidigt som man måste acceptera att det inte bara är erfarenheten som avgör vad som verkligen hände.[4] Vi sysselsätter oss med prognoser och förväntningar, av och an mellan att titta ut genom fönstret och dubbelkontrollera väderleksrapporten för att veta om vi ska ta med oss ett paraply eller inte.

De harmlösa små detaljerna i sådana dagliga vanor motsvarar helt uppenbart inte den andra ändan av skalan med klimat och rapporter som diskuterar framtiden på lång sikt. Eller med andra ord, endast en dumskalle skulle förväxla vår uppfattning om väder med det som är den mer abstrakta och storskaliga verkligheten i form av planetomfattande förändring. Klimat handlar om dessa mönster över långa tidsspann – en period på 30 år är ofta standardenheten för mätningar. Det blir då en fråga om varaktighet över längre tider, om möjliga framtider, om interaktion mellan mätningar i massiv skala: temperatur, nederbörd, lufttryck, vind, fuktighet.[5] Och dessa olika mätskalor blir också ingjutna i ett annorlunda perspektiv på det mänskliga. Därmed är det inte enfaldigt att överväga vilka former av varseblivning, upplevelse och tid som är inbegripna i väder och klimat: en annan tid, en annan rytm. Med Claire Colebrooks ord: “Så länge vi tänker på klimatet i dess traditionella betydelse – som vår specifika miljö – förlorar vi eventuellt fokus på klimatförändringen, eller på i vilken grad det mänskliga livet nu är delaktigt i tidslinjer och rytmer som ligger utanför dess egna gränser.”[6]

På samma sätt som vädret inte bara är en angelägenhet för proffs som väderjournalister och meteorologer berör klimatet inte bara klimatologer och andra specialister som hanterar de enorma mängder data som processas, sammanställs i modeller, tolkas statistiskt och presenteras för beslutsfattare. Det är vid det här laget uppenbart att klimatet blir ett av de problemområden som blir ett tema för vetenskap och ingenjörskonst, humaniora och samtidskonst. Men vid sidan av truismen som understryker dess betydelse för det in en hel uppsättning specifika parametrar i vårt arbete. Frågor om fukthalt och vind blir en del av humaniora, temperatur och regn framträder i konstnärligt utövande. Biokemiska, geofysiska och atmosfäriska faktorer bildar en avgörande kontext för vår förståelse av samtida situationer i politik och estetik på sätt som fungerar som passager till andra tidsperioder, andra arter och som, om vi har tur, erbjuder en ingång till en annorlunda etik.

Bilder som vetenskapliga modeller och simulationer är ett slags kosmogram för vår tid som hjälper oss att hantera de materiella manifestationerna av hur vi förstår storskaliga begrepp som universum (inte någon anspråkslös uppgift). Dessa ingångspunkter till det storskaliga är givetvis också rätt konkreta ting, vilket John Tresch uttrycker: “kartor, diagram, byggnader, kalendrar, dikter, encyklopedier” som fungerar som “performativa påståenden, inlägg i debatter, referenspunkter för vidare utveckling.”[7] Kosmogram kan också vara visuella, till och med konstnärliga verktyg; de är materiella men samtidigt kan de tala över olika skalor, synkronisera separata skeenden och fenomen, till och med till ett kvasiargument. Detta är vad jag försöker säga er, de talar i en viskning eller i ett lågfrekvent rytande.

En del av vårt arbete är att uppfinna kosmogram som är tillräckligt komplexa för att hantera möjliga framtider. En del av dem är synkroniserade med tanke på en annan tid. Det finns en futurism inbakad i denna kontext, men framtiderna utgör en annan mängd än i traditionella konst- och kulturkontexter. Denna framtid anländer i form av klimatmodeller, som rapporter, en administrativ kategori information som är övertygande men samtidigt fastställer mer än byråkratins gråhet som verkställer sig själv. Om vi inte “selektivt kan frikänna oss från det förgångna”[8] blir följande fråga hur vi på ett liknande sätt ska kunna hålla fast vid framtider som insisterar på att deras kraft ska kännas av nu, oavsett om de kommer till oss i form av fiktiva framställningar eller vetenskapligt grundade rapporter. Frågan och utmaningen handlar inte om att selektivt frikänna sig från framtiden.

Den nyligen publicerade rapporten från den mellanstatliga klimatpanelen (IPCC) “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C (SR15)”[9] lägger fram klara argument för specifika modeller för en framtid som nu är minst sagt överhängande. Det här är rapporten som skapar rubriker åter en gång. Den varnar att de kommande tolv åren är en avgörande period för regeringar och mellanstatliga organisationer att göra drastiska förändringar över hela linjen, från infrastruktur och industri till personliga vanor och värderingar, för att begränsa den globala uppvärmningen till ”bara” 1,5 grader Celsius i stället för 2 grader och stigande (då radikala återkopplingsmekanismer accelererar uppvärmningen). En del av evidensen tyder på en utveckling som ger en uppvärmning på fyra eller fem grader före seklets slut.

IPCC:s rapporteringsstil bygger på en särskild metodologi för att trovärdigt göra utlåtanden om kausaliteten mellan varierande proxydata som bedöms vara relevanta, och hur dessa inverkar på vår situation i förhållande till framtiden. Därför är exempelvis följande del ur rapportens sammandrag för beslutsfattare märkt som ”hög tillförlitlighet” och ”medelhög tillförlitlighet”, baserat på vissa specifika punkter i analysen: “Uppvärmning förorsakad av antropogena utsläpp från den förindustriella perioden till idag kommer att fortgå i sekler eller millennier och kommer fortsättningsvis att ge upphov till vidare långsiktiga förändringar i klimatsystemet, såsom stigande havsnivåer och de följder de medför (hög tillförlitlighet), men det är osannolikt att dessa utsläpp ensamma skulle förorsaka en global uppvärmning på 1,5°C (medelhög tillförlitlighet).”

Rapporten redogör för ett minutiöst framforskat nät av uttalanden och avvägningar mellan dem baserat på nivåer av tillförlitlighet. Det blir som en retorisk vägkarta för varierande, möjliga rutter till framtiden och deras möjliga kausaliteter som följer av observationer av tidigare trender. IPCC-rapporten ger också en bra påminnelse om insatserna då man förutser framtiden baserat på de diverse skärningspunkterna i denna specifika, temporala förutsägelse. “Klimatrelaterade risker för naturliga och mänskliga system är högre vid en uppvärmning på 1,5°C än idag, men lägre än vid 2°C (hög tillförlitlighet). Dessa risker beror på uppvärmningens storlek och takt, geografisk placering, nivå av utveckling och utsatthet samt val och tillämpning av alternativ för anpassning och lindring av effekterna (hög tillförlitlighet).”

Prognosen som är märkt med ”hög tillförlitlighet” har att göra med den poäng som länge diskuterats inom humaniora och socialvetenskap, nämligen hur riskerna och verkningarna av klimatförändringen är ojämnt spridda. Det är intressant hur framtiden kommer oss mycket nära; science fiction-liknande versioner av radikalt och ofrivilligt förändrade livsstilar är inte en avlägsen framtid utan en som kommer att bli verklighet inom 10–20 år, med ackumulerande effekter. Den väsentliga frågan är inte bara när utan också var framtiden anländer tidigare än du har trott. Det framtida ”där” blir detta som händer ”här”, eller i de flesta fall det där skeendet ”där”, varvid de geografiska kopplingarna mellan klimatförändringens radikala effekter och global fattigdom tydligt måste klargöras. Det tillsynes kliniska språkbruket som används för att behandla fördelningen av sannolikheter måste också kopplas till en politik för ”miljöarbete för de fattiga”[10] och mönstren av avfallshantering som definierar den globala kulturen: det finns kemiskt avfall och det finns mänskligt avfall (eller liv och arbete som behandlas som avfall).[11]

Modeller och simuleringar är teknologier för vetande: de synkroniserar tid på sätt som kan synas märkligt malplacerade, men samtidigt konstant är verkliga, åtminstone som verklig potential. Liksom kosmogram lär de oss former för vetande som uttrycker abstraktionernas verklighet som materiella manifestationer. Den estetiska sidan av sådana väderleksrapporter, klimatrapporter, framtider-nu är därmed inte bara ornamental dekoration utan blir levd praxis i en regim där abstraktioner och vanor måste arbeta sida vid sida. Estetikens uppgift är då att undervisa och omjustera våra sinnesförnimmelser i relation till abstraktioner; “defamiliarisering och omvälvning av sinnesförnimmelserna. Detta är vad som i första hand sker omkring oss: en fullständig omvandling av förnimmelser och världens egenskaper”[12] som Heather Davis uttrycker det i den antropocena estetikens kontext.

Abstraktioner som en del av omvandlingen av skalan för sinnesförnimmelser är ett intressant tillskott till denna omvälvning. Som Sanford Kwinter noterat är abstraktioner “sinnrika redskap utarbetade för att distribuera den meningslösa progressionen av skeenden i naturen i en extern, tänkbar rymd av mätning, behandling och behärskande”[13]. Men det uttömmer inte egentligen deras innebörd helt och hållet. På många sätt kunde man säga att vi redan lever som förkroppsligade abstraktioner vilket fungerar som en garanti för att våra sinnesförnimmelser är mer än bara interna eller ens personliga. Detta återkopplar till begreppet weathering som Astrida Neimanis och Rachel Loewen Walker talar om: väder, eller klimat för den delen, är inte bara en extern miljö för sinnesförnimmelser förkroppsligade i människan. Det är också en temporal, intensiv och kvalitativ delfaktor i vårt kroppsliga varande och blivande. Kroppar existerar i och genom väder och mer långsiktigt klimat. Kroppens stämningar påverkas av de materiella krafter i mycket större skala som tar sig uttryck i lufttryck, fukthalt och temperatur. Och detta fenomen som på engelska kunde kallas weathering har också en temporal dimension: “klimat och väder är inte något vi passerar igenom (i en lineär tidsprogression) eller upprätthåller (i ett omöjligt förnekande av tiden), utan är snarare en aspekt av tid som vi genomlever tillsammans.”[14]

På vilka sätt kan vi också kultivera kollektiva former av förståelse för den temporala framtiden? Prognosernas framtiden-nu är inte bara en rationaliserande abstraktion utan blir den gällande horisonten för praxis. Man måste leva i och genom abstraktioner eftersom det är det enda sättet att få en uppfattning om frågans skala. Detta betyder givetvis inte att man inte skulle kultivera olika former av erfarenhet och aktivism. En form av utlevd abstraktion kunde vara den nyligen lanserade aktiviströrelsen Extinction Rebellion som omedelbart skapade rubriker genom sina direkta aktioner i Storbritannien, där man bromsade upp trafiken och erbjöd en form av olydnad utan våld som en del av repertoaren inom det som kan kallas weathering. Många andra kunde nämnas, till exempel vågen av studentstrejker under hashtaggen #Climatestrike.

Den typ av skalärt tänkande som gav upphov till meteorologin och klimatologin har blivit en väsentlig del av den vetenskapliga kunskapen och har introducerat en uppsättning synnerligen märkliga tidsskalor som gradvis har normaliserats under 1900-talets gång. Kraften i prognoser som så länge strikt måste särskiljas från profetior och spådomar måste däremot igen upplevas som väder – denna gång är det emellertid de mer långsiktiga klimatframtiderna som känns i ben och mot hud. Om vädret redan var ett krig på flera fronter, mobiliserat av de tekniska medierna, markerar klimatet en upptrappning av våldet i form av en reducering av den mänskliga populationen, potentiellt med hundratals miljoner människor, börjande med de fattigaste. Plötsligt blir de tillsynes vardagliga väderrapporterna åter politiska till sin natur. Väderrapporter, liksom klimatprognoser, kan fungera som metoder för aktivism och som indikationer på 2000-talets tätnande stormmoln.

[1] Katherine Anderson, Predicting the Weather. Victorians and the Science of Meteorology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
[2] För de tidiga skedena i skalärt tänkande och klimatologi, se Deborah R. Coen, Climate in Motion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.
[3] John Durham Peters, The Marvelous Clouds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015, s. 251.
[4] Se Wendy Chuns analys av vanor i Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Updating to Remain the Same. Habitual New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2016, s. 55.
[5] “Climate” i IPCC, 2013: Annex III: Glossary [Planton, S. (red.)]. I: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F.,  D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex och P.M. Midgley (red.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom och New York, NY, USA.
[6] Claire Colebrook, “A globe of one’s own: In praise of the flat earth.” SubStance volym 41, nummer 127, 2012, s. 36.
[7] John Tresch, “Cosmologies Materialized: History of Science and History of Ideas” i Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History, redigerad av Darrin M. McMaho och Samuel Moyn. Oxford och New York: Oxford University Press, 2014, s. 163.
[8] James Williams, Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy of time: A critical introduction and guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011, s. 18.
[9] http://www.ipcc.ch/ (Läst den 13 november, 2018).
[10] Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and Environtalism of the Poor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.
[11] Sean Cubitt, “Integral Waste” i Theory, Culture & Society volym 32, nummer 4, 2015, s. 133-145.
[12] Heather Davis, “Art in the Anthropocene” i the Posthuman Glossary, redigerad av Rosi Braidotti och Maria Hlavajova. London: Bloomsbury 2018, s. 63.
[13] Sanford Kwinter, Architectures of Time. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001, s. 4.
[14] Astrida Neimanis och Rachel Loewen Walker, “Weathering: Climate Change and the ‘Thick Time’ of Transcorporeality” Hypatia volym 29, nummer 3 (Sommar 2014), s. 570.

(Original English version published in Leevi Haapala and Piia Oksanen (eds.), Weather Report: Forecasting Future. Ane Graff, Ingela Ihrman, nabbteeri. A Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 169/2019. Milan and Helsinki: Mousse Publishing and Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery, 2019.) Part of the Venice Biennale Nordic Pavilion 2019.

Earth/Sky exhibition opening talk

With Ryan Bishop we wrote the following short oral presentation as part of the opening panel of the Earth/Sky exhibition that is on at the Calit2 gallery at UC San Diego! Please visit the show if you are in the region and for those interested, below the short opening introduction.

Screen Shot 2019-02-04 at 17.11.08

Ryan Bishop and Jussi Parikka

March 7, 2019, UC San Diego

Earth/Sky exhibition – introductory remarks

Where the vertical X line meets the horizontal Y line in the X/Y axis is called the origin. Although we are not going to pursue myths of origins in this panel, that intersection is certainly the origin of inspiration for our exhibition and the works that comprise it.

What is the relationship between the X/Y axis and the horizon? Where is the horizon in the X/Y axis and how is it constructed, reconstituted, erased, or negated by the visualizing technologies these artists deploy, explore, exploit and query? The question of the horizon in relation to technology emerged in its contemporary guise in the aftermath of WWII and remains with us, cast by Martin Heidegger as “the age of the world picture “. The telecommunications technologies developed to provide constant real-time surveillance of the earth necessary to conduct the Cold War and enforce the Truman Doctrine simultaneously converted the earth into a globe (a bounded sphere visible at all times) as well as into a flattened world without horizon (due to the use of “over the horizon” visualizing technologies and complete surveillance of the entire planet all at the same time).

It found visual form in two works produced about the same time as Heidegger was writing: Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Air-Ocean World Map, and Jasper Johns’ large-scale painting for the Montreal Expo ’67 inspired by Fuller’s map (and installed in Fuller’s massive geodesic dome erected there for the expo). The multi-pieced and multi-shaped canvas painting measures more than 30 feel long and over 15 feet high. As with Fuller’s cartographic vision, the icosahedron Dymaxion map created by Johns could be disassembled or assembled at will. Fuller’s map could be folded together to create a sphere or unfolded, origami-like, to be a flat two-dimensional object. Co-created with Shoji Sadao, Fuller’s map provided the model for the interactive, data-driven version used in his real-time teletechnological teaching tool called the World Game. Fuller and Sadao’s map moved easily, then, between 3-D and 2-D representations of the earth’s continents. These were represented in size based on population distribution and resource usage instead of the standard cartographic nod to physical coverage. While Fuller’s optimistic vision of the map’s pedagogical elements was at odds with Johns’ more pessimistic view of the geopolitical agonism that marked the moment, the map mimetically reproduces fully “the age of the world picture”. The globe as stage for Fuller-inflected neighbourliness also became a site of contiguous land masses locked in Johns-depicted animus: 3-D holistic vision coupled with 2-D Cold War strategically-generated economic inequities.

The cultural politics of Heidegger’s interpretation of modernity’s generated metaphysics can be charted in the capacity for representation to equate with both experience and the real, for the map to create the territory and the technological means for cartographic representation to become the tools for human crafting of the earth as globe, as flat observable plane or, as Fuller termed it, Spaceship. The visualizing teletechnologies on display in the Dymaxion Map, as well as the works in our exhibition here, are just such tools, for they chart a trajectory in which the world travelled from being construed as plane to orb to globe to flat, surveilled entity again. Our capacity to see and render the planet whole erased the horizon of the world and made it capable of being held in our collective teletechnological grasp. This is the “negative horizon” theorized by Paul Virilio: the conversion of the surface of the earth to pure surface, pure plane, to salt flat deserts and “mineral cemeteries” (141), a screen for projections and visions, a platform for unfettered terrestrial and aerial acceleration and optical realization. The age of the world picture is evoked in these maps made by Fuller and Johns, and it is so in the means by which we have enframed, delineated and curtailed potential futures, realized or not.

This leads us to our works on display in the exhibition (as well as the one screened as part of this opening panel, Susan Schuppli’s vertical cinema piece Atmospheric Feedback Loops). Schuppli’s audiovisual installation “Nature Represents Itself” presents the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in its legal and aesthetic form to propose the ecological site as a material witness capable of representing its own damaged condition. This auto representation of environmental disaster posits a new medium unique to the components of the disaster; in many ways, it is a visual analogue to Reza Negarestani’s philosophical fiction writing that fabulated the non-human revenging force of petroleum in Cyclonopedia. Furthermore, it taps into the multiple camera angles of the Anthropocene: the live feed of the underwater oil leak, the aerial view of the region as a massive size oil painting (as Ubermorgen, art group, coined it), the cultural politics of TV footage, the scientific imagining, and so forth.

Concerns about the horizon are omnipresent in the name of the documented disaster: the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, with its connotations of X and Y in itself as well as the dimension of depth as the passage to the underwater realms that link from Jules Verne’s fictional Captain Nemo’s megalomanic world tour to the as megalomanically disastrous seascapes of drilling and deep sea mining. While the melting arctic ice that will flood vast coastal areas and towns presents its own new northern passages as well as oil and mineral opportunities, we are left with the archive of disasters that already took place across the petrocultural century. Deepwater is one where the various axes are again brought together both as its spatial coordinates and as part of visual culture of disasters.

The Gulf of Mexico was made an unintentional canvas of human intervention and failure, as seen in the many images of the disaster taken by NASA’s pertinently named Terra satellite. The visual register on screen in Schuppli’s work is that of the accident, which is a recurring feature of that axis where visual culture and technological infrastructure and political decision-making meet. As Paul Virilio reminded us, the invention of any technology is also the invention of its failure, of its accidents. The technology in its operation and its failure provide equally fodder for planning, speculation and aesthetic production. This also applies to the speculative side in more ways than one: not merely inventing technologies, but inventing their accidents around which technological systems can be laid out as large scale systems. Virilio in fact posited that the history of technology could better be queried and understood through a Museum of Disasters than our usual technolophillic celebratory institutions. If such a site were to be built, Schuppli’s work could take a proud place there as one example of the long term legacy of petroculture as itself an invention of an accident around which modern culture takes place, from transport to industry, from lifestyle to the variety of materials that sustain our sense of the everyday.

Another kind of an accident lurks in Herregraven’s “Sprawling Swamps,” a series of fictional infrastructures dispersed within the cracks of the contemporary financial geography that operate on a technological, legal and social level. Herregraven’s focus is on the littorals, the ambiguous shifting zones where sea and land interact, the port and the portal interface. These ambiguous and ambivalent spaces, gaps between economic and environmental certitudes, speak to Paul Gilroy’s arguments for a “critique at sea level”. Picking up from Gilroy, Francoise Verges asks: how do we develop cultural theory that starts from water, the sea, the oceans – from the middle passage, but then also the northern passages, the various forms of colonial and other kinds of disasters, including contemporary ones that take place across liquid and swampy landscapes? What is sea level in the current moment and in this moment of warming currents? Increasingly land can become water, arable land can become desert, etc. in the weird mixes of the classical four elements; as Gary Genosko puts it, these four elements are not however anymore the stable sort of earth-water-fire- air. A longer quote from Genosko (in the Posthuman Glossary) gives a clear picture of the new synthetics of elements:

The new fundamental elements… EARTH : dust; WATER : blood; AIR : lethal fogs; FIRE :flammables. Wrapped around these elements is the planetary phylum, a great tellurian cable bunch with its own products: EARTH : electronics; WATER : liquidities like water bottled in plastic, which throws forward diagrammatic intensities in the explosion of plastic debris; AIR : gases (green house); and FIRE : smouldering car tyres, slashed rainforests and seasonal wild fires in the great northern forests. However, as we have seen, the new elements combine both in existing directly – blood mixed with dust in the extraction of conflict minerals and oil fields, or methane, a flammable unnaturally mingled with the water supply, and which contributes to the green house gas effect – and by means of especially communicative matters, like microscopic fragments of plastics that perfuse the oceans and get into the food chain, and constitute fine dusts that affect respiration, settling among the fogs, gases and lethal clouds.

The Ovid-like metamorphoses of nature, of bodies changed, operates in pre-socratic thought in relation to the elements with the universe composed of these elements battling or playfully transforming into one another, as Empedocles theorized. But from Empedocles, we should move further to the chemical period of the past 200 years of chemistry and its multiple forms of interaction and escalation of planetary deposits. What we are witnessing now is a rapid reshaping of the elements of the planet, some by design but most not, some by human actors and some by technological systems working autonomously or in tandem with others in unintended ways. The dynamic nature of matter, and of nature, finds form in precarious legal, financial and governmental infrastructures poised along the liminal littorals. Nonetheless urban human forms as a guiding set of imaginaries are seemingly impervious to the vicissitudes of unstable ecologies, in spite of high winds, hurricanes, typhoons, floods and drought.

Visualizations of the XY axis rarely show the air or the sky. The seeming transparency of atmospheres is however a source for another sort of “light media” and “sky media” that is often crystallised in technological figures such as drones or satellite infrastructures or then in the toxic legacies such as smog. It also includes the longer legacy of the aerial perspective – sightlines lifted from the ground.

We most often see the earth as surface (with the X line being the literal line of sight). The horizon is usually implied, what we know lies beyond the frame. Heba Amin’s lyrical and witty projection piece, “As Birds Flying,” allows views of the sky, the earth, the horizon, savannahs and wetlands, settlements and aviary migrations, which in turn allude to human migrations on the rise throughout the world. Her use of found footage and non-human surveillance techniques, in this case mistakenly believed to be strapped to a migrating stork, reveals horizons of visualization, tracking and the continual geopolitical struggle for contested terrain. This view is not stable but one in movement; a survey of landscapes and velocity, of movement and tracking, of cinematic visions projected onto daily existence.

It is worth noting in closing that the aerial views on view in the show now are visible by humans but the majority of the images of the earth’s surface being produced today are by machines for machines: they are not representational but informational and automated; this is what Harun Farocki coined as the world of operational, or operative, images, which also includes an increasing amount of environmental imaging. These are also a dominant strand of the Earth/Sky and X/Y axis visualizations of the present that expands from aerial views to soil analysis, and to interplanetary visual cultures as with the recent Mars Rover images too. These images as measurements are used for their data despite the at times glamorous views we get a glimpse of. That which isn’t visible can be translated into data visualizations that help feed a vast machine of charting, control and most importantly prediction.

In so doing the X-Y axis extends to include the Z axis, and enters into predictive temporalities: planning, investment, policing, and so forth. The role of AI techniques of prediction in the futures markets results in manipulation and prediction that links governmental sovereignty to data visualization technologies and their capacity to shape and generate financial systems and markets. The particular surfaces that are catered as massive datasets are the past archive for the hypothetical future-nows that open up a new horizon. Questions surrounding the large-scale production of premediated near-future predictive strategies linking geomedia to algotrading speeds up the earth as the manipulation of its materials for control and gain set the data-gathering agenda in spite of the many admirable and altruistic projects that may complement it. In this way, the images and the predictive data scraped from them replicates bureaucratic tools of domination past. Sean Cubitt writes: “That trinity of fundamentally bureaucratic media—databases (filing cabinets), spreadsheets (ledgers) and GIS (maps)—still operates, not least at the level of companies and institutions, where it continues to provide the backbone of a residual early-modern biopolitics.” These instances of administration , Cubitt continues, “were the dominant media of the early 21st century, because they were the media of domination.” The techniques and technologies have changed but the larger cultural technics and their ontological rationale have not.

The origin of the X/Y axis remains literally and figuratively in place, if not accelerated and exacerbated by our visualizing technologies.

Library’s Other Intelligences videos

February 15, 2019 Leave a comment

Our show Library’s Other Intelligences is on at Oodi in Helsinki until March 10th and we have now our videos of the three featured pieces! Please find links below:

Jenna Sutela: nimiia ïzinibimi

Jenna Sutela’s nimiia ïzinibimi is a unique book based on an invented new language representing those who lack first-hand access to, or the ability to produce, “natural” language.

Samir Bhowmik & 00100 ENSEMBLE: Memory Machines

Samir Bhowmik’s and 00100 ENSEMBLE’s Memory Machines is a performative art project that explores the infrastructure of the Central Library Oodi

Tuomas A. Laitinen: Swarm Chorus

Tuomas A. Laitinen presents Swarm Chorus. He composed a performative installation and a sound piece with generative tools that are interpreting the construction of medieval musical canons. The work as a whole is likened to an ecosystem of circulating substances, with its words, inspired by ecological science fiction, functioning as fictional recipe poems describing and decoding an alchemistic combination of matter and meaning.

In addition,  the Code, Craft, and Catalogues: Arts in the Libraries-seminar will take place in New York on March 9th. It is also part of the Mobius fellowship program.

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Earth/Sky exhibition in San Diego

February 4, 2019 1 comment

I am happy to announce that our exhibition Earth/Sky opens in San Diego, at Calit2 gallery in March! Curated by me and Ryan Bishop, the exhibition features works by Heba Y. Amin, Femke Herregraven and Susan Schuppli. Please find below a longer curatorial note and a schedule of the opening seminar we are organising in conjunction of the launch party (March 7th).

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EARTH/SKY is an exhibition of environmentally-informed artistic engagements with the intersection of vertical and horizontal planes. The art works explore the myriad ways in which the juxtaposition of earth and sky metonymically evokes a range of X/Y axes that allows for material and immaterial interactions between horizontal and vertical planes. The ground of the earth is also the ground that delineates when air becomes sky. The cinematic image and the calculated image are a further part of defining how the vertical and horizontal, the earth and the sky link up as realities that can be measured. The images that are presented in these works are also in such a way technical forms of measurement – from climate science to the political control of territories. From climate change to contemporary finance and migration, the pieces set environmental questions and environmental perspectives into a dialogue with contemporary global politics that always, however, is situated across particular regions and sites: from aerial views of oil slick simulations to bird flock and drones in desert landscapes of Egypt and on the fictional landscapes of swamps and shorelines, images conjure territories and territories are conjured up landscapes on the X/Y axis.

Three artists included in the exhibition are Susan Schuppli (London, UK), Femke Herregraven, an artist based in the Netherlands, and Heba Y. Amin, a Berlin-based Egyptian artist. Schuppli’s installation “Nature Represents Itself” is an oil film simulation and hydrocarbon composition that documents both the initial surface slick as well as subsurface plumes resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Produced in 2018, this simulation is exhibited in conjunction with audio detailing the lawsuit ­led on behalf of the rights of nature against BP. While satellite transmissions, the underwater video feed, and even Public Lab’s activist mapping project all combined to document the aftermath of the disaster, the slick was already operationalizing an independent mode of media itself. Oil spills are literally slick images that find their cinematic origins in petroleum production. Schuppli presents the oil spill in its legal and aesthetic form to propose the ecological site as a material witness fully capable of representing its own damaged condition.

Herregraven’s “Sprawling Swamps,” was shown at transmediale 2018. An ongoing multimedia project begun in 2016, “Sprawling Swamps” is a series of fictional infrastructures dispersed within the cracks of the contemporary financial geography that operate on a technological, legal and social level. The infrastructures are located in specific locations from swamps to shorelines but also engage with the immaterial economies of value. The piece attempts to engage with infrastructure as it relates to the turbulent dynamics of nature – itself a crucial part of the current discussions about landscape that is determined across technological and ecological questions.

The third piece in the show, Amin’s “As Birds Flying”, provides a view of the sky in flight and as flight, but in so doing comments on politics, surveillance, paranoia and environmental manipulation. A self-conscious mediation on the aerial view and its erasure of the geometry of perspective inherited from the Renaissance, Amin’s work explore the political absurdity generated by an obsession with the televisual mastery of the air and ground. Taking an incident from 2013, in which a stork fitted with an electronic device for migratory research was mistaken for a non-human source of surveillance and thus taken into custody by Egyptian officials, Amin’s cinematic response then becomes a meditation on migration of birds in parallel to human migration and the control of also rural territories. “The short, allegorical film is constructed out of found drone footage of aerial views of savannas and wetlands, including settlements in Galilea – sweeping views that seem to be taken by the ‘spy’ stork in the above story. ‘Seeing the country from the top is better than seeing it from below’, the soundtrack says, with footage of a bird soaring in the air. Funny, absurd and disconcerting, the video’s suspenseful cinematic soundtrack contains the reconstructed audio sequences of dialogue from Adel Imam’s ­lm Birds of Darkness.”

Each of these three works explore how the intersection of earth and sky is imagined, realized, subverted, represented and manufactured within complex ecologies of time, finance, science, technology, aesthetics and power. The ineluctably inextricable dimensions of ecological and environmental influence of sky on earth and earth on sky become the foundations for aesthetic, scientifi­c, technological and political examination provided by these three artworks.

The exhibition is accompanied by an artistic-academic panel that addresses the topic of earth and sky as examined by considerations of the earth’s surface and its vertical, media technological determinations.

We are also screening Susan Schuppli’s vertical cinema piece Atmospheric Feedback Loops as part of the opening event.

Earth/Sky
Thursday, March 7, 2019
Time: 5:00pm-7:30pm

5:00 Calit2 Auditorium; Atmospheric Feedback Loops Screening
5:30 Panel Discussion with Ryan Bishop, Jussi Parikka, Susan Schuppli, and Femke Herregraven, Moderated by Jordan Crandall
6:30 Reception and gallery open

The show will run March 7-June 7, 2019, with gallery hours 12pm-5pm Monday-Friday.

The events are free and open to the public

http://gallery.calit2.net
http://qi.ucsd.edu/events/event.php?id=2974 

For the opening, RSVP requested to galleryinfo@calit2.net

Library’s Other Intelligences opens

December 22, 2018 Leave a comment

I am happy to share that our joint project with Shannon Mattern, Library’s Other Intelligences, opens in the new Oodi library in Helsinki in January!

Digital cultures of alternative intelligence, library architectures as a stage for performance and imaginary languages, and memory machines tours that take you through the library as a living organism of infrastructure are some of the themes the works by Jenna Sutela, Samir Bhowmik and Tuomas A. Laitinen address!

The opening takes place on January 11th including a small symposium on January 12th. There is also a press tour on Wednesday 9th of January – please be in touch if you want to attend.

Warm welcome to all! A brief blurb below including a link to the Memory Machines tours.

Memory Machines tours: January 11, 12 &13 at 18:30. Sign up here.

The Library’s Other Intelligences, an art project organized by the MOBIUS Fellowship Program of the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York in collaboration with the Helsinki Public Library, will open at the new Central Library Oodi in January 2019. The project features newly commissioned artworks, original research and a series of events, including an opening celebration on Friday, January 11, and a symposium on Saturday, January 12.

MOBIUS fellows Jussi Parikka (University of Southampton, Winchester School of Art, UK) and Shannon Mattern (The New School, US) have commissioned Finnish artists Samir Bhowmik, Tuomas A. Laitinen, and Jenna Sutela to create works that examine the new intelligences represented in our evolving knowledge institutions. These artworks reveal the alien logics of neural nets, give voice to machinic and speculative languages, and make visible the material infrastructures that allow intelligence to circulate. The exhibition’s featured artists are known for work that engages with AI, biological intelligence, digital culture, and the infrastructures of modern societies.

Visitors to the library will be invited to engage with the works ­– and with the new building – by attending live performances, embarking on expeditions, and reimagining how we will read, listen, and learn in a new techno-cultural future. The opening celebration will take place at Oodi on Friday, January 11, from 7 to 10pm; and the curators and artists will host a symposium about the exhibition on Saturday, January 12, from 2 to 4pm.

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Image: Jenna Sutela: nimiia ïzinibimi, 2019

On Air, Inhale

December 17, 2018 Leave a comment

I had the pleasure of contributing to Tomas Saraceno’s new show On Air at Palais de Tokyo with a short text for the publication as well as with a talk as part of the seminar on December 14th, which was organized by Filipa Ramos. The show itself moves from spiders and webs to air and balloons, from entanglements of the Anthropocene to the light materials of the Aerocene combining speculative design, investigation of materials and beautiful installation structures.

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My short text for the catalogue was titled “Inhale”:

Inhale and you engage with history, not metaphorically, nor poetically but literally. Inhale the air of a city and you inhale its industrial legacy, its current transport system, its chemistry built at the back of technological progress. There’s more in the air and the sky than meets the eye. On the level of eyes, nostrils and skin, the city and its surroundings, it becomes  a touch. It is inhaled, enters the body as haptic environment. It is the haptic environment in which one sees and encounters the surroundings as a large scale Air-Conditioning Show. It is history carried forward as chemistry. It is technology breathed in as minuscule particles. The air is the environment we have to somehow learn to address as one way to invent a breathable future.

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