Keynote speakers / panellists

T.J. Demos
Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene: The Many Names of Resistance

Drawing on his forthcoming book, Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today (Sternberg Press), T.J. Demos will examine creative models of cultural practice modeling alternatives to the human exceptionalism, anthropocentrism, and technoscientific rationality of the Anthropocene thesis. Rather than uncritically endorsing and recirculating the terminology, conceptualization, and practice of Anthropocene ideology, radical artistic and activist practitioners are exploring multi-species ontologies, experimental and multidisciplinary pedagogies, eco-sexual economies, and forms of institutional liberation. These, Demos argues, offer vital resources for how to imagine the reinvention of the world in ways just and sustainable and counter the seeming ineluctability of catastrophic climate change.

T.J. Demos is professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Culture, University of California, Santa Cruz, and founder and director of its Center for Creative Ecologies. He writes widely on the intersection of contemporary art, global politics, and ecology and is the author of Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology (Sternberg Press, 2016); The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary During Global Crisis (Duke University Press, 2013, winner of the College Art Association’s 2014 Frank Jewett Mather Award); and Return to the Postcolony: Spectres of Colonialism in Contemporary Art (Sternberg Press, 2013). Demos co-curated Rights of Nature: Art and Ecology in the Americas at Nottingham Contemporary in January 2015, and organized Specters: A Ciné-Politics of Haunting at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid in 2014. He is currently completing a new book for Sternberg Press entitled Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today.

Frauke Huber and Uwe H. Martin
LandRush – From Slow Journalism to Fragmented Narratives

Frauke Huber and Uwe H. Martin will present their ongoing LandRush project, an artistic exploration of agriculture around the world. Since 2011, LandRush has been documenting land-grabbing in Ethiopia, industrial mega-farms in Brazil, family farms thriving due to ethanol production in Iowa, organic farming and land-use politics in Eastern Germany as well as the multiyear drought and water policies in the American West. Through the international collaborative art and research platform World of Matter, LandRush is connected to a variety of other projects investigating primary materials (fossil, mineral, agrarian, maritime) and the complex ecologies of which they are a part. Huber and Martin have been developing fragmented narratives over many years in a constant cycle of research, production and publication. They will discuss how, in a slow journalism approach, LandRush builds bridges from traditional journalistic publications such as magazines and newspapers, by means of web documentaries and an interactive app, to spatial installations at art institutions.

Frauke Huber and Uwe H. Martin are visual storytellers working on long-term, in-depth, documentary projects around the world that combine photography with documentary film, text and sound. Since 2007 they concentrate on a set of transmedia documentaries about the global commons water, seed and land that build bridges from magazine journalism over interactive apps and web-documentaries to multichannel video installations: White Gold investigates the social and environmental effects of global cotton production. LandRush explores the impact of large-scale agro investments on rural economies and land-rights, the boom of renewable fuels, the reallocation of land and the future of agriculture. Both series are part of the collaborative art and research project World of Matter, which investigates primary materials and the complex ecologies of which they are a part. Besides their collective work Uwe H. Martin is a multimedia producer at the Bombay Flying Club and a cofounder of Riff Reporter, a new ecosystem for independent journalism.

Alastair Fuad-Luke
Expect the Unexpected: Design(ing), Disrupting and Generating Possibilities in ‘Expanded Fields’

Design is everywhere. Design designs our material, visual, social, ecological and other cultures. Design designs us. Therefore, who tells the stories through design(ing) is critical as it constitutes the collectively received and understood narrative which feeds, or contests, or alters our cultural perspectives, norms and actions. Today, design(ing) has embraced participatory, collective, open and shared approaches to deal with complex, intertwined, contingent realities. These modes of designing involve ‘complimentary relational designers’, including professionally trained designers with other designers, other professionals, pro-ams, amateur and citizen designers. Such designing works within and crosses over micro, meso and macro structural layers in our societies. It disrupts while simultaneously generating possibilities. It has latent potentiality to contribute to ‘expanded fields’, and, in doing so creates the unexpected beyond the mere whims or vagaries of the marketplace. Imbued with ecosophical (after Guattari) promise, this design(ing) requires self- and collective reflection ‘on’, ‘in’, and ‘for’. Furthermore, it requires an urgent re-appraisal of the competences required by design students today and how educators can respond. I will frame this dialogue through the lens of a viable agri-culture (after Hooker) to challenge unsustainable industrial agriculture with design thoughts and experiments.

I work as a design facilitator, educator, writer and activist. My books include Agents of Alternatives (co-edited), Design Activism, The Eco-design Handbook and The EcoTravel Handbook. Presently I am full professor of Design Research at the faculty of Design and Art at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano in Italy. Previously I was professor of Emerging Design Practices at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Aalto University, Finland, where I explored approaches based upon co-design, openness and sharing, and at the department of Communication and Art, University of Aveiro, Portugal.
I believe that participation in design is critical to achieving sustainability transition, as well as being a means to catalyse social well-being and alternative economies that nourish Our Commons—see the organisation Agents of Alternatives and the online platform Window874. Explorations in recent years embrace a research network exploring “Disruptive fashion modes & practices” by Mode Uncut; a “Co-design manual, return on giving” for the City of Lahti in Finland, and contributions to an Eco-Innovera European research project called: “SHIFT, Support Systems for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Transformation”, about how to better support eco-innovation SMEs and start-ups. Current research includes: dissonant design; design f(r)ictions; design, agri-culture and Alternative Food Networks; and the creation of new livelihoods within alternative economies.

Lise Autogena
Blue Skies, Global Finance and Superorganisms

In their work with data, artists Lise Autogena & Joshua Portway have focused on the underlying structures and systems that encode the data, rather than the data itself. In their presentation they will discuss three projects: Untitled (superorganism), Black Shoals and Most Blue Skies - each of which, in their way, chronicle their changing ideas about capitalism, nature and technology, and the ways in which we might respond to them. In pursuing the childish dream of finding the bluest sky in the world, Most Blue Skies questions the problematic idea of nature and its relationship to the technological and social systems we’re embedded in. Black Shoals; Dark Matter is a visualisation of the global financial system where the flows of global capital are represented as a planetarium where every star represents a company on the world’s stock markets. The project questions the naturalisation of the system of global capitalism, where the market is increasingly perceived as a force of nature rather than an artefact of culture. Untitled (superorganism) is a re-creation of an ‘ant mill’ - a phenomenon in which hundreds of thousands of army ants lose their pheromone trail and follow each other in an endlessly rotating circle until exhaustion and death. This phenomenon is a side effect of the intelligent self-organizing structure of ant colonies, which constructs a nature from which it is impossible to escape.

Lise Autogena is a Danish visual artist and professor of Cross-Disciplinary Art at the Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute (C3RI) at Sheffield Hallam University. Based in London, she has worked with Joshua Portway since the early 1990s, developing large-scale multimedia installations, site-specific works and performances. Recent projects have explored political and cultural issues connected with uranium mining in Greenland (Bildmuseet, 2016), regulatory systems of plant growth and city planning (Cambridge University, 2016), financial belief systems and real-time data visualization of global financial markets (Somerset House and ArtScience Museum Singapore, 2016; Nikolaj Kunsthal, 2004; Tate Britain, 2000), and changing perceptions of the sky space (Domaine de Chamarande, 2012; Arts Catalyst, 2011; Tensta Kunsthal, 2010; Nikolaj Kunsthal/COP15, 2009; Gwangju Biennial, 2006).

Robert Zwijnenberg

Robert Zwijnenberg is professor of Art and Science Interactions at Leiden University. Trained in civil engineering and philosophy, he received a PhD in philosophy from the University of Amsterdam. His research and teaching focus are on the role of contemporary art in the academic and public debates about the ethical, political, aesthetic and societal implications of the life sciences, with a focus on human enhancement technologies. Zwijnenberg is director of The Arts and Genomics Centre (TAGC), a platform for stimulating, initiating and supervising collaboration and exchange among international artists, genomics researchers and life sciences professionals

Frans-Willem Korsten

Frans-Willem Korsten holds the endowed chair ‘Literature and Society’ at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication, is associate professor at the department of Film and Literary Studies at LUCAS (Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society), and lecturer at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, specifically at the Master of Education in Arts – PZI. He has worked on the baroque, theatricality and sovereignty and on the relation between literature, art and capitalism. He was responsible for the NWO internationalisation programme ‘Precarity and Post-Autonomia: The Global Heritage’ along with Joost de Bloois (University of Amsterdam). Together with Yasco Horsman (Leiden University) he is currently working on justice and the role of literature and art at the limits of the law. He makes music with Zimihc, and collaborates with the Rotterdam-based artists Edward Clydesdale Thomson, Sjoerd Westbroek and Katarina Zdjelar.

Kristine Steenbergh

Kristine Steenbergh is lecturer and researcher in English literature at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her research focuses on the early modern period (1500-1700), the history of emotions, and ecocriticism. She is one of the founders of the new Environmental Humanities Center at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, which aims to bring together students and researchers from across the academic spectrum with members of the general public to exchange ideas on environmental issues. Kristine Steenbergh is also a board member and webmaster of a more regional organization for the environmental humanities, the Benelux Association for the Study of Art, Culture and the Environment (BASCE). She has just been nominated as one of the new members of De Jonge Akademie (KNAW).

Open calls

David Ayala-Alfonso
Pop Guerrillas: Practices of Resistance to Land Exhaustion in Latin America

The Trans is an artistic platform for critical debate and community empowerment regarding the free trade practices of transnational agriculture corporations in Latin America. Through research, guerrilla communication, pedagogy and, most visibly, a band of fruits and vegetables, The Trans strives to connect the realities of farmers and urban consumers in order to preserve the vital practices, economies and ecologies of agricultural communities. In 2016, The Trans produced a medium-length film on four different farming regions in Colombia. Halfway between experimental documentary and fiction, The Trans Files questions the role of humankind in creating irreversible changes in Columbia’s land and ecosystems.

David Ayala-Alfonso is a Colombian artist and curator working between Los Angeles and Bogota. He is part of the editorial teams of the Journal of Visual Culture, Cultural Anthropology and {{em_rgencia}. Ayala-Alfonso has published books and articles on interface theory, art history, performance, critical urbanism and artistic interventions in the public realm. His work has been featured at South London Gallery, Harvard University, the BMW Guggenheim Lab, Concordia University, Columbia College in Chicago, and Banco de la Republica in Bogota. He has recently been awarded a Fulbright Grant, an AICAD Teaching Fellowship and the ICI-Dedalus Award for Curatorial Research.

Helene Illeris & Tormod Wallem Anundsen
Art as Education – Education as Art: ‘Urgency’ as Engine for Educational Practices between Art, Education and Research

How can urgency function as a conceptual and practical ‘engine’ for carrying out education and research? In this paper, we present some ‘pressing issues’ from the ongoing research project ‘Art as Education – Education as Art’, which we are carrying out within an MA programme in the Arts. The aim is to explore if and how education and research could offer a platform for transforming the participants’ issues into knowledge and action, and to discuss how different dimensions of urgency (mental, social, environmental, political) can been activated and engaged in shaping our own practices. This includes processes of discomfort and dilemmas as well as moments of potential relevance.

Helene Illeris is PhD and Professor of Art Education at the University of Agder in Norway. Her research interests include art education in schools and galleries, with a special focus on visual culture, contemporary art forms, and sustainability. In 2009-2013, Helene was the leader of the Nordic and Baltic research network CAVIC (Contemporary Art and Visual Culture in Education) and she is an editor of the anthology EDGE: 20 Essays in Contemporary Art Education (Göthlund, Illeris & Thrane, 2015). She has also published several articles in English, Danish, Swedish and Italian. Illeris is one of the coordinators of the research group
‘Art and Social Relations’ at the University of Agder.

Tormod Wallem Anundsen is PhD and Associate Professor of Musicology and Music Education at the University of Agder in Norway, where he is also a member of the Art and Social Relations Research Group. Anundsen has a particular interest in the use of ethnographic methodologies across disciplines, developed through his PhD research on African immigrant musical performers in Norway (published in 2014). He has headed up a transdisciplinary Master’s programme in the Arts (music, theatre, visual arts) at UA since 2011, and is currently involved in a research project titled ‘Art as Education – Education as Art’ with Professor Helene Illeris.

Betti Marenko
Future Crafting: Speculation, Design and the Nonhuman; or How to Live with Digital Uncertainty

How can design craft potential futures in a scenario shaped by planetary computation? Unlike 4th revolution narratives that frame the future of human-machine interaction as techno-dystopias, a future of human-machine coevolution can be imagined by speculating on digital uncertainty: the potential for unpredictability in computation, manifest in the autonomy of algorithmic agency. Human-machine interaction is then reframed in terms of human-nonhuman ecologies that are emergent, cohabiting and highly contingent. Speculation via design is proposed as a mode of strategic, metic intelligence, able to capture and to capitalise on this systemic unpredictability, enabling the proposition of what ‘may be’: future-crafting in action.

At the intersection of design and philosophy, Marenko’s work investigates the tension between design as way of speculating on, and instigating the future, and thought concerning materiality, the virtual and the nonhuman. Marenko is co-editor of Deleuze and Design (Edinburgh University Press 2015, with Brassett), and her writing is published in Digital Creativity, Design Studies, and Design and Culture. She speaks regularly on design theory and will be keynote speaker at the Deleuze Studies Conference in India (Mumbai, February 2017). She is Research Leader of the Product, Ceramic and Industrial Design Programme at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

David Haley
Making Our Futures: Accidental Death of the Planet

The absurdity of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) at a time of ecological systems collapse questions contemporary responses to ‘wicked problems’. However, this psychosocial paradox may reveal both destruction and creation as the art of survival. How might arts-led, practice-based approaches reduce vulnerability and increase students’ adaptability for resilience? And how might universities and art schools become ‘life support systems’? The presentation features the ‘Making Our Futures’ Masters Unit and research devised by Haley to develop imaginative methods of designing regenerative cultures as an ecological pedagogy or ‘contra dogma’ that address transformative challenges for ‘Capable Futures’.

Ecological artist David Haley, PhD, Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institution for Water and Environmental Management, Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, believes our ability to survive climate change and species extinction is the enactment of a complex evolutionary narrative: the dance of creation and destruction also demands new opportunities and meanings on the other side of collapse. His inquiries into the nature of water, whole systems ecology, complexity, and ‘Capable Futures’ inform his arts practice, research, education and community developments. He is a Visiting Professor at Zhongyuan University of Technology, founding Director of Future’s Venture Foundation and was Director of Ecology in Practice at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Susanne Witzgall
Thinking Transversally: Art Education and the New Ecology

The current multifaceted crises attest to the undiminished relevance and immediacy of Felix Guattari’s ideas on thinking transversally. They also draw renewed attention to the relevance of the artistic practice, which Guattari considers to be an inspiring example for his ecosophy, being ‘at once applied and theoretical, ethico-political and aesthetic’. By following and critically discussing such expectations with regard to the arts, Susanne Witzgall would like to stress the question of how curriculum-building and interdisciplinary practices in today’s art education might face the challenges of the Anthropocene. How might art institutions nourish an aesthetic practice that could contribute to an enhanced transversal – and thus ecological – way of thinking? In this context, she will bring up for debate the cx centre for interdisciplinary studies as a possible model for fostering such a way of thinking.

Susanne Witzgall holds a PhD in Art History. She is lecturer in art theory and head of the cx centre for interdisciplinary studies, which she founded in 2011, at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich. Witzgall initially worked as a curator for the Deutsches Museum in Bonn and Munich before teaching in the Department of Art History at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich from 2003 until 2011. Furthermore, she has curated several exhibitions and is the editor and author of numerous books and articles on contemporary art and current interdisciplinary discourses, including Kunst nach der Wissenschaft (2003), Power of Materials/Politics of Materiality (2014), Fragile Identities (2015) and The Present of the Future (2016), co-edited with Kerstin Stakemeier.

Chessa Adsit-Morris
Creative Ecologies of Practice: Collaborative Agential Modes of Eco-Aesthetic Pedagogy

This presentation will discuss two collaborative environmental art projects aimed at creating experimental and experiential transdisciplinary pedagogical practices. Both projects are examples of ‘creative ecologies of practice’ enabling and requiring multiple modes of thought, multiple modes of encounter, and multiple modes of pedagogy. They are imaginative and speculative, require resonance and creative response, and include practices and discourses of eco-aesthetics to foster sites of refuge, sites of agency and sites of response-ability. They enable collaborative inquiries into urgent social, political and ecological challenges, exploring elements that help to activate, integrate and support collaborative endeavours that challenge current (capitalistic and neoliberal) representations, foster (multispecies) agency and create new knowledge(s).

Chessa Adsit-Morris is a curriculum theorist and member of the Center for Creative Ecologies. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Visual Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, USA. She is the author of Restorying Environmental Education: Figurations, Fictions, Feral Subjectivities (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

Agnieszka Anna Wołodźko
On Waste(d) Multiplicity and the Microbiopolitics of S/He/It

The paper explores how BioArt forces a new material microbiopolitics on our multibodies that practices the pedagogies of affect. Acknowledging that we have never lived in the Anthropocene but rather in the ‘Anthrobscene’ becomes a part of the new pedagogies of affect that focuses on transversal conditions to create and generate new. Using the example of Microbiome Security Agency (2015), Agnieszka Anna Wołodźko will discuss how bio-artists practice a relational understanding of the microbiome that radically changes politics and habits. Bio-artists force us to adopt a different way of thinking that has actual, material implications, not only for our understanding of life and agency, but mostly for how we can practice these agential materialities within wider onto-ethico-political realms.

Agnieszka Anna Wołodźko holds an MA in Philosophy from the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn (Poland) and an MA in the Philosophy of Art History from Leiden University (The Netherlands). She is a PhD candidate in the cultural disciplines at Leiden University, investigating ways in which art, by using living bodies as its medium, reveals overall cultural, social and political significance of affect in the contemporary understanding of biotechnologically manipulated bodies. Since 2016 she has been teaching the course ‘Deleuze’s Apprenticeship’ at the AKI Academy of Art & Design, ArtEZ University of the Arts.

Martina Huynh
A Call for Living Infrastructure

Mycorrhizal networks are beneficial symbioses between plant roots and certain types of fungi. This beautifully complex infrastructure is alive, able to evolve and adapt to its environment. Why can’t we merge parts of our inanimate infrastructure of cables with existing mycorrhizal networks to form a new symbiosis – to turn our infrastructure into a living organism that can grow, evolve and maintain itself? This would integrate our technologies into the natural landscape in a much better manner. Instead of focusing on old modernist utopias like the smart city, can we envision different modalities of cohabitation with our surrounding ecologies?

Martina Huynh is a Swiss design student currently studying at the Design Academy Eindhoven.
In her projects she often explores questions concerning socio-cultural and technological trends through design research and speculative design.

Raphael Kim
From DNA to CMYK: Building Alternative Vocabularies for Bio-artists and designers

In parallel to advances in modern biotechnology, the growth of DIY biology movement is increasingly allowing artists and designers to extend their material and technical vocabularies to microscopic and provocative nature, such as the direct manipulation of DNA. This presentation explores potential ways in which molecular hacking has, and could be facilitated in the future. It will outline a project in progress, for a tool that allows DIY community to genetically and metabolically manipulate common cyanobacteria for pigment production. The project will highlight possible future tools for the aspiring bio-artists and designers, as well as encouraging discourse about their implications.

A former professional biologist and a visiting lecturer from Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art, Raphael Kim is a so-called ‘biohacker-designer’, who uses molecular biology as design material, process and narrative outcomes. Currently undertaking PhD at Media and Arts Technology, Queen Mary University London, Raphael is exploring how digital tools could be better developed for DIY biologists, more specifically for the bio-art and bio-design communities, in allowing them to extend their material and technical vocabularies.

Amy Howden-Chapman
Tracking Metaphor in Climate Change Lexicography

‘Climate Change & Art: A Lexicon’ is an ongoing project developed by members and affiliates of The Distance Plan.Org to produce neologisms and to catalogue terms which crystallise the broad set of subjects that now sit at the intersection of climate change and art. By considering selected terms from the lexicon (Social Tipping Points; Tragic Triumph; Resilience) this analysis appraises how those working in climate science and policy increasingly reach for symbolic language in order to communicate their findings. This examination also considers border attempts to metaphorise climate change (hyperobject) and the impossibility of this endeavour yet persistent impulse to undertake it.

Amy Howden-Chapman is a New Zealand-born artist and writer based in New York City. Together with Abby Cunnune, she is co-founder of The Distance Plan.Org – a platform which seeks to promote the discussion of climate change within the arts. The Distance Plan works through exhibitions, public forums and The Distance Plan Press which produces various publications, including an annual journal. Howden-Chapman holds a BA and MA from Victoria University Wellington, New Zealand and MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. She was the 2016 artist in residence at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany.

Michelle Kasprzak
Slagheaps into Rocket Ships – Radical Aesthetics and Micro-Democracies

In the cultural realm, there is intellectual and aesthetic friction between neo-utopian, micro-democratic community practices and the radical aesthetics of accelerationist art. The old methods are deprecated, and instead we are left with the immutable changes we have made to our planet. We can address this from either side of an emerging divide between ‘localism’ and ‘direct action’ versus ‘abstraction’ and ‘complexity’ (Srnicek & Williams, 2013). This paper will examine this rift and its implications for art, design and education.

Michelle Kasprzak is an artist, writer and curator pursuing her doctorate on a full fellowship at the University of Porto and Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute in Portugal, supervised by Chris Csíkszentmihályi. She has developed and delivered curriculum for the Open Design BA minor at Willem de Kooning Academy and is currently tutor of the Digital Cultures course for the Master of Education in Arts programme at the Piet Zwart Institute. She has written essays on a wide range of subjects in the realm of contemporary culture for HOLO, C Magazine, Volume, Mute, and several online journals. Her most recent academic papers were presented in 2016 at STS Italia and 4S/EASST.

Daniela Silvestrin
Ecologies of Transmission: Electromagnetic Agency in the Anthropocene

Ever since humans discovered the nature of electromagnetic waves and started using this knowledge in communication technologies, the density of microwave radiation on the planet has added up to 1018 times the level reaching us naturally from the sun. This presentation will use the book LIMEN: Ecologies of Transmission, an artistic publication and project exploring today's condition of ‘lived electromagnetism’, as a starting point to present artworks that render visible the agency of electromagnetic radiation and energy, and for a critical investigation of methodologies of power and control in the techno-scientific developments that have paved the way and created a main condition for what has become the Anthropocene and the Wireless Age we are living in today.

Daniela Silvestrin is an independent researcher and curator with a background in law, history of art and curatorial studies. In her research, she explores hybrid artistic practices at the intersection of art, law and science that explore new ways of relating to vibrant materialities, driven by the emergence of critical political and ethical concerns in an era where techno-science increasingly is impacting all life and blurring established distinctions between the human and the nonhuman, life and matter. Her work critically reflects on the implications of new technologies, analysing and discussing them through the lens of artistic reflection and knowledge production.