The title “ecologies of change” might seem paradoxical to some; to others even tautological. Is ecology synonymous with the lasting and unchanging and thus in urgent need of preservation, to be defended against human interventions and technological change? Or is change inherent to ecologies and thus an ecological mode of thinking puts forward a dynamic, procedural and open way to conceptualise the world? Homeostasis, or the self-regulation of nature presupposes a concept of nature as separate from culture. Thus nature always already is a discursive construct, onto which ideals of regulation and (self) control are projected. There is no easy or singular answer to the question of what media ecology is. The contributions in this issue of spheres touch upon this plurality and are concerned with the concept of (media) ecologies in diverse ways. (more…)
This paper is a revised translation of: Barbara Glowczewski, Résister au Désastre: Entre Épuisement et Création”, in Barbara Glowczewski and Alexandre Soucaille (eds.), Désastres, Paris, L’Herne, 2011, pp. 23–40. Notes and references have been updated and adapted to English publications.
“Climate change poses the question of a human community, of a we; it points to a figure of universality that escapes our capacity to experience the world. This universality stems rather from the shared sense of a catastrophe. It calls for a global approach of politics, but without the myth of global identity, for, unlike the Hegelian universe, it cannot comprise particularities. We could temporarily refer to it as a ‘negative universal history’”.1Cp. Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses”, Critical Inquiry 35(2), 2009, pp. 197–222.
|1.||￪||Cp. Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses”, Critical Inquiry 35(2), 2009, pp. 197–222.|
Anthropologist of micropolitical hope, Barbara Glowczewski, is among the vanguard of key global Guattarian thinkers. Deploying Guattari’s three registers of ecosophy to understand the foliatedness of disaster in the anthropocene, she provides a range of examples, from artists’ responses to crises and neoliberal betrayals, collective intelligence marshalled against the violence of privatisation, experimentations leading to micro-social innovations challenging the criminalisation of asylum seekers, and political actions against the endo-colonialist policies of settler states. Eschewing victimal discourses traded like stocks by big media, she eviscerates the dehumanising logic of humanitarian care in the form of ‘assistancialism’ and as some Aboriginals know it, ‘sit down money’. Glowczewski’s unique voice speaks from her fieldwork among the Warlpiri in Australia, which began in the late 1970s, and her interpretations of dreaming as a kind of becoming caught the eye of Guattari in the late 1980s. Aboriginal individuals and families attempted to mount convincing cases for land titles against a state not above dirty tricks, like destroying ministry archives in the Department of Indigenous Affairs that made holes in the historical records, making claim-building more difficult.1Cp. Lauren Marsh and Steve Kinnane, “Ghost Files: The Missing Files of the Department of Indigenous Affairs Archives”, Studies in Western Australian History 23, 2003, pp. 111–27; The authors note: “It is of course one thing to formulate statistics on the high numbers of files destroyed. It is quite another thing to assess the collateral damage to the overall content of the archives […]. That these ghost files would have been useful ...continue This forms part of her criticism of state interventions and bureaucracies against the background of what the Birmingham school cultural studies theorists, referring to youth subcultures, once called ‘resistance through rituals’. (more…)
|1.||￪||Cp. Lauren Marsh and Steve Kinnane, “Ghost Files: The Missing Files of the Department of Indigenous Affairs Archives”, Studies in Western Australian History 23, 2003, pp. 111–27; The authors note: “It is of course one thing to formulate statistics on the high numbers of files destroyed. It is quite another thing to assess the collateral damage to the overall content of the archives […]. That these ghost files would have been useful determinations of Native Title, because the files that remain form the back-bone of evidential records for expert witness reports, is plain to see.”|
This article investigates examples of artistic practices that all somehow deal with establishing relations to the world and environment around us in an age of pervasive technological mediation which runs parallel with increasing threats of pollution and climate change – partly generated exactly by our consumption and dependence on technology. Digital interfaces and ubiquitous networks of data streams are constantly filtering our experience of the world, and this often takes place as habitual and hidden processes. Counter to this non-reflective relation between the world and technology, a number of contemporary artists are working critically with re-defining how we engage with data and digital technologies in different ways. In this article, the theme of ecological modes of engagement is discussed through three art works/projects which address one of the most pressing issues of the Anthropocene, namely our measurable, environmental impact upon the world, as well as our possibilities for connecting, in atypical ways, with the signals and currents that run through the heavily technologized atmospheres of our city spaces. (more…)
“Renegotiating data ecologies through trees, soil, and pigs’ lungs,” by Thomas Bjørnsten and Jan Løhmann Stephensen, models an anthropocenic epistemology suitable to our present-day scientific and environmental situations. Their analysis of three artworks that integrate earthly compounds, organisms, and information technologies offers a preliminary aesthetic program for coming to terms with our contemporary and composite world picture and contributes to a recent surge of interest in ecocritical aesthetics.1Ursula Heise, Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global, New York, Oxford University Press, 2008; the special issue on ecocriticism of Qui Parle 19, no. 2, Spring/Summer 2011; Henry Sussman (ed.), Impasses of the Post-Global: Theory in the Era of Climate Change, Vol. 2, Ann Arbor, Open Humanities Press, 2012; Tom Cohen (ed.), Telemorphosis: Theory in the Era of Climate Change, Vol. 1, Ann Arbor, Open ...continue
2Rosalind Krauss, “Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism”, October 1, Spring 1976, p. 57. The first of the three works considered by Bjørnsten and Løhmann is The Environmental Sentinel (2014–2016) by Frances Whitehead. (more…)
|1.||￪||Ursula Heise, Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global, New York, Oxford University Press, 2008; the special issue on ecocriticism of Qui Parle 19, no. 2, Spring/Summer 2011; Henry Sussman (ed.), Impasses of the Post-Global: Theory in the Era of Climate Change, Vol. 2, Ann Arbor, Open Humanities Press, 2012; Tom Cohen (ed.), Telemorphosis: Theory in the Era of Climate Change, Vol. 1, Ann Arbor, Open Humanities Press, 2012; Nicholas Mirzoeff, “Visualizing the Anthropocene”, in Public Culture, 26 (2), 2014, pp. 213–232; and Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin (eds.), Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies, London, Open Humanities Press, 2015.|
|2.||￪||Rosalind Krauss, “Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism”, October 1, Spring 1976, p. 57.|
Just as the explosion of information in the 18th century brought about by the print and industrial revolution necessitated the emergence of dictionaries and encyclopedias to make sense of the capacious and chaotic world of information and knowledge, we seem to be witness to a comparato ible moment in the early decades of the 21st century with the proliferation of archival initiatives. The career of encyclopedias were never totally exhausted by their status as epistemological enterprises and they often spilled into narrative domains, emerging as new ways of curating knowledge as narrative. The growth of encyclopedias could be read as symptomatic of seismic shifts in the world of knowledge and our uncertain place in it. They were narrative forms that attempted to manage the deluge and impose a logic of sense through classification and the imposition of order.1For a historical over and its relevance to the 21st century see Mike Featherstone and Couze Venn, “Problematizing Global Knowledge and the New Encyclopaedia Project”, Theory, Culture & Society, 23(2–3), pp. 1–20. We see a parallel in our contemporary era with the rise of archival impulses, situated at the intersection of vastly democratized technologies of storage, retrieval and classification on the one hand, and the befuddlement that we experience by the rate of their growth and the amount of information, which defies a conventional organizational logic.2The decentralization of means of archiving is simultaneously accompanied by massive projects of centralized archives of daily life, often owned and controlled by large corporations such as Google and Facebook. (more…)
|1.||￪||For a historical over and its relevance to the 21st century see Mike Featherstone and Couze Venn, “Problematizing Global Knowledge and the New Encyclopaedia Project”, Theory, Culture & Society, 23(2–3), pp. 1–20.|
|2.||￪||The decentralization of means of archiving is simultaneously accompanied by massive projects of centralized archives of daily life, often owned and controlled by large corporations such as Google and Facebook.|
Contingency describes a state in which change exceeds our ability to systematize or narrate it. When Liang calls for its foregrounding in the archive it seems important to add that our experience of contingency in the archive is altered by software in a number of ways: Firstly, our production of video is increasingly shadowed by the production of metadata.1Increasingly brands like Arri and BlackMagic make metadata part of a video camera’s menu. Production workflows rely on these ‘sidecar files’ to order the massive amount of footage. Secondly, in the distribution of video, what appears contingent is increasingly a function of predictive analytic software (those that use previous user patterns to predict future ones). In the presence of these protocols it falls to the autonomous archive to provide a space for a counter aesthetic to emerge. Below I want to extend Liang’s discussion of the contingent by looking at how it plays out in two recent archival films. Out of this comparison the contemporary archive emerges as a space to re-imagine the relationship between the collective and the algorithmic, recovering the contingent from the predictive. (more…)
|1.||￪||Increasingly brands like Arri and BlackMagic make metadata part of a video camera’s menu. Production workflows rely on these ‘sidecar files’ to order the massive amount of footage.|
30 years after Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto, 18 years after Sadie Plant’s Zeros and Ones, 14 years after VNS Matrix’s Cyberfeminist manifesto, 9 years after VNS Matrix’s Bitch Mutant manifesto, 14 years after the CCRU escaped institutional lockdown, 182 years after Ada Lovelace, Enchantress of Numbers met the Difference Engine, 31 years after Molly Millions, Steppin’ Razor was ectogenetically birthed into the sprawl, 20 years since Sandy Stone donated a body part to Linda Dement’s Cyberflesh Girlmonster and made the machines restless, 10 centuries since Hildegarde von Bingen, the Sibyl of the Rhine, sang the songs of the blood in (more…)
Commenting on a performance appears to be difficult without referring to the form and kind of art that is expressed. Still, I think it is possible to deal with this performance by approaching the question of what kind of critique is embedded and expressed in it. (more…)
Making Change1See: http://cdc.leuphana.com/structure/common-media-lab/making-change/. is a research project that questions traditional understandings of change – where change is employed in the name of power, reduced to a ‘spectacle’ by global media and goes largely unquestioned in the public discourse. Making Change aims to build more adequate frameworks to address the idea of change in the context of common knowledge, networked media and information societies. It calls for a critical understanding of change that allows us to recognize new forms, functions and methods of change practices, with an emphasis on multi-modal applications of media and strategic digital technology interventions in public spaces. To collect these experiences, short, intensive “production sprints” were conducted to instigate conversations, interviews and on-the-ground action with different groups and communities in emerging network societies. The purpose of the project is to identify these processes as part of the Global South discourse, and create prototypes for a knowledge commons that facilitates the creation, exchange and integration of knowledge that affects and initiates processes of social and political change in the region. (more…)
Review of: Jussi Parikka, A Geology of Media, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2015.
It is one of the persistent topoi in Western literature and art, the Katabasis, the descent into the underworld. Frequently haunting the individual subconscious as a low-intensity poetic figure for the finitude of life, it has, throughout history, grown into a complex and fascinating chronotope of its own, carrying multiple traces of nature and culture. From Homer’s Hades to the infernal visions of Dante, to modernized descents into the belly of the earth in German Romanticism or the stories of Jules Verne to pataphysically-inflected and politically-charged accounts by writers such as Christian Bök or Reza Negarestani today – this geo-imaginary is a strange zone of different times and spaces. That it has an acute reality, with a world-changing force, is necessary to remember, too. (more…)
Review of: Gabriella Coleman, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy. The Many Faces of Anonymous, London/New York, Verso, 2014.
In her book Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy. The many faces of Anonymous, Gabriella Coleman tells the story of how an “entity calling itself Anonymous” , starting as an “ungovernable trolling pandemonium” , has become what she pictures as “one of the most politically active, morally fascinating, and subversively salient activist groups operating today” . As the first anthropologist to touch this complex phenomenon, she successfully characterizes its socio-technological interdependency, multiplicity and flexibility. Her great accomplishment is having conveyed a structure of something that seems to be changing constantly. Coleman describes the structure of Anonymous as a ‘vivid maze’. The scaffold of the labyrinth is built up chapter by chapter. The paths are entangled with current technological, social, political, local and global conditions. Each journey through the maze is different. Coleman walks along several interconnected and diverging paths without losing orientation – even if it feels like “an infinite machine operating a tight recursive loop wherein mazes generated maze-generating mazes”.  Against a totalitarian understanding of research and knowledge, Coleman follows the tradition of Friedrich Nietzsche: She doesn’t claim to define what Anonymous ‘really’ is or was, instead she writes her own ‘travel report’ about her experiences of over six years of intensive ethnographical fieldwork. (more…)