Mutating Ecologies in Contemporary Art (Barcelona)

Ist International Symposium
December 1, 2016
Meier Auditorium (MACBA, Plaça Joan Coromines, Barcelona)

Production and organization: AGI | Art Globalization Interculturality, Universitat de Barcelona
Coordinator: Christian Alonso (UB)
In collaboration with: MACBA | Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona and Translocal Institute for Contemporary Art (Budapest)
Keynotes: Maja & Reuben Fowkes (Translocal Institute, Budapest)

The Anthropocene and climate change not only define the biogeophysical planetary conditions in the early decades of the 21st century but also describe an unprecedented social and cultural space in which environmental crisis coexists with, and is in fact related to, humanitarian disaster and multiple geopolitical conflicts on a global scale. Cognitive capitalism as a historical form of progress and biological essentialism are today being imposed as dominant metanarratives. In this new territory, distinguished by structural inequalities and regimes of deterritorialization and controlled mobility, the governmentality of our technologically-mediated societies operates according to a logic of manufactured risk with economies unfolding on the basis of a delusional boundless availability of natural reserves, ignoring the ecological limits of the planet. The understanding of the multi-faceted implications that these conditions entail for the sphere of relations between human and non-human entities and the configuration of possible political horizons, in other words, the question of how to live together otherwise, remains the fundamental issue of social and human sciences of our time, providing similarly new possibilities for contemporary artistic and cultural production.

The neomaterialist geo-ecophilosophical constellation of thought developed by Gregory Bateson, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Donna Haraway, Rosi Braidotti and John Protevi constitutes an opportunity with which to reconsider epistemologies and ethics in the Anthropocene, in their gambit for an expanded approach to ecology, that not only includes the natural (environment), but also the social (socius) and the mental (psyche) spheres, linking planetary sustainability as the capability to think through these three registers (Guattari, 1989). In the context of the development of this ethical-political paradigm, and as a way to assume our responsibility in the face of our historicity, our relation to the planet and other species become inseparable from the analysis of the power conditions and relations that define our location. The challenge of our post-human and post-natural condition consists in seizing the opportunities for new kinship systems with sexualized, racialized and naturalized otherness, fostering a life-centred egalitarianism beyond holism, and focussing on the composition of a plane of radical immanence, triggering processes of becoming the others, with whom sustainable relations are built (Braidotti, 2015). These non-anthropocentric and post-humanist ethics, incompatible with the unitary and transcendental subject of Kantian morality, are articulated in the replacement of the logic of the recognition of sameness for trans-species co-dependency, and the philosophy of rights for an ethics of sustainability: the structure of the post-human subject is neither static nor fixed, but post-identitarian, transversal and embedded in multiplicity: an affective, relational and mutating subjectivity.

Artists have been imaginatively working with ecology as an expanded field since the 1960’s, both as instituting practices and as a critique of the role of cultural institutions. Creative transdisciplinary projects have favoured biodiversity and community development in line with a notion of environmental conservation or restoration were among the most representative currents. Today, ecology is a prism through which artists are working with issues related to radical gardening and permaculture, sustainable bio-fuels, micro-economies, speculative design, open-source technologies, food access, biohacking, post-gender subjectivities and sustainable social practices, dismantling traditional oppositional dualisms between mind-body, reason- emotion, human-animal, theory-practice, the material and the discursive, and the actual and the virtual, trying to think life and the world otherwise. The Ist International Symposium Mutating Ecologies in Contemporary Art seeks to deepen this notion of expanded ecologies by examining current transdisciplinary artistic, cultural and curatorial practices that provide different ways to understand, contest and interrogate our relation to the earth through discursive, visual and sensual strategies and methodologies, experimenting beyond disciplinary confinements and generating new subjectivities, new posthuman ethics and novel posthuman politics.

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