16 Aug 2019, 13:00-16:00
R1 Reactor hall, KTH, Stockholm (Drottning Kristinas väg 51)
In this mixed and postdisciplinary gathering, with listening sessions and talks by artists and researchers, we will visit the limits of communication(s) – when our technologies, ideas, languages and intentions fail us. We will among other things encounter phenomena that cannot be decoded, interspecies communication experiments, and speculations about how we can communicate with not only aliens but also inhabitants on planet Earth in a distant future.
In a society imbued with communication technologies and a positive belief in the possibilities of accurately formulating, transmitting, receiving and archiving, it might be sobering to consider situations where the communicative attempt takes us elsewhere. Where it derails our assumptions and intentions and where we admittedly are out of control. What can be gleaned from these limits and borderlands? What can be unlearned? What ethico-political considerations do they confront us with?
Cecilia Åsberg (founder and director of the Posthumanities Hub, KTH/Linköping Univ., SE), Marietta Radomska (co-director of the Posthumanities Hub, Linköping Univ., SE/Univ. of Helsinki, FI), Janna Holmstedt (artist, SE), mirko nikolić (artist, SE/FI), Jacek Smolicki, (artist, SE/PL).
Curated by Janna Holmstedt, the Posthumanities Hub, in collaboration with Jacek Smolicki, Fragmentarium Club, at the invitation of the Public Art Agency. The session will take place inside the large-scale art installation “The Interplanetary Species Society (ISS)” by Jonas Staal. ISS is part of the project “Choreograhies of the Social” curated by Edi Muka, the Public Art Agency Sweden (Statens Konstråd). More information and full program for all the events, 13-25 Aug: www.publicartagencysweden.com
Program, 16 Aug, 13:00-16:00 (in no specific order):
Cecilia Åsberg, Planetary Speculation: Cultivating More-Than-Human Arts
Ursula K Le Guin stated: “The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next”. Today we have, dare I say, enough science facts and credible information to convince us that planetary changes like rampant mass species extinction rates, climate change, glacial melting and sea rise, plastic pollution and environmental health concerns are a very real part of the planetary challenges we now face. What we do not have enough of, perhaps, seem like a sense of belonging to the ecologies of this planet, or enough of an ecological sense of wonder and curiosity to close the emotional gap between values and action, and to sway our ways in more sustainable directions. This is why we need to cultivate the more than human arts of living on a damaged planet. Art and humanities have a particular role to play here, and so does the notion of planetarity. In my talk, while discussing a few unexpected vistas of environmental feminism, I will discuss what the role and function of planetary speculation might entail for more careful ways of knowing.
Cecilia Åsberg, PhD, is Guest Professor of STS, Gender and Environment at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm 2018-2020, and since 2015 Professor of Gender, Nature, Culture at Linköping University. She is Founding Director of the Posthumanities Hub, and of the Seed Box: An Environmental Humanities Collaboratory, and associate editor of the journal Environmental Humanities (Duke University Press). Recent publications: “Feminist Posthumanities in the Anthropocene: Forays into the Postnatural” in Journal of Posthuman Studies; Animal Places – Lively 15 Cartographies of Human-Animal Relations, (Routledge, eds with Jacob Bull and Tora Holmberg), and A Feminist Companion to the Posthumanities (Springer, ed with Rosi Braidotti).
mirko nikolić , lie and shine: eleven steps of
A listening session, a walk along a narrow boundary of extraction, presently in the process of negotiation in the semi-periphery of the European North. Gold, water, arsenic and physical asset currency embody vectors of interest or disinterest by various power formations. Most of the forces operate without prior or informed consent, decisions are being largely made in the absence of the bodies that will experience the material effects. Silent neighbours are not that silent. Communication waves shimmer with dispersals of toxicity and gatherings of resilience.
Through performance and critical writing, mirko nikolić seeks to prefigure more just collaborations among different species and heterogeneous bodies. In recent projects, mirko has been working on counter-extractivist ontopolitics, multispecies commoning, performativity of vegetal touch, and unlearning of anthropocentric and capitalist survival ideologies. mirko holds a PhD in Arts & Media Practice from the University of Westminster, London.
Janna Holmstedt, The Order of the Dolphin
What do we hear when we think we listen? In 1961, a prominent flock of researchers were invited to a semi-secret conference arranged by NASA’s Space Science Board to discuss a subject not yet considered scientifically legitimate: What are the conditions required for establishing contact with other worlds? Could engaging in communication with dolphins prepare us for an encounter with non-human intelligence? At this time, attempts to reach out to intelligent life on other planets happened to coincided with attempts to get inside the minds and bodies of bottlenose dolphins.
In this listening session, I’ll move between the human, the synthetic and the beastly while revisiting some of the interspecies communication experiments that were carried out in the 1950s and 60s, partly funded by NASA, where dolphins were supposed to learn to speak English with their blowholes. At the centre of my session are tape recordings from language lessons with dolphins, and a woman, whom during 75 days tried to live under equal conditions with the dolphin Peter in a flooded house.
Janna Holmstedt is an artist and researcher based in Stockholm. She works across various media, ranging between installation, sonic fiction, text, drawing, mapping and performance, with a particular interest in listening, storying and situated practices. Her projects work transversally in order to weave a web of parasitic relations in an attempt to story more-than-human relations and less anthropocentric we-formations. She explores entangled issues such as multispecies relations, interspecies communication, and the intra-action of bodies, environs and technology. She holds a PhD in Fine Arts in Visual Arts from Lund University, is affiliated researcher with the Posthumanities Hub, and currently research engineer at the Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment at KTH. More: www.jannaholmstedt.com
Marietta Radomska, From Terminal Ecologies to the Non/Living Earth: Storying an Archive
In her work on queer ecocriticism, literary scholar Sarah Ensor offers the concept of ‘terminality’ understood as a state, a practice, an intimate belonging, and a horizon; in other words, a ‘lifelong’ and shared condition, characterised by the potential for relations, non-linear temporality, and an ongoing responsibility for and accountability towards the harmed, the ill, the perishing, and the dead (environments, ecosystems, organisms, and other entities). Staying with the trouble of terminality is but one example of a biophilosophical approach that does not start from a given image of life, but instead, from a multiplicity of relations, forces, and materialities (that which transforms and traverses life) encompassing the potentials for both growth/development and decomposition/decay. Against the backdrop of the current ecological crisis, this short intervention asks what it means to story(tell) an archive of ‘terminal ecologies’, what modes of (non)communication it might entail, and how it matters in an ethico-political sense.
Marietta Radomska, PhD, is a Postdoc at the Department of Thematic Studies, Linköping University, SE, and at the Department of Cultures, University of Helsinki, FI. She is the co-director of The Posthumanities Hub; founder of The Eco- and Bioart Research Network, co-founder of International Network for ECOcritical and DECOlonial Studies and a founding member of Queer Death Studies Network. Her current research focuses on ecologies of death in the context of contemporary art. She is the author of the monograph Uncontainable Life: A Biophilosophy of Bioart (2016), and has published in Australian Feminist Studies, Somatechnics, and Angelaki, among others. More: www.mariettaradomska.com
Jacek Smolicki, Per Aspera Ad Astra
Per Aspera Ad Astra (from Latin ‘through hardship to the stars’) was a morse-coded sentence launched alongside other sound recordings onboard Voyager space probe sent into space in 1977. Just like many other signals sent by humans to reach extraterrestrial beings, the Voyager message has so far remained unanswered. Per Aspera Ad Astra is an ongoing artistic and media archaeological exploration of our persistent desire to connect with the non-human, and, more specifically, the extraterrestrial. The project takes the form of a performative soundscape composition built successively of archival material and sounds characterizing technologies used historically to establish contact with aliens. The archival recordings include glitches from digitized interviews with UFO witnesses from the Sweden’s Archive for the Unexplained, snippets from the famous Voyager message, radio signals from the outer space, and reenactments of historical messages sent into space. All these are combined with gradually intercepted remediations of Stanislaw Lem’s deliberations on the inherently flawed idea of establishing contact with other-than-human residents of the deep space.
Jacek Smolickiis a cross-media artist, designer, researcher and “walker” exploring intersections of aesthetics, technology, memory and everyday life. In his design and art practice, besides engaging with existing archives and heritage, Smolicki develops new techniques for recording, experiencing, and para-archiving human and other-than-human environments. In his research, informed by art practice, philosophy of technology, and media archaeology, Smolicki explores how transformations of communication, recording, and computing technologies have been affecting aesthetic, material, performative, and ethical aspects of archiving and memory practices (both personal and public), but also everyday life practices at large. In 2017, he completed his PhD from the School of Arts and Communication at Malmö University where he was a member of the Living Archives, a research project funded by the Swedish Research Council. In 2016 Smolicki founded Fragmentarium Club, an independent initiative uniting enthusiasts of listening, soundwalking, field recording, and soundscape archiving. More: www.smolicki.com and www.fragmentarium.club