19th April 2018, Arts & Ecologies: Politics & Poetics of Moving Materials

19th April 2018: ART-KNOWLEDGE #3
Arts & Ecologies: Politics & Poetics of Moving Materials

An evening dedicated to discussing and exploring how the arts and artistic research contribute to planetary-scale questions of ecological transformation and disaster, this the third edition of the ARIAS and KNAW lecture series took place at Literair Theater Perdu, with various contributions by Adam NocekIsabelle AndriessenEster van de WielKatja KwastekGinette Verstraete and Joost Adriaanse. The event was introduced by Kristine Steenbergh, who sketched the possible contributions of the arts to ecological issues with examples of research conducted at the Environmental Humanities Center at the VU.

The first contribution by Adam Nocek offered an overview of how geophysical systems can intersect with the narratives through which we understand the world. Nocek further situated his line of reasoning by focusing on the idea of myths and how they can be dissected as sources of information that contribute to our understanding of the Earth’s natural history. By coupling myths and artistic practice, Nocek expanded on the way “elemental media” come to the surface, where multiple layers of planetary-scale computing and governance intersect, which he called geocommunication. Arguing that myths are part of the intelligence and genealogy of geocommunication, Nocek explained how the emerging field of geomythology explores the Earth’s transformations over time. Geomyths are increasingly becoming the subject of scientific scrutiny, as they can also be considered as “noisy channels” that carry information.

Nocek was followed by Dutch artist Isabelle Andriessen, interviewed on stage by prof. Katja Kwastek, who spoke about her practice of producing sculptures that decompose and transform while on display. Drawing her inspiration from the intersections of nature and technology, Andriessen explained the process that goes into making her sculptures sweat and decompose, which also involved getting into contact with chemists a scientists across different fields to achieve the intended effect. “I always attempt to make the work ‘move’.”  Andriessen’s presentation was followed by a display of two synthetic “perfume” samples, as well as tryouts of skin-resembling ceramics used in her exhibitions.


Finally, the team members of the ‘Re-source research project’ (Joost Adriaanse, Ginette Verstraete, and Ester van de Wiel) take the stage. Collaborating on a joint project that focuses on the journey of resources in a given industry and situation of resource scarcity, Ginette Verstraete spoke for the trio and presented the audience with a large scale map of their work. Explaining that they work with and through the city, Verstraete commented on their use of scale for the visualization of residual materials and their journey through the city. Adriaanse continued by stating that their work is situated somewhere between explaining the reality and explaining the possibilities. Following up on Adriaanse’s comments, Ester van de Wiel added that their objectives for this resource related project also included getting a clear sense of location and all the actors that were involved, proceeding to explain the flows that were displayed to the audience in meticulous detail.