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The Ecology of Forms

Political Ecologies seminar organized by Jeff Diamanti and Joost de Bloois | For registration or further information, please contact j.g.c.debloois@uva.nl/j.diamanti@uva.nl

Through reading groups, masterclasses, and public lectures from international scholars and artists engaged in the creative and theoretical study of ecological relation and crisis, this year two of “Ecology of Forms” will move through distinct but overlapping forms that focalize contestation and collectivity across a multitude of vectors: economic, legal, environmental, architectural, infrastructural, cultural, and so on. Forms can include anything from a watershed, general strike, or class action lawsuit; subsea mine or natural gas pipeline; or an assembly of bodies in the thick of a morning commute. Forms put into relation on the terms of their arrangement, historicity, and materiality. Some more obviously than others. Maybe there are new forms emerging amidst the crumbling in of the present. Maybe there are some that we tend to overlook because they’re so sedimented into our experience of the world that we forget they are themselves provisional and mutable. And maybe there are forms that we want to expose for the conceit of their (abrasive) arrangements: the oil terminal, for instance, or the fossil fueled family. Furthermore, we will ask which new forms of (non-academic) writing and thinking are needed to tackle such issues. We will look into different forms of writing and visualizing possible ‘ecologies of form.’ Part of the idea is to gather theoretical concepts around situated and historically contingent forms that materialize a polis in place. But we’re also interested in exploring the animacy and nonhuman force of forms into domains of humanistic and social scientific inquiry. Graduate students and faculty from all disciplines are encouraged to attend. 

Tentative schedule: Semester 2: Spring 2022

February 25, 2022: Frederico Luisetti

Earth Beings at the Commodity Frontiers

New Political Ecologies: Lecture prof Federico Luisetti (University of St Gallen) | Friday, February 25, 13-15hrs (UvA, location tba + live stream). Please register with Joost de Bloois (j.g.c.debloois@uva.nl) or Jeff Diamanti (j.diamanti@uva.nl)

In Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice across Andean Worlds (Duke University Press 2015), Marisol de la Cadena translates the Quechua word tirakuna, the plural of earth, as “earth-beings.” Earth-beings are for Quechua speakers other-than-human subjects that frighten and preannounce, protect and punish, deceive and heal, sharing emotions, feelings and expressions with the people (runakuna). Caught in the commodity frontiers of the contemporary regime of capitalist accumulation, also socio-ecological entities such as melting glaciers and mutating viruses can be perceived as eccentric subjectivities. They are earth-beings that resist enclosure by the global environment and announce the alliance between counter-hegemonic politics of nature.

Federico Luisetti is an Italian philosopher, he is professor of Italian Culture and Society at the University of St Gallen (Switzerland). From 2005 to 2017 he taught Italian Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill,  where he has been the chair of the Department ofRomance Studies from 2014 to 2017. He is the author of several books and numerous essays on philosophy, literature, visual art, the Avant-gardes, and political philosophy. He has also worked on decolonial thought, anthropology and the Anthropocene.

Federico Luisetti’s current project “Unruly Topologies” is part of a transdisciplinary collaborative research project at the University of St. Gallen on “earth-beings”. The aim is to encounter these socio-natural multi-layered domains, promote cross-disciplinary conversations, unsettle categories, and envision ecopolitical initiatives not aligned with neoliberal ecologies. Link: https://unrulytopologies.ch/

His publications include: 

The Anomie of the Earth: Philosophy, Politics, and Autonomy in Europe and the Americas, Duke UP, 2015; Una vita. Pensiero selvaggio e filosofia dell’intensità, Mimesis, 2011; Estetica dell’immanenza. Saggi sulle parole, le immagini e le macchine, Arance, 2008.

8 April 2022 // Artist talk on the Ecology of Form

ASCA Political Ecologies Seminar // Artist talk on the Ecology of Form with Marissa Lee Benedict, David Rueter, and Daniel de Paula

April 8th, 1-3pm

Location: TBA

Contact j.diamanti@uva.nl to sign up

In this talk, artists Marissa Lee Benedict, David Rueter, and Daniel de Paula will present their collaborative work deposition (2018 - present), discussing the modes of figuration and description that constituted and reconstituted dynamics between the various actors and elements of the work, including hosting institutions and participants, over the past three years. What follows is a brief description of the project:

On occasion of Though it's dark, still I sing, the 34th Bienal de São Paulo, deposition, a collaboration between artists Daniel de Paula, Marissa Lee Benedict, and David Rueter, was installed at Oscar Niemeyer’s Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion. The work centers around the displacement, exhibition, and reprogramming of a large-scale corn trading pit, salvaged from the grain room of the Chicago Board of Trade. Reinstalled at the heart of the modernist pavilion originally constructed to house agro-industrial fairs, the seven-tiered octagonal trading pit—a discarded embodiment of financial-capital and liberal-economic ideology made obsolete by its own logics of abstraction and acceleration—is repurposed to host the exhibition’s public program. Directed by contractual frameworks established by the artists, the work deposes the complex network of relations manifested in the floor, from material and immaterial transactions that externalize the weight of commodity production and circulation through speculation, to the perpetuating violent power-dynamics that shape global-space.

BIOS

Marissa Lee Benedict is a visual artist, writer, and researcher. Considering subjects that range from technologies of water management to the laying of fiber optic cable, her work draws on traditions of American land art to investigate the architectures and conditions of global space. She has a master’s in sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and she was awarded a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant. Benedict has exhibited at venues such as The Arts Club of Chicago; The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago; 68 Projects in Berlin; Contemporary Art Brussels; and the Transit Screening Lounge for The US Pavilion as part of the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennial (in collaboration with David Rueter). She has participated in numerous national and international residencies, including Artport Tel Aviv, the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) Desert Research Center, and the Van Eyck Academie (Maastricht, NL).

Daniel de Paula is a Brazilian visual artist and researcher working between São Paulo and Amsterdam. His work reflects on historical objects, forms, and materials that reveal geographical space as the reproduction of dynamics of power. de Paula was awarded the Mondriaan Funds Proven Talent Award in 2020. He holds a bachelor’s in fine arts from Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado, and studied in the Human Geography masters program at the University of São Paulo. He has exhibited widely including institutions such as: The Arts Club of Chicago; Kunsthal, Gent; Museu de Arte Moderna (MASP), São Paulo; Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea (PAC), Milan; and Museu de Arte Contemporânea (MAC), São Paulo. He was a 2018-19 artist-in-residence at the Jan Van Eyck Academie (Maastricht, NL). His work is represented by Galeria Jaqueline Martins and Francesca Minini Gallery. He has been reviewed in ArtforumFlash ArtMousse MagazineFolha de São Paulo, and Het Parool.

David Rueter is a visual artist, programmer, and former Assistant Professor in Art and Technology at the University of Oregon. Employing video, custom electronics, software, cartography, drawing, and performance, Rueter's experiments and interventions summon the contingency of established technical regimes and their philosophical counterparts, tracing suppressed narratives and opening cracks for radical imagination. A graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s graduate program in art and technology studies, Rueter has exhibited at venues such as the The Arts Club of Chicago, 68 Projects in Berlin; Contemporary Art Brussels; the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago, IL); and the Transit Screening Lounge in The US Pavilion as part of the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennial (in collaboration with Marissa Lee Benedict).

April 25-26, 2022 // Ecocentric Reciprocities workshop and conference

ASCA Political Ecologies hosts the Ecocentric Reciprocities Workshop // April 25-26, 2022 (location: 25th @ Universiteitstheater 3.01 // 26th @ Doelenzaal, University Library UB)

Ecocentric Reciprocities: Valuing More-Than-Human Landscapes

The ASCA Political Ecologies seminar welcomes a two-day conference on “Ecocentric Reciprocities.” Participants draw on Indigenous ontologies, new materialism, and ecocentric epistemologies to rethink more-than-human landscapes as entities with intrinsic value and rights, kin with reciprocal relations with local communities, and political leaders of local movements for collective ethics and environmental justice. We challenge instrumentalist perspectives whereby other-than-human lives and non-living earth features are valued solely because they serve the needs and desires of humans. We critique the dehumanization of the earth provoked by distinctions between life/nonlife, culture/nature, normalized by neoliberal capitalist extractivism and settler colonialism, which promote human exceptionalism and environmental devastation. Using interdisciplinary and intersectional methods and theory, we restore the integrity of subjectivity, corporeality, territoriality, and rights of the earth and those who engage its intrinsic value by drawing on political ecology, earth jurisprudence, environmental humanities, and critical Indigenous studies. The workshop lays the groundwork for an edited volume which will provide an antidote to the colonial Anthropocene and biopolitics by centering on ecocentric reciprocities.

Speakers include: 

  • Mihnea Tanasescu // Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
  • Daphina Misiedjan // International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam.
  • Stine Kroijer // University of Copenhagen
  • Cymene Howe // Rice University
  • Rutgerd Boelens // University of Wageningen
  • Ana Mariella Bacigalupo // NIAS
  • Mareike Winchell // University of Chicago 
  • Bruce Mannheim // University of Michigan
  • Guillermo Salas // Universidad Católica del Perú
  • Jeff Diamanti // University of Amsterdam
  • Gerard Verschoor // Wageningen University

To attend, contact j.diamanti@uva.nl

ASCA Political Ecologies Seminar // SABOTAGE AND FLOW

Public Lecture and Masterclass // Friday, April 29th  2022

Organized by Jeff Diamanti (j.diamanti@uva.nl), Joost de Bloois (J.G.C.deBloois@uva.nl), and Fred Carter

Dr Alexandra Campbell, ‘Disrupting Flow: Infrastructure, Sabotage and Hydraulic Power’ 

Lecture: 3-5pm (Alexandra Campbell) @ Belle van Zuylen, UB Singel 425

Drawing on recent formulations of sabotage as a structural feature of capitalist organisations of power (Barney 2016; Diamanti & Simpson 2018), this talk examines the formal capacities of ‘flow’ and ‘friction’ as central to capitalism’s internal logics. The energetic flows of capitalism – in which social metabolisms are channelled towards the accumulation of surplus value – are ensured by a hydraulic imaginary through which material forms of turbulence and friction are tamed according to an infrastructural impetus to ‘secure flow’ (Bridge 2018). If this ideology of flow depends on evacuating the material and discursive conditions for its interruption or refusal, then to what extent does reading flows in relation to saboteurial logics expose the circulation of energy and capital as vulnerable to disruption? By configuring hydraulic infrastructure as a ‘medium of political action’ (Barney 2016), this paper reads modes of withdrawal, disruption, and blockage as aesthetically and politically generative acts that work to redirect and redistribute the organisation of both power and meaning. 

Masterclass: 10-12pm (Fred Carter) @ Vondelzaal, UB Singel 425

In tandem with Dr Campbell’s talk, ASCA guest researcher Fred Carter will lead a masterclass on poetics and energy humanities, exploring the kinetics and materiality of linguistic form through the intersection of Marxist-feminist poetics, militant resistance to nuclear infrastructures, and materialist critiques of the ‘work/energy’ crisis in the late 1970s. 

Readings for masterclass and lecture

Brent Ryan Bellamy, Michael O’Driscoll, & Mark Simpson. ‘Toward a Theory of Resource Aesthetics,’ (2016). (16 pages, double-spaced) 

Wendy Mulford. ‘Notes on Writing: A Marxist-Feminist Viewpoint.’ 1979. On Gender and Writing, (1983). (10 pages) 

Midnight Notes Collective, ‘No Future Notes: The Work/Energy Crisis & the Anti-Nuclear Movement,’ (1979). (~9,000 words) 

Liliane Lijn, ‘Get Rid of Government Time,’ (1962). Letraset on painted metal oil drum, plastic, motor. Words from a poem by Nazli Nour. (art object, 3 page document) 

Suggested: 

Samuel Solomon. ‘Forms of Reproduction in the Early Work of Wendy Mulford.’ Lyric Pedagogy and Marxist-Feminism: Social Reproduction and the Institutions of Poetry, (2019). 

Bios:

Alexandra Campbell is Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Glasgow, specialising in poetry and environment. Her current research examines issues of energy, water, and marine justice as they manifest within contemporary poetry. Further to her work on hydro-imaginaries, she is increasingly fascinated by the emergent fields of Infrastructure Studies and Critical Future Studies, exploring the ways in which the poetics of infrastructure promise or prohibit certain ideas of the future. She has published articles on critical ocean studies, marine energy, and hydroculture and is currently working with Fred Carter on a new area of research that examines the tactics and terrains of insurgent ecologies. She is currently the co-editor of the international journal Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism

Fred Carter currently holds a position as Saltire Emerging Researcher at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis. He recently completed a doctoral thesis on linguistically innovative poetry, materialism, and critiques of the Anthropocene at the University of Edinburgh, where he co-convenes the Edinburgh Environmental Humanities Network. His postdoctoral research is situated at the intersection of Marxist literary criticism and environmental humanities, examining the emergence of innovative poetic forms against intersecting crises of energy, capital, and social reproduction after 1973. He is currently co-editing a special issue of Green Letters on militant ecologies and collaborating with Alexandra Campbell on a project interrogating the poetics and terrains of struggle.  

May 25, 2022: Public Lecture & Masterclass w/ Daniel A. Barber

ASCA Political Ecologies organized by Jeff Diamanti and Joost de Bloois

Topic: Architecture in the Aftermath

Looking at buildings and drawings from about 1930 to the present, from the Americas, West Africa, and around the world, I will outline a history of architecture as a device for climatic adaptability - a dynamic mediator between thermal interiors and global climates. Architecture as an energetic system that, over time, has both monitored and managed flow. Brazil in the 1930s and 40s in particular - just before air conditioning took command - will give possibilities and cautions around forms of climatic modernism, and see these dynamic strategies in relationship to developmentalism and resource extraction. 

How can we understand these buildings in contrast to the all-glass sealed and conditioned office towers that are being built in cities today? The goal of 'carbon-neutral by 2050' suggests that we need to base architecture on a different carbon cycle: eliminating hydrocarbon fuels and their emissions, as well as cycling, storing, and pooling carbon in new ways through buildings. The focus of the presentation will be on the buildings themselves - a history of climatic adaptability - and also on the interactions they solicit: a climatic adaptive building that scripts habits and patterns less reliant on carbon emissions.

Mapping the changing connection between carbon emissions, indoor comfort, and climate instability, I am also interested in establishing a break, a hinge, a historical recognition that the architecture of petroleum, of energy profligacy, is behind us. Architecturally, in other words, we are living in the aftermath. As we change our practices and forms of knowledge, we draw on history, practices, and traditions in different ways. I hope to follow the presentation with a collective discussion considering histories and methods of research.

Bio

Daniel A. Barber is Associate Professor and Chair of the PhD Program in Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. His research and teaching narrate eco-critical histories of architecture and seek pathways into the post-hydrocarbon future. His most recent book is Modern Architecture and Climate: Design before Air Conditioning (Princeton UP, 2020) following on A House in the Sun: Modern Architecture and Solar Energy in the Cold War (Oxford UP, 2016); A recent article “After Comfort” has encouraged reflection on architecture’s role in the climate crisis. Daniel edits the accumulation series on e-flux architecture and is co-founder of Current: Collective on Environment and Architectural History. His presentation will draw on his current position as a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Centre for Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Studies at Universität Heidelberg

Fall 2021

Friday, September 17 @ 1pm: Introductory Meeting

Readings (email seminar assistant for dropbox access):

  • Jason W. Moore, “Amsterdam is Standing on Norway Part 2”. Journal of Agrarian Change 10.2 (April 2010). 
  • Elizabeth M. DeLoughrey, Introduction to Allegories of the Anthropocene. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2019. 

Friday, October 29

Public Talk and Masterclass with Amanda Boetzkes
Masterclass: 10-12pm (in person)
Public Talk: 3-5pm (hybrid)
Hosted by Joost de Bloois, Jeff Diamanti, and Maithri Maithri

Ecologicity, A Thriving Negation of Negation

This lecture and seminar will consider a primary form of ecology, the feedback loop, in its collision with decolonial aesthetics in contemporary art and literature. This collision, I argue, is the origin of what I am calling art’s ecologicity, a notion that captures the complexity of collective organization and their political meta-negation of being.  I distinguish ecologicity from a standard formulation of ecology—the recursions of information that define environmental, social, and cybernetic systems—by positioning it as a thriving of paradoxical forms of excess and that resists those very systems. Ecologicity challenges the regime of plasticity in its refusal of an abstract common ground by which to make political claims for land, lives, defendability and grievability. I therefore address how forms of political struggle are nested in environmental mediation and the production of planetary perspectives. 

Bio: Amanda Boetzkes is Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Guelph, Canada. She will be a fellow at Käte Hamburger Kolleg “Cultures of Research” at RWHK University of Aachen from 2021-22. Her writing examines the politics, aesthetics, and ecologies of contemporary art through the lens of human waste, energy consumption and expenditure, and most recently, climate crisis and glacier melt in the circumpolar north. She is the author of Plastic Capitalism: Contemporary Art and the Drive to Waste (2019) and The Ethics of Earth Art (2010). She is co-editor of Heidegger and the Work of Art History (2014) and a forthcoming volume on Art’s Realism in the Post-Truth Era (2023). She has published in the journals South Atlantic Quarterly, e-flux, Postmodern Culture, and Afterimage, among others.

Recent book chapters appear in Nervous Systems: Art, Systems, and Politics Since the 1960s (2021), Climate Realism: The Aesthetics of Weather and Atmosphere in the Anthropocene (2020); The Edinburgh Companion for Animal Studies (2018); and Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters among Politics, Aesthetics, Environments, and Epistemologies (2015).

Masterclass readings:

Achille Mbembe, “Necropolitics,” Public Culture 15.1 (2003): 11- 40.

IndigenousAction.org, Rethinking the Apocalypse: An Indigenous Anti-Futurist Manifesto (November 16, 2020). https://www.indigenousaction.org/wp-content/uploads/simple-file-list/rethinking-the-apocalypse-PRINT.pdf.

IndigenousAction.org, Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex (2014): https://www.indigenousaction.org/accomplices-not-allies-abolishing-the-ally-industrial-complex/.

“Metaphysical Anarchy and Political Anarchy,” Interview with Catherine Malabou, Acid Horizon, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxHeRqphOzg

Recommended:

“Aesthetic Action, Planetary Praxis,” Nervous Systems: Art, Systems, and Politics Since the 1960s. Eds. Tim Stott and Johanna Gosse, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2021).

Friday, November 19th

Masterclass (10-12) and Public Lecture 16:00-18:00) by Dr. Daniel Barber

November 19th: Public Lecture & Masterclass w/ Daniel A. Barber

Topic: Architecture in the Aftermath

Looking at buildings and drawings from about 1930 to the present, from the Americas, West Africa, and around the world, I will outline a history of architecture as a device for climatic adaptability - a dynamic mediator between thermal interiors and global climates. Architecture as an energetic system that, over time, has both monitored and managed flow. Brazil in the 1930s and 40s in particular - just before air conditioning took command - will give possibilities and cautions around forms of climatic modernism, and see these dynamic strategies in relationship to developmentalism and resource extraction. 

How can we understand these buildings in contrast to the all-glass sealed and conditioned office towers that are being built in cities today? The goal of 'carbon-neutral by 2050' suggests that we need to base architecture on a different carbon cycle: eliminating hydrocarbon fuels and their emissions, as well as cycling, storing, and pooling carbon in new ways through buildings. The focus of the presentation will be on the buildings themselves - a history of climatic adaptability - and also on the interactions they solicit: a climatic adaptive building that scripts habits and patterns less reliant on carbon emissions.

Mapping the changing connection between carbon emissions, indoor comfort, and climate instability, I am also interested in establishing a break, a hinge, a historical recognition that the architecture of petroleum, of energy profligacy, is behind us. Architecturally, in other words, we are living in the aftermath. As we change our practices and forms of knowledge, we draw on history, practices, and traditions in different ways. I hope to follow the presentation with a collective discussion considering histories and methods of research.

Bio

Daniel A. Barber is Associate Professor and Chair of the PhD Program in Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. His research and teaching narrate eco-critical histories of architecture and seek pathways into the post-hydrocarbon future. His most recent book is Modern Architecture and Climate: Design before Air Conditioning (Princeton UP, 2020) following on A House in the Sun: Modern Architecture and Solar Energy in the Cold War (Oxford UP, 2016); A recent article “After Comfort” has encouraged reflection on architecture’s role in the climate crisis. Daniel edits the accumulation series on e-flux architecture and is co-founder of Current: Collective on Environment and Architectural History. His presentation will draw on his current position as a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Centre for Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Studies at Universität Heidelberg

Semester 2

January – May TBD