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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 maithri.maithri@student.uva.nl or 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 1

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