World of Matter

Argos, October 18 and 19, 2013
Launch of multimedia platform


Conference program

Friday, 18th October

Emily Eliza Scott: Entangled Research and Epistemological Alchemy
World of Matter emerges in the context of a growing body of “eco-aesthetic” practices that blur with non-art forms of thinking and making to impactfully engage the world. In particular, Scott will consider artist-generated research platforms, wherein self-organized groups probe complex, cross-disciplinary ecological subjects through the development of structures for sustained investigation, exchange and production; and second, contemporary artists’ attempts to represent complex human and non-human entanglements, and to thereby open onto the vitality of non-human entities—from microscopic species and storm fronts to raw geologic matter. What might artists, with their uniquely attuned relationship to the material, the aesthetic, and the affective, make imaginable and sense-able with regard to human-environmental intra-actions?

Ursula Biemann: Geochemistry and other Planetary Perspectives
Through comprehensive fieldwork and video practice (Deep Weather, Egyptian Chemistry), the artist raises questions about the entanglement of aesthetics, ecology and geopolitics, which brought forth a new understanding of artistic research in recent years. How can the interrelation of art and science open up experimental fields of agency that can face up to future challenges such as a changing geochemistry and biosphere? In Deep Weather Biemann draws a connection between the relentless reach for fossil resources in Northern Canada with their toxic impact on the climate, and the consequences this has for indigenous populations in remote parts of the world. Her talk addresses possible aesthetic strategies that help consider spatial and temporal dimensions that link the molecular and planetary scale.

Frauke Huber & Uwe H. Martin: LandRush
Huber and Martin present their ongoing collaborative research project LandRush which explores the impact of large-scale agro investments on rural economies and land-rights, the boom of renewable fuels, the reallocation of land and the future of agriculture around the world. Based on comprehensive research, they use photography and multi-media storytelling to investigate the ways in which farmers might be able to feed nine billion people while satisfying the increasing demand for field grown fuel without trashing the planet. Case studies in the Ethiopian national park Gambella, currently used for cane sugar and palm oil production, the soya highway in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso; and the biofuel production in the US state of Iowa give insight into the massive challenge.

Paulo Tavares (from Lima via skype)
The presentation elucidates a collaborative research conducted by Forensic Architecture on the violence inflicted by Guatemalan state security forces on the Ixil Maya people in West Guatemala (1978–84). The act of violence, which amounted to genocide, is not only the killing of people, it also includes “environmental violence”: the destruction of the natural and built environment as part of a military strategy. The investigation attempts to read the environment not just as the location of conflict, but as the means by which it unfolds.

Saturday, 19th October

Lonnie van Brummelen: Drifting Studio Practice
Lonnie van Brummelen and Siebren de Haan, collaborating since 2002, have developed an artistic approach to explore territories that are unknown to them from within. Instead of being autonomous, a disposition that is still frequently attributed to artists, working from within implies that one becomes part of the terrain that one investigates. Immersed in the field, the artists observe, reflect and interact simultaneously. Van Brummelen will introduce the film Episode of the Sea (2013), the result of a two year collaboration with the Dutch fishing community of the former island of Urk. While interacting with the fishing community that struggles with a changed public perception, regulation, and global competition, the artists trace parallels between the material worlds of fishing and artistic production.

Mabe Bethônico: Imprinting visibility
The region Minas Gerais in Brazil is particularly affected by the expansion of global mineral demands, within a picture of contradiction and loss. In a neo-colonial cycle, the longest trains of the globe take ore to the Atlantic coast, from where it leaves to China, while from China come the tracks that will make the rails to transport its ore. The economic dynamic is disconnected with the population and this also the case in the cultural field, privatised and detached from its context. In the need for awareness and discussion, can visual production bring debate in the public sphere and oppose the image making mechanisms and control of ultraliberal practices?

Elaine Gan: Shattering Seeds (via skype)
The artist’s work seeks to draw out temporal mechanisms of more-than-human ecologies and economies through a study of rice. IR36 is the most widely planted miracle rice. Crossbred from 13 varieties and modeled after commercial wheat by agronomists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI, Philippines) in 1976, IR36 produced higher yields and could be harvested in 110 days, two months earlier than average. But its reliance on capital-intensive fertilizers and water/irrigation management had unintended consequences. Accelerated cropping cycles, chemical saturation, and biodiversity loss triggered insect mutations and viruses that deformed grain and degraded fields, particularly in the Philippines. In less than a decade, IR36 was pulled from distribution. Whose times move through our bodies and landscapes?

Ursula Biemann and Uwe Martin: Web Launch of
World of Matter considers visual source material a valuable instrument for education, activist work, research, and raising general public awareness, particularly in light of the ever more privatized nature of both actual resources and knowledge about the powers that control them. The online platform is the backbone of the collaborative project, providing an open access archive that connects different files, actors, territories and ideas.