“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, May 20, 2011

Materials: Objects: Environments Roundtable on a Hyperobjects Exhibition (MP3)

“Curating Materials.” A most unusual session. David Gissen, Timothy Morton, Jill Bennett, Douglas Kahn (moderator). A roundtable on curating a hyperobjects exhibition in Sydney at NIEA. Featuring a host of interlocutors. Sydney, May 20 2011. Very creative ideas were had.

After I switched the recorder off (isn't that always the way?), I had the idea of buying some space on a satellite that would circle Earth and photograph events at the exhibition from space. The satellite might contain some precious or contaminated materials.

1 comment:

Matt K said...

Hi Tim,
Thanks again for what you brought to the workshop. I had some more thoughts on how and why an exhibition on hyperobjects should engage with design.

Learning the design of hyperobjects
The hyperobjects are a product of design. We didn’t invent them, but they are here because of what we have designed. Climate change is exists in connection with highways, coal freighters, refrigerators, commodity markets, shopping malls, lounge rooms, washing your clothes, steak and chips, the absence of woolly jumpers. This not to say that climate change is reducible to these things, but they are absolutely part of why they exist. A pandemic simply must have industrialised agriculture, slums, and air travel. Part of learning to understand hyperobjects has to be about learning how they have arrived through a complex process of defutural designing.

Learning hyperobjects by design
We only know hyperobjects by design. In a quite literal sense we have to build a picture/impression/experience of them. This presentation, or the translation of a hyperobject into something intelligible, the content, the timing, the location, the medium, etc. has an impact one way or another, or worse, does not impact enough. For instance, climate change as it presented to us through graphs, diagrams, newspapers, TV debates, advertisements etc is yet to deliver decisive action. How hyperobjects are made present to population by design (and not just by art) demands consideration.

Learning how hyperobjects design
Terrorism designs CCTV, war designs video games, climate change designs conferences, nuclear waste designs security measures, floods design insurance, pandemics design quarantine. Hyperobjects are already here and they are designing in ways that we need to become attuned to, because not everything that has or will come into being through their agency will be good news for us.
The relational designing of hyperobjects is also worth considering. Climate change designs drought, population movement, war, refugee camps etc. I read a report somewhere advising the Indian government to consider the possibility of a nuclear strike on China in the event of upstream development effecting water supply. Thats some scary hyper level designing.

Learning to live with hyperobjects by design.
The manner in which hyperobjects will make contact with us depends on how we are disposed (by design) to receive them. Compare for instance the how events such as a tsunami, flood, volcanic eruption, heat wave, pandemic mud slide, drought, food shortage etc, will be more or less disastrous depending upon the preparedness (and affluence) of a population.
Design is the only activity that can help us live in a world of hyperobjects. Our cities, economies, houses, diets, skills etc need to be redirected or retrofitted in order to accommodate the risks of what is already out there, mitigate the severity of coming impacts (see inter-hyperobjectivity again), and establish socio-technical arrangements that are futural, that extend the possibility of time rather than curtail it.

In this sense, coming to grips with hyperobjects demands that we learn to engage with designed-ness of objects and how objects design.