Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sense of Planet, Sydney, Saturday (New Details)

Note the change of venue: the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, 27 O'Connell St.

Starts 9:30am.

Registration starts 9.30am, program begins 10am, networking drinks 5.30-6.30pm
The acceleration of climate change, species extinction, and other ecological crises, enjoins us to find ways of grasping historical and evolving circumstances at earth magnitude. The Sense of Planet symposium concentrates together an international array of artists, eco-theorists and scholars to address the issues and activities of representing the earth in its entirety, and of representing and self-representing regions or localities amid the complex global systems in which they are enmeshed. The symposium follows the lead taken by Ursula Heise in her book Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global to investigate the possibilities and difficulties of sensing the planet, in all senses of sense.  
Ursula Heise, Department of English, Stanford University
The Database and the Ecological Imagination of the Planet
Media theorists have argued that the digital database is not just a clerical or scientific tool, but a new cultural form of the contemporary age that calls for its own aesthetics and poetics. Art historians, literary critics and media scholars have debated the forms and functions of the database in relation to other representational genres such as narrative and map over the last decade. My presentation will focus on how global biodiversity databases such as the EoL (Encyclopedia of Life) or the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species mobilize the formats of the encyclopedia, of storytelling and of mapping so as to articulate a vision of the entirety of biological life on planet Earth. Such databases can be understood as a contemporary form of digital epic that may ultimately useful for rehtinking humans' relations to other species and for conceptualizing an environmental form of posthumanism.

Jennifer Gabrys, Design and Environment, Goldsmiths, University of London
Planet Sensing
Ecological Observatories and Technonatures of Sense Environments are increasingly under surveillance. But the monitoring that takes place consists not just of closed-circuit television installed to track and trace everyday human activity, but also of sensor technologies deployed to monitor ecological processes through distributed and micro-sensory modalities. This presentation will present fieldwork and observations gathered from several ecological observatories where experimental sensor environments have been established. Based on this material, I will consider how sensor technologies give rise to new modes of environmental data gathering, as well as technonatural configurations of sense. I will ask how these new arrangements of environmental monitoring and distributed sensing shift the spaces and practices of environmental participation and imagining, both within environmental citizenship actions and through creative practice projects that take up “citizen sensing” as a tactic for engaging with sites of environmental concern.
Timothy Morton, Department of English, Rice University
Of Planet-Sense
My talk plays on the possibility that the phrase "sense of planet" is in fact a subjective genitive.  Even if humans are the only people on Earth, which now seems astonishingly unlikely, they act as the planet's sense organs insofar as they are its direct outgrowths, and insofar as sentience just is an "interobjective" system's emergence as information-for some "perceiver." But Earth senses us in a far deeper and more disturbing way, since environmental awareness is predicated on an always-already. We are fearful that global warming has started only to the extent that we are no longer sure what the weather is telling us, because global warming has already started.  Unable to see it directly, we assess global warming insofar as it takes the measure of us. A tsunami assesses the fragility of a Japanese town. An earthquake probes the ability of humans and their equipment to resist the liquefaction of crust. A heatwave scans us with ultraviolet rays. These largely harmful measurements direct our attention to human coexistence with other life forms inside a gigantic object that just is, yet is not reducible to, these life forms and ourselves. The Anthropocene, the term for direct human intervention in geological time, is the ironic name for a moment at which the nonhuman is discerned to be inextricable from the human, a variation of the noir plot of the Oedipus story in which the measurer turns out to be the measured. To understand the contemporary age then is to understand the form of the Oedipus story, namely, how we still remain within the confines of agricultural ritual, a plot that plots the world as graspable, technical object and horizon, a plot that eventually leads nowhere but to what I shall define precisely as a specific kind of doom. What underlies sense of planet then is "planet-sense," experienced by humans as physical enmeshment in a trap that is by no means free, pleasant or utopian, precisely to the extent that it is a "global" awareness--but cognitively liberating nonetheless.

Nicholas Mirzoeff, Department of Media, Culture and Communication, New York University
Anthropocene Aesthetics
Why are the effects of climate change so readily accommodated? In this presentation, I will argue that the Anthropocene era of geology created by the human burning of fossil fuels is also and not coincidentally the era of transformation of aesthetics from that which was felt or perceived to the modern concept of disinterested beauty following Kant. I track the ways in which climate change and its effects were aestheticized at the heart of the Western canon and also within popular culture. I will suggest three means of countering the aestheticization of the Anthropocene: the legal theatre of small island states questioning the perception of the global; the resurgence of traditional navigation in the Pacific as a means of counter-visualizing the ocean; and the counter-aesthetic of the global Occupy movement in reclaiming the beautiful for participatory direct democracy.

Marko Peljhan, University of California Institute for Research in the Arts, University of California at Santa Barbara
One Degree at a Time—Creating Systems of Systems for Interpolar Constructiv(ist)e Engagement
The high southern and northern latitudes are functioning as defining sensors of fundamental changes in planetary systems. During the last International Polar Year (2007-2008) an enormous amount of data about polar regions has been gathered and a large number of initiatives aimed at the understanding of complex inter-relationships between geophysical, biological, geopolitical and geocultural systems has started. We are positioned to understand more and deeper than ever before. Most of this knowledge was gathered through advanced technological sensing systems, from interferometry based instruments, to oceanographic and land based probes, sensor networks and observations. If it is to mirror the complexity of the observed systems, the inclusion of local and traditional knowledge and scientifically un-orthodox approaches is of utmost importance in processes of interpretation and paradigm creation. The talk will focus on the approaches taken by the Interpolar Transnational Art Science Constellation in the Antarctic and the Arctic Perspective Initiative in the Arctic to create conditions for integrative practices and the creation of autonomous systems for constructiv(ist)e engagement with these interpolar realities.

And also:
Terry Smith, University of Pittsburgh and National Institute for Experimental Arts
Jill Bennett, National Institute for Experimental Arts
Douglas Kahn, National Institute for Experimental Arts
9:30-10.00 am   
10:00-10:15 am
Jill Bennett and Douglas Kahn
10:15-11:00 am
Ursula Heise
The Database and the Ecological Imagination of the Planet
11:00-11:30 am
Morning Tea
11:30-12:15 pm
Nicholas Mirzoeff
Anthropocene Aesthetics
12:15-1:00  pm
Timothy Morton
Of Planet-Sense
1:00-2:30    pm
2:30-3:15    pm
Jennifer Gabrys
Planet Sensing
3:15-3:45    pm
Afternoon Tea
3:45 -4:30   pm 
Marko Peljhan
One Degree at a Time—Creating Systems of Systems for Interpolar Constructiv(ist)e Engagement
4:30-5:30    pm
NIEA panel with Terry Smith, Jill Bennett and Douglas Kahn
5:30-6:30   pm
6:30            pm


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