Karolina RYBAČIAUSKAITĖ. The Ambivalent Matter of Soil in The Sphere of Contemporary Art

Why the activity of gardening in the artistic realm is not, in fact, the adequate way to react against the Apocalypse or the effects of Anthropocene? According to T. J. Demos, such type of reaction, as he describes it in the case of dOCUMENTA (13), with a marked prevalence of artist-rendered gardens, demonstrates not so much more, but “a state of crisis in terms of how ecology is addressed within the artistic realm” (Demos 2016: 229). In my presentation, I would like to rethink the proposal for the artists and curators in the situation we are now facing which is given by the philosopher and anthropologist Bruno Latour. He suggests that we are in the process of collective reorientation and rediscovery of Gaia in which artists like many others, who are also learning what the earth is made of, could shift our attention from what we are usually relating with nature: green, beautiful, homogenous, globally unanimous, towards something what we could associate with the different type of nature, such as soil: brown, dirty, composted, layered (Latour 2017: 154-155). Although Demos’ critique for generating ‘green’ and Latour’s idea of ‘ungreening’ could seem having a similar basis, as if they treat art as a necessarily representative act rather than having a performative nature in one’s presence, Latour asks for the attentive being of both.

Karolina Rybačiauskaitė is an art critic and a PhD student of Philosophy at Vilnius University, also graduated in History and Theory of Art at Vilnius Academy of Arts. She is interested in links between posthuman methodologies and the sphere of contemporary art as well as the alternative ways of writing history of modern and contemporary art in post-socialist European countries. Currently, she is one of the editors of book “(In)dependent Contemporary Art Histories: Artists-run Initiatives in Lithuania 1987-2020. 3rd volume” (the forthcoming 2020).


Joy LAM. The Pulse of Nature – Lung Fu Shan

At the Lung Fu Shan Environmental Education Centre (LFSEEC), a series of hundreds-years-old colonial bungalow in a fast-paced, energetic, capitalistic Hong Kong, we wander the world between human and nature, city and mountain forests. Nature sets the scene of everyday life in Hong Kong. Given its small size, one can reach world class country parks and the coast within 30 minutes from anywhere in the city. However, people in Hong Kong prefer to spend time become busier and more important in shopping malls, business centres, and efficient transport system that one doesn’t have to be in “the environment” ever in his/her life. We asked: how do we ensure the long-term future of the natural world? One consensus is that the only way is to ensure that the place is embedded in the community and is valued by the people who live in its vicinity. Since then, we have a clear mandate: to bring people to nature. Through five senses, artistic interpretation, historical investigation, citizen scientific exploration, knowledge exchange, community building, and place-making, we set off to a journey to perceive place and space with people in richly diverse, fully engaged ways.

Joy Lam, the head of Sustainability Office at the University of Hong Kong (HKU). Joy championed causes and campaigns coupled with policy changes, capacity building to drive behavioural change on sustainability issues – most recent one “Ditch Disposable”. Graduated from Oxford University and HKU, trained institutionally in earth sciences and environmental conservation, educated informally through films and travels, hungry for cultures and arts, and obsessed with human/nature interaction. Joy took the directorship of the LFSEEC in 2016. Jointly established by the government and HKU, the revitalized historic centre supports nature exploration through exhibitions, tours and workshops. Through partnerships with the wider community, the centre provides the public with experiential environmental education to build a community living sustainably and harmoniously with nature.


Ksenia FEDOROVA. Generative Prototyping. Realities of Frictional Fictions

The paper focuses on the role of creative practices that employ organic forms of intelligence in the development of practical sustainable and regenerative solutions. Orientation towards active social and economic transformation has been part of the art world since the beginning of environmental activist art movement in the 1970s. Today creative propositions include more sophisticated biotechnological models and operate in more porous and interconnected cultural environment. Examples may include projects with microorganisms such as algae used for energy generation and air purification (Laura Beloff, Fara Peluso), mycelium networks as building and “thinking” material (Theresa Schubert, Amber Frid-Jimenez and Joe Dahmen), as well as soil bacteria contrasted with cryptography (Debra Solomon and Jaromil Rojo). These projects balance in between the purely propositional and even fantastical and the practical and potentially “scalable” prototyping. How can fictional artifacts and speculative scenarios become reality without losing its generative core and being completely absorbed by the techno-capitalist powers? What are the effects of co-existence and interpenetration between the techno-scientific start-up and creative spheres?

Ksenia Fedorova (PhD) is a media and media art researcher and curator. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Art and Image History at Humboldt University in Berlin, working on a manuscript of her book “Tactics of Interfacing. Encoding affect in Art and Technology” (MIT Press, 2020). She is the co-editor of Media: Between Magic and Technology (2014, in Russian) and an author of articles in Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Media & Culture Journal, Acoustic Space, Dialog of Arts and in anthologies. In 2007-2011, she was an initiator and curator of the “Art. Science. Technology” program at the Ural branch of the National Center for Contemporary Arts (Ekaterinburg, RU). Ksenia’s research interests encompass media art theory and history, aesthetics, philosophy, science and technology studies, with a specific focus on the affects of new technologies on human perception and interaction.


Vytautas MICHELKEVICIUS. (Per)forming Ecotopias in the Green Cube:
Agency of Plants, Gears and Landscapes

I have developed a concept of green cube for the Nida Art Colony situation and it could be transposed to the other residencies working in protected remote areas (like Banff residency in the National Park in Canada). Since decades beautiful sceneries were very tempting for artist to add something in it and call it “Land art”. However, it represents very anthropocentric treatment of environment with a desire to insert something and make it more beautiful. But for whom? The “green cube” will be discussed from two perspectives: foresters and environmentalists who historically built and still are taking care of the cultural landscape of “green cube” and artists who research it and perform various politics of “greenness” inside it. The presentation will discuss the artificially constructed National Nature Park of Curonian Spit (UNESCO World Heritage) which is a good example of nature-culture and its relationship with anthropocentric visions from XIX to XXI centuries. Moreover, some artists-in-residency projects dealing with post-antropocentric world will be used as examples to discuss the role of greenness and its effects on art and social world. For example, Špela Petrič was developing “Tools for Dissection of Phytopolitics (0.2)” which put plants in the situation over humans, gives agency to plants and imagines phytocracy as an ideal state of “green cube”. Anna Romanenko & Björn Kühn produced “Local Fittings” a set of gears to perform labour in the site-specific landscape and transform the human-being into a work machine where performance choreography is based on local peculiarities of natural and social landscape.

Dr. Vytautas Michelkevičius (Vilnius/Nida, LT) is a curator, researcher and associate professor whose focus was gradually shifting from photography in expanded field to media art & theory and lately to artistic research in academia and beyond. He is teaching art practice & theory BA, MA and DA/PhD students in Vilnius Academy of Arts and serves as artistic director of Nida Art Colony. He has curated exhibitions of artistic research in various situations, among them Lithuanian Pavilion in Venice Biennale. He has edited and authored more than 10 books on art and media.
He is a member of Society of Artistic Research (SAR) and a member of scientific editorial board of peer-reviewed journal “Acoustic Space” (RIXC and Liepaja University, LV).


Marcus BANKS. Sustainability in Science Labs

In an effort to provide educational opportunities to design students, our science labs have created modular workshops centered around sustainability and design within science spaces. Scientists are often given passes for their wasteful practices; frequently using plastic consumables, failing to recycle materials, and working in spaces which leave larger carbon footprints than traditional offices. In our exploration of sustainability-centered curricula, we have also collected data from 21 institutions all over the U.S. to develop protocols and resources to help labs teach sustainability while practicing sustainability.

Marcus Banks has a B.S. in Biology from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA and is currently pursuing an MFA in Design and Technology at Parsons School of Design. He has been working in science labs for over ten years and currently manages microbiology, molecular biology, and chemistry labs for The New School in New York City. His project aims to curb unnecessary plastic waste from science and biodesign spaces by offering sustainable alternatives to traditional materials and protocols.