Public Keynotes and Artist Talk: UNGREENING GREENNESS AND

Jens HAUSER. Greenness: Sketching the Limits of a Normative Fetish

Are we ‘green’? The entanglement between symbolic green, ontological greenness and performative greening poses challenges across disciplines that provide an epistemological panorama for playful debunking: ‘green’, symbolically associated with the ‘natural’ and employed to hyper-compensate for what humans have lost, needs to be addressed as the most anthropocentric of all colours. There has been little reflection upon greenness’ migration across different knowledge cultures, meanwhile we are green-washing greenhouse effects away. Indeed, a morbid odour clings to the charm of the pervasive trope of greening everything, from mundane ‘green burials’ to transcendental ‘greening of the gods’, and even ‘green warfare’, taught in Military
Studies. Despite its, at first sight, positive connotations of aliveness and naturalness, the term ‘green’ incrementally serves the uncritical, fetishistic desire to metaphorically hyper-compensate for a systemic necropolitics that has variously taken the form of the increasing technical manipulation of living systems, ecologies, the biosphere, and of very ‘un-green’ mechanisation. Paradoxically, green plays a central role in human evolution and self-understanding – as colour, percept, medium, material biological agency, semantic construct, and ideology. In its inherent
ambiguity, between alleged naturalness and artificiality, employed to reconcile humans with otherness as such, greenness urgently needs to be disentangled from terms—both putatively non-technological—such as ‘life’ and ‘nature’.

Jens Hauser is a Copenhagen and Paris based media studies scholar and art curator focusing on the interactions between art and technology. He holds a dual research position at both the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies and at the Medical Museion at the University of Copenhagen, and leads the (OU)VERT research initiative for Greenness Studies. He is also a distinguished affiliated faculty member of the Department of Art, Art History and Design at Michigan State University, where he co-directs the BRIDGE artist in residency program. Hauser is also the chair of the European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts’ annual 2018 conference in Copenhagen.


Luc STEELS. How Nature Inspires Progress in Artificial Intelligence

AI is in the news. However the main technique used to build AI today (statistical machine learning) captures only a very small part of how Nature manages to create organisms with amazing adaptive behaviors and how human intelligence with its unique capacities for language, reasoning, and learning, arises and operates. This talk suggests that we have a lot to learn from living Nature. It discusses principles like self-organisation, selection, level formation and emergent functionality and reports experiments how we could use these principles, particularly for explaining the origins and evolution of human-like language.

Luc Steels is a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies (ICREA) in Barcelona, embedded in the Institute for Evolutionary Biology (IBE – UPF/CSIC). In the nineteen seventies he studied linguistics at the University of Antwerp (Belgium) and computer science with specialisation in Artificial Intelligence at M.I.T. (US) under the guidance of Marvin Minsky. After working for several years for the company Schlumberger in the U.S. and France on expert systems for geophysical measurement interpretation, he came back to Europe and founded in 1983 the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of the Free University of Brussels (VUB). With his group he achieved early breakthroughs in symbolic programming, knowledge-based systems, evolutionary computation, neural information processing, and behaviour-based robotics. In 1996 Steels became the founding director of the Sony Computer Science Laboratory in Paris which made major contributions to language emergence, citizen science, and computer music. In 2011 he joined the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) to work on the use of principles from evolutionary biology to advance the understanding and emulation of intelligence in artificial systems. Steels published a dozen books on various AI subjects as well as 350 research papers published in prestigious conferences and top level scientific journals. He is elected member of the Flemish Royal Academy of Science in Belgium and the European Academy of Science.


Karine BONNEVAL. Se planter (To plant oneself / To fail) (25 min + 5 min)

The first encounter with the Guyanese forest in 2000 was a decisive shock for my artistic research, because this impression of entering into a living whole enabled me to experience sharing of the sensitive with a complex and vibrant ecosystem. As a Western woman and a human being living on earth today, I ask myself a series of questions, which I try to answer partially and temporarily by working with scientists in plant ecology and an ethical philosopher, Karen Houle. Based on a series of images presenting some of the results of these collaborations, the installations, the in situ practical workshops that I share with different audiences, I will unfold the thread of these issues that seems urgent to consider today.

What do we share as human beings with plants?
‘Plant blindness’ – why we fail to see plants?
What can we learn from ourselves by looking at plants?
What can be the value of interdisciplinarity approaches to the study of plant skills?
Plant sentience?

How to regain empathy towards the non-human? The work of Karine Bonneval focuses on the plant otherness, and the complex and specific interactions that link humans and plants.
Born in La Rochelle in 1970, graduated at Angoulème Fine Art school and Strasbourg Decorative Art School, France. Fascinated by vernacular processes, which for ages have allowed humans to express their relationship with the surrounding world, Karine Bonneval develops a vocabulary born from the “hand-made” in order to generate pieces around our contemporary social behaviour. Since 2013, she has worked in collaboration with different teams of scientists in biology to jointly develop projects combining research and sensitive creation around plants and their environments.