WORKSHOPS

MEDIATING DEEP SPACE AND TIME WORKSHOP SERIES

Mediating Deep Space & Time is a three-part workshop series organised by the Screen and Audiovisual Research Unit (SARU), based at the Department of Media & Communications, at Goldsmiths UoL. The workshops will take place in April, May and June 2017 respectively and lead up to a larger conference planned for November 2017. Over these three half-day events, the aim is to facilitate extended discussion between academics and postgraduate/early career researchers.

PART 2: OUT OF THE SEDIMENT: ECOLOGIES OF SCALE AND SPECULATIVE GRIDS

Presentations and workshop by members of Archaeologies of Media and Technology Research Group (Winchester School of Art / University of Southampton):  Jussi Parikka, Mihaela Brebenel and Yiğit Soncul, Abelardo Gil-Fournier.

Monday 15 May 2017 at Goldsmiths, University of London

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Due to overwhelming demand the workshop is currently FULL and we have to temporarily close registrations early. We will make an announcement here when places open up.

2.00 – 2.40 SCREENING

Larissa Sansour and Soren Lind, In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain

2.40 – 3.40PRESENTATIONS

Jussi Parikka: So many futures, times

Mihaela Brebenel and Yiğit Soncul: After- Math(s): Techniques, Calculations, Fictions

Abelardo Gil-Fournier: Reservoir Islands

3.40 – 3.50 – short Q&A, responses

4 – 6pm – WORKSHOP discussion based on readings and presentations

ABSTRACTS

Jussi Parikka: So many futures, times

This talk responds to the theme of the deep time by way of alternative imaginaries of technological culture. A significant part of Siegfried Zielinski’s development of the concept of the deep time included the focus on previously neglected geographical areas – such as China, Middle-East and Southern-America – and hence the Variantology-series became a way to replace imaginaries (as well as concrete histories of media-art-science) in particularly significant territories. Picking up on this and on the work in contemporary arts and media around alternative futurisms, this brief talk will ask related questions about imaginary media. From Afrofuturism to Black Quantum Futurism, Arab and Gulf Futurisms to Sinofuturism, we have witnessed a multiplication of alternative pasts and futures as part of geopolitically significant imaginaries of media culture. Hence, the talk will investigate this link between deep times of media imaginaries with the particular work in contemporary audiovisual practices that link to particular territorial questions as well as geopolitical lineages. How is the question of deep time also linked to a multiplication of times as an aesthetic question of contemporary politics?

Mihaela Brebenel and Yiğit Soncul: After- Math(s): Techniques, Calculations, Fictions

After the event comes the aftermath. This conversation seeks to initiate a series of provocations on the possible uses, abuses and limits of the concept of the aftermath, or as we are proposing, after-math(s). To do this, we are following two different etymological-speculative routes: math in aftermath as a reference to calculation, and math in its etymological relation to mowing, the shaping of grass (landscape) by technical means. What, then, comes after calculation and technical means of shaping? We begin by invoking the theoretical propositions of cultural techniques, which bring forth the agricultural origins of medial operations. We continue by teasing out the potentialities that lie within math as an abbreviation of mathematics. Biopolitics emerged, posits Foucault, when life became the object of calculations. Preciado necessarily updated the workings of this logic by claiming that totalizing machinic forms of calculation of gender, sexuality, and race make up “technologies of production of somatic fictions.”

The concept of aftermath receives particular political resonances after an “event” and preemption starts to function as an operative logic of governance. The preemptive logic, argues Massumi, is one that deploys the epistemological uncertainty of a threat to justify its actions and to produce its own futures and fictions. Once acted upon, the future-event that could have been would never be actualised. The logic of calculation that acts against its own predictions manifests itself not only in realpolitik and ideology but in a wider area of politics which includes issues concerning climate change modelling and forecasting.

This speculative intervention thus plays the part of an onto-epistemological concern with how to potentially deploy and think-with or stay with, in the Haraway sense, what comes before, in and within the aftermath. This trouble, we are trying to suggest, is both preempted and lived, fictional and pertaining to the afterlives of any given operative logic of calculation.

Abelardo Gil-Fournier: Reservoir Islands

Seen from above, reservoir islands emerge quietly, isolated from their surroundings, with the clarity of a figure where the background has been removed. Even if they are vestiges of an old, abruptly flooded topography,  the embracing and slowly flowing surface of water promptly refashions them. They appear as new, synthetic lands; miniature worlds after a terraforming cut. Either natural reserves adopted by bird populations, luxury resorts for privileged elites, sport facilities, picturesque remains or simply unused fragments of terrain, these islands are small hydroponic worlds, born in the surface of an infrastructured landscape.

This presentation starts from an ongoing project that collects and inventories the islands emerged in the flooded surfaces of the reservoirs built during Franco’s dictatorship in Spain. These reservoirs were constructed parallel to the large scaled agricultural plans and settlement programmes that repurposed enormous extensions of the territory in a process known as the Inner Colonisation. As it will be discussed, this colonisation, which changed the manner in which the encounter of light and soil took place, can be understood in terms of media. It was designed from above and developed through an intensive use of cultural techniques interweaving image and ground. Among them, a programme of rural urbanism was put into practice, consisting of networks of abstract towns emerging in the midst of a pervasive surface of irrigated yields.

In Giuliana Bruno’s words, “in all these ways, this pervasive surface condition signals a substantial refashioning of materiality. Here, in surface tension, we can sense a profound cultural transformation as modes of surface encounters and connectivity take place in this theater of surface.” Her notion of surface will connect the reservoir islands with the towns and yields of the colonisation as well as other projects that shape a practice-based research on a material and non-anthropocentric unfolding of vision.

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PART 1: REQUIEM FOR THE CRYOSPHERE: A ROUNDTABLE ON POLITICS, NATURE, AND DENIAL

With Etienne Turpin (MIT/anexact office), Jody Berland (York University), Nigel Clark (Lancaster University)

Wednesday 19 April 2017 at Goldsmiths, University of London

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2-4.30pm | PSH LG01 | PRESENTATIONS AND PANEL DISCUSSION (open to all)

Etienne Turpin (MIT/anexact office): The Same River Twice – Natures, Medias, and Other Torrential Formations

Nigel Clark (Lancaster University): Keswickstan – Liquid Display, Global Flow, Sedimentary Being

Jody Berland (York University): Watching It Melt – From Screenshots to Post-Humanist Media Archaeology

Panel moderated by Sean Cubitt (Goldsmiths)

5-7pm | PSH 302 | WORKSHOP  (Limited places. Please pre-register by Tue 12th April 12pm HERE.) Readings will be circulated in advance.

Supported by Goldsmiths’ Annual Fund.

ABSTRACTS

Etienne Turpin: The Same River Twice – Natures, Medias, and Other Torrential Formations

What do contemporary urban ecologies teach human residents about ethics, epistemology, and media? First attributed to Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 BC – 475 BC) by Plato, the remark that we cannot step in the same river twice is at once a statement about the nature of perpetual change and an acknowledgement of a tension between sensation and abstraction in human understandings of nature. Over twenty-five centuries later, the Indonesian island of Java is now inhabited by more residents than lived on Earth during Heraclitus’s time, with many living in densely arranged megacities. In fact, the greater metropolitan area of the capital, Jakarta, has over 30 million people residing alongside thirteen rivers that run from the mountains of the Sunda Arc to the Java Sea.

What can we learn from the residential knowledges and itinerant practices that characterize this megacity? By way of a survey of Etienne Turpin’s recent design projects with anexact office, Urban Lab Network Asia, MIT, and PetaBencana.id, his lecture will suggest how the Anthropocene is being locally instantiated through a parametrization of life on earth. Considering the ethical and epistemic consequences of residential life in the city – including dispositions toward nonhuman entities, mediations that enable collaboration and contestation, and contributions to postnatural ecologies – the presentation will unfold some concepts and concerns emerging from this torrential formation.

Nigel Clark: Keswickstan – Liquid Display, Global Flow, Sedimentary Being

‘If climate change makes our country uninhabitable, we will march with our wet feet into your living rooms’ interjected Bangladeshi negotiator Atiq Rahman at a 1995 climate conference. With the rising thematic of ‘climate migration’, the construction of barriers to hold back water and to keep people in place are increasingly implicated. This talk seeks to fold together experiences of flooding in North West England and the deltas of Bangladesh, setting out from the Cumbrian town of Keswick – whose innovative transparent glass flood barriers were overwhelmed during 2015’s Storm Desmond – and from the emergency relief provided in Cumbria by Muslim civil society organisations.

There is a sense in which representations of flooding in the UK and elsewhere in the global North now function as a kind of boomerang effect of colonial era ‘moral climatologies’ that depicted tropical and monsoonal lands as being in the thrall of excessive, unruly natural forces. But I want to push the possibilities of geo-mediation further than this, and ask how we might explore and visualize the experiences of living with and through fluvial processes – proposing a kind of ‘sedimentary being’ that offers other ways of negotiating between southern Bangladesh and NW England.

Jody Berland: Watching It Melt – From Screenshots to Post-Humanist Media Archaeology

On January 11th, 2017 thousands of Canadians sat riveted to their computer screens watching as a large Clydesdale mare was rescued from a lake in Alberta after falling through the ice. A small group of people surrounding the hole in the ice used ropes and brute strength to rescue the 1000-pound horse from the freezing water. The action, captured on a GoPro camera, was deemed newsworthy enough to be aired on national news and quickly went viral on social media. Viewers watched part of the dramatic scene replay online with the same fascination as if the crisis were happening in front of them in real time. And yet the suspense was itself suspended by the very media process that dramatized the event. We knew the horse would survive; by the time the image went viral, she was already safe.

Contrast this drama with another image that appeared the same day, of a polar bear standing on a fragment of ice, looking desperate. The polar bear has become an instantly recognizable icon and mediator of a process that is visibly destructive but cannot be called accidental; that defies both natural climate and media timetables, and that may be irreversible. The insecurity of the ice and the way it puts the bear at risk is the story. The relationship between bear and ice is not an accident, but it is a problem. People look at the image and quickly look away. Reasons for this aversion are complex. The way we habitually look or don’t at animals has been shaped by centuries of a colonial-humanist regime that forcibly separated the animals from their surroundings by various means. Just when the animal-habitat-symbiosis is being restored to our gaze by the combined agency of human, camera, airplane, and environmentalist organization, we see it receding from the world as fast as a melting, tumbling block of ice.

A core problematic of media theory after McLuhan and Kittler is to explore how media technologies create and shape as well as mediate our co-presence with nonhuman species. While ecologically oriented mediation theory has been quick to take up the material effects of nonhuman agents like metal and waste, few have addressed how the presence of nonhuman species expresses and alters the grammar and ecology of humans intertwined with them. In this animal-centred posthuman media archaeology, the first coins were made in exchange for and illustrated by pictures of cows and pigs; the first object to mediate social relations between colonizer and colonized was a giraffe; the first trading coins in Canada, were etched with and exchanged for beavers; the first software innovations in the 1970s were launched with lions and penguins. Animals and animal images have functioned as mediators and first contacts in emergent relations between empires and subjects, technologies and users, animal lives and posthuman affects. If media have a deep time, then the animal is a medium; if the reciprocal effects of colonialism and modern visual regimes are central to understanding the prolific work that they do in the present, such work is increasingly unstable. How do their affect and grammar change in a global risk culture that relies on images of animals to signify, promote, destabilize and secure its melting political, cultural, and nature.

Talks are open to all and for the workshop part of the day please pre-register as described above here.

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