Exhibition – ‘Critical Zones. Observatories for Earthly Politics’, ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe

May 9–October 4, 2020

Curated by: Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel with Martin Guinard and Bettina Korintenberg

By now everybody knows that there is an existential threat to our collective conditions of existence, but very few people have any idea of how to cope with this new Critical situation. It is very strange, but citizens of many developed countries are disoriented; it is as if they were asked to land on a new territory, an Earth that they have long ignored having reacted to their action. The hypothesis we want to propose is that the best way to map this new Earth is to see it as a network of Critical Zones, which constitute a thin skin a few kilometers thick that has been generated over eons of time by life forms. Those life forms had completely transformed the original geology of the Earth, before humanity transformed it yet again over the last centuries.

Over the years, scientists have installed multiple Observatories to study these Critical Zones and have made us aware of the complex composition and extreme fragility of this thin layer inside which all life forms, humans included, have to cohabit. They have renewed Earth science in a thousand ways and very much in a way that Alexander von Humboldt would have approved. Increasingly, scientists, artists, activists, politicians, and citizens are realizing that society is not centered solely on humanity, but it has to become Earthly again if it wishes to land without crashing. The modern project has been in flight, unconcerned by planetary limits. Suddenly, there is a general movement toward the soil and new attention to the ways people might inhabit it. Politics is no longer about humans making decisions on their own and for themselves only, but has become an immensely more complex undertaking. New forms of citizenship and new types of attention and care for life forms are required to generate a common ground.

The ZKM thus continues the comprehensive engagement and collaboration with local communities and institutions that was explored during the Open Codes exhibition (2017–2019), opening up a space for common action and discussion to recompose the world we live in: Over a period of five months ZKM will host an exhibition conceived as a scale model to simulate the spatial novelty of this new land as well as the diversity of relations between the life forms inhabiting it. It will serve as an Observatory of Critical Zones allowing visitors to familiarize themselves with the new situation. This special combination of thought experiment and exhibition was developed by Peter Weibel and Bruno Latour in their previous collaborations at ZKM. Iconoclash in 2002, Making Things Public in 2005, and Reset Modernity! in 2016 constitute the three former “thought exhibitions” (Gedankenausstellungen) that resulted from their intensive working relationship which now spans 20 years.

The ZKM website will soon publish the intense program accompanying the exhibition.

More info here

 

‘The Botanical Mind: Art, Mysticism and the Cosmic Tree’ Exhibition at Camden Arts Centre, London

April 17 – June 21, 2020

This group exhibition investigates the subjectivity and being of plants: their significance to wisdom-traditions, and how we engage with and activate them in culture, counter-culture, art and music. It situates the plant as an axis mundi – the Cosmic Tree – and seeks to reveal through the symbolism of diverse cultural artefacts and in the works of visionary, surrealist, modernist and outsider artists, how the vegetal kingdom has been esteemed with metaphysical importance to the development of consciousness and spirituality.

Figures in a Garden

The exhibition brings together an extraordinary presentation of trans-cultural art that reveals an encoded intelligence inherent in plant forms – patterns that can be thought of as blueprints for the natural world. These same patterns relate to ancient metaphysical beliefs shared by diverse cultures globally, manifest in the connected principles of micro- and macro-cosmos, sacred and fractal geometries, and the psychoactive visions induced by mind-manifesting plant medicines.

A major new commission by the Yawanawa people from Acre, Brazil, will celebrate their kene (sacred designs) and music. Passed through ancestral lines, these traditions connect them to the rainforest in which they live and this deeply entwined relationship with plants highlights the way in which music and visual abstraction are active technologies for communicating with a more-than-human world. The exhibition draws a connecting arc to the heritage of a contemporary European worldview, exploring the beliefs that existed before our culture was shaped by the scientific revolution; reappraising the ancestral wisdom traditions that were driven underground by the same colonial values that destroyed indigenous cultures abroad. The modern and contemporary works in the exhibition explore relationships between music and geometric abstraction, mysticism and modernism, psycho-active plant medicines, art and literature of 1960s cultural revolution, and an expanded philosophical and ethical engagement with non-human entities.

More info here

Drawing Knowledge

Read the article ‘Drawing Knowledge’ by Fabian Oswold here on the European Molecular Biology Lab’s (EMBL) Newsletter

‘A conversation about art–science collaborations and the importance of drawing in biology…’

eLIFE Podcast

May 2019

Listen to eLIFE podcast discussing our project ‘Representing Biology as Process’ (at 19 mins in) here