The Infrastructure of Life: Media, Milieu, Ethics
Welcome to NFKs open international symposium and screening, where we ask the question: How does life on a transformed planet challenge artists and art institutions to rethink their responsibilities?
Nordland Film og Kunstfagskole 20th Anniversary Symposium and Screenings
With contributions from international artists and researchers: Ursula Biemann, David Claerbout, Nishant Shah, Grace Cheng, Louis Lo, Synne Tollerud Bull (bull.miletic), and Eivind Røssaak.
As one of the first art forms relying on modern technology, cinema may be seen as paradigmatic for understanding our hybrid existence as biological and technical beings. Cinema is a form of life-writing (a bio-graph). Indeed, many consider cinema the first technology to actually capture in ways never seen before the oscillations of movements, life and time itself. Today, media are no longer simply modes of communication or representations of life, but rather forms of life. The caring for the infrastructures of life (installations, equipment and conditions) has entered center stage in a turn to ecological issues in the arts. This is evident in new forms of site specific art, bio-art, social ecology, new media experiments, eco-art, the anthroposcene and new ways of curating art events and festivals. What does “life” and an ethics of art mean in this context? Eugene Thacker contends that “life” can no longer be isolated to biological modes of life. We see a renewed interest for the French term milieu which converges urgently with media, environment, ecology and perhaps art itself. Thinkers from Gilbert Simondon to Rosi Braidotti and Timothy Morton argue that both the notions of the human and nature are set in motion and renegotiated. Through a variety of artistic and scholarly interventions this one-day symposium wants to address the relevance and potential of new media technologies in the new attention to life. What’s to be done with images and milieus on a transformed planet?
PROGRAM 9:30 – 23:00
09:30. Opening by Katja Jacobsen, Rector at NFK.
Introductions by Synne Tollerud Bull and Eivind Røssaak, both Visiting Professors at NFK.
10:00. Ursula Biemann, artist, Switzerland: “Subatlantic”
11:15. David Claerbout, artist, Belgium: “The Silence of the Lens”
13:15. Grace Cheng, art historian, Hong Kong/ Louis Lo, professor, Taipei: “Traversing the Islands: Setouchi as a Case Study”
14:15. “Media, Milieu, Ethics.”
Pechakucha led by Nishant Shah, professor, India/Netherlands and Eivind Røssaak
Participants: Several + a surprise
16:45 Closing Remarks by Synne Tollerud Bull and Eivind Røssaak
At Nordland Film og Kunstfagskole, Kabelvåg
Screenings with introductions by the artists and filmmakers Ursula Biemann, David Claerbout and Louis Lo.
Ursula Biemann, Subatlantic
Based on comprehensive research, the artist elaborates in her video works the far-reaching territorial and climatic transformations due to the extraction of resources, drawing attention to the social and biological micro-dynamics at work in these massive physical encroachments. Her recent fieldwork has taken her to the Arctic region. Engaging with the political ecology of oil, ice and water, the artist interweaves vast cinematic landscapes with documentary footage, Science Fiction poetry and academic findings to narrate a changing planetary reality. This world-making, “geomorphic” practice is no longer concerned with the distinction between images and the supposedly “real thing” represented. Instead, it explores how moving images form and change the way we grasp and attend to the world. Discussing her artistic practice in her recent video Subatlantic, Biemann particularly raises questions regarding the entanglement of aesthetics, ecology and speculative thought.
David Claerbout, The Silence of the Lens
New media technologies have changed the meaning of being a photographer or filmmaker. Claerbout will discuss how new technologies such as pictorial-3D animation has changed his own practice and ways of thinking. The digital possibilities of total fabrication implies that we are “observing from memory” and brings with it a sense of nostalgia and a feeling of loss, of having given up on a naive perception characteristic of earlier photography (as Vilém Flusser saw it) that supposedly happened spontaneously, without thinking. Such perception is remembered as being happy. Where are we today?
Grace Cheng/ Louis Lo, Traversing the Islands: Setouchi as a Case Study
This presentation examines the Setouchi Triennale as a case study of audience engagement with artworks displayed in multiple locations on an archipelago of islands. Inaugurated in 2010, the Setouchi Triennale encompasses a dozen islands in the Seto Inland Sea which separates two of Japan’s main islands. Every three years, with around one hundred artworks mounted in situ, the festival represents a key art event in Asia. It lasts for more than three months, divided into three sessions throughout the year. The objective of the triennale is explicitly social – the artistic community hopes to revitalize the ageing and depopulated areas through cultural tourism. While art and nature are in themselves attractive elements, an integral component of the Setouchi experience is the act of island-hopping. Ferries connect the twelve islands and port cities in the region and visitors freely travel from one island to another during their stays which usually lasts for at least three days. Not only does the act of commuting amongst the islands necessitate physical interactions with the environment amidst the islands, it turns the visitor into an active participant who, through the mere act of walking and sailing, enlivens the ecology and community. We propose a reading of such an act of engagement as a “traversing” of the islands, arguing that the multivalence of the word “traversing” provides a framework to understand the network of artworks, artists, performers, visitors, buildings housing artworks and importantly the natural environment which is not considered as a mere backdrop for culture but a crucial participant of the happening.
Nishant Shah/ Eivind Røssaak, Media, Milieu, Ethics
Through the challenge of a pechakucha-format (quick 6 minutes presentations), Shah and Røssaak and invited guests will engage with the terms media, milieu and ethics in ways that will capture some of the wider (and perhaps unexpected) ramifications of the symposium’s topic.
About the participants
Ursula Biemann is an artist, writer, and video essayist based in Zurich, Switzerland. Her artistic practice is strongly research oriented and involves fieldwork in remote locations, where she investigates climate change and the ecologies of oil, forest, ice and water. She works the findings into multi-layered videos by connecting the micropolitics on the ground with a theoretical macro level, proposing a reflexive exploration of planetary and videographic organization. Her video installations are exhibited worldwide in museums and the International Art Biennials of Liverpool, Sharjah, Shanghai, Sao Paulo, Sevilla, Istanbul, and Venice. She is founding member of the collaborative art and media project World of Matter and is publisher of several books including “Geography and the Politics of Mobility” (Generali Foundation) and “Stuff It — The Video Essay in the Digital Age" (Springer). Biemann studied at the School of Visual Arts and the Whitney ISP in New York. She received a doctor honoris causa in Humanities by the Swedish University Umea and the Prix Meret Oppenheim, the Swiss Grand Award for Art. www.geobodies.org
David Claerbout is a Belgian artist working in the media of photography, video, sound, drawing and digital arts. His work exists at the meeting point between photography and film. He took part in the DAAD Berlin Artist Program in 2002-2003 and has exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions, including the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, where he held comprehensive solo exhibition (2007–2008) which toured to List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge MA (2008), Kunstmuseum St. Gallen (ch) (2008), Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver (2008), and De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg (2009 and 2016 ). Other solo exhibitions include ‘Diese Sonne strahlt immer’, Vienna Secession (2012); ‘David Claerbout: Architecture of Narrative’, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2011); ‘The Time That Remains’, WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels (2011); and ‘uncertain eye’, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2010), Städel museum, Frankfurt (2016) and KINDL, Berlin (2016).
Nishant Shah is Professor at the Institute for Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media, Leuphana University, Germany, and the Dean-Research at ArtEZ, University for the Arts, The Netherlands. He is the co-founder of the Centre for Internet & Society, India, and a knowledge partner for the Dutch Development Aid Agency Hivos, where he advices on work at the intersections of digital technologies, global development, and social justice. He is currently invested in building multi-stakeholder learning environments to generate a dialogue between art, design, digital technologies, and social and political innovation. Recent publications: “Open Politics and Education,” “When Machines Speak to Each Other: Unpacking the "Social" in "Social Media,” “***** ‘r’ us: Intersections of gender, protocol and agency in the digital age,” Resisting Revolutions: Questioning the radical potential of citizen action” and “Now streaming on your nearest screen: Contextualizing new digital cinema through Kuso.”
Grace Cheng is a Visiting Lecturer at School of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and screenplay writer, and is the researcher and docent for the Botticelli Turin Venus Exhibition at the University of Hong Kong Museum of Arts, and co-curator of an exhibition
about Klimt and Schiele organized by the Austrian Consulate and HKU. She plays and composes the music for a government-sponsored short film, Queen’s Encounter (2011), writes the story for a short film Two Women (2016) and the screenplay for a forthcoming short film Lost Touch (2017).
Louis Lo is Associate Professor at the Department of English, National Taipei University of Technology where he teaches literary theory and film production courses. He obtained his PhD in Comparative Literature from The University of Hong Kong. He practices as a photographer, film-maker, and researcher, with specific interests in the representation of cities in literature and films. A collection of his Macao colour photographs and London black-and-white photographs can be found in Louis Lo and Jeremy Tambling, Walking Macao, Reading the Baroque (Hong Kong University Press, 2009) and Jeremy Tambling, Going Astray: Dickens and London (Longman, 2009) respectively. He is the director and screenplay writer of two short films about the city, Taipei Astray (2014) and Two Women (2016). His latest scholarly work appears in Palgrave Handbook of Literature and the City (2017, forthcoming) under the title ‘A Cinematic Guide to Asian Cities: Taipei, Seoul, and the Cinema of Destruction.’ Other published books include: Male Jealousy: Literature and Film (Continuum, 2008).
Synne Tollerud Bull is a visual artist, Visiting Professor at Nordland College of Art and Film and a Research Fellow at the Department for Media and Communication, University of Oslo. Bull has BFA and MFA in New Genres form the San Francisco Art Institute and an MA in Art History from the University of Oslo. She works with American artist Dragan Miletic as Bull.Miletic since 2000. Their work engages in an ongoing investigation into the moving image and technologies of space, addressing the intersection of esthetics, politics and technology through video, responsive installations and text. Bull.Miletic have shown internationally at venues including California Biennial, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, German Architecture Museum, Frankfurt, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Pasadena Museum of California Art, Victorian Arts Center, Melbourne, Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, Henie Onstad Art Center, Høvikodden, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade. Their work has been reviewed in Artforum, Aftenposten, Billedkunst, Kunstkritikk, Mousse Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, and Rhizome among others. Their work is represented by Anglim Gilbert Gallery.
Eivind Røssaak is Associate Professor of media research at the National Library in Norway, Visiting Professor of Nordland College of Art and Film, former Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago and USC, Los Angeles and co-founding member of the research projects Digitization and Diversity and The Archive in Motion. He works on cinema and new media and on how digitization affects cultural practices, the arts and notions of heritage. Recent publications include: Memory in Motion: Archives, Technology and the Social (Open access 2016), The Archive in Motion: New Conception of the Archive in Contemporary Thought and New Media Practices (2010) and The Still/Moving Image: Cinema and the Arts (2010).