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  /  Talks & Workshops Programme   /  Visual Ecotopias: History, Theory, Criticism

Visual Ecotopias: History, Theory, Criticism

Talks: Visual Ecotopias: History, Theory, Criticism (symposium)
Venue: Soufari (General Archives of Greece – Historical Archives – Museum of Epirus), D. Filosofou & Glykidon, Ioannina, Greece (map). For a full programme at Soufari click here.
Date: Friday, October 12, 2018, 10:00-18:30
Download the analytical time specific programme here: Visual Ecotopias Agenda

“Art is thought from the future.”
Timothy Morton, Dark Ecology.

“Visual Ecotopias: History, Theory, Criticism” is a symposium toward a politics of ecology in contemporary art, departing from Guattari’s concept of ‘ecosophy’, linking ecological thought, environmental aesthetics and artistic practices.

Conceptually premised upon the theoretical work of Bruno Latour, Michel Serres and Timothy Morton, the symposium seeks to contribute to the discussion by critically examining the intersection of environmental thought, eco-criticism, eco-aesthetics and the visual arts from the eighteenth century to the present day. It aims at revisiting the outdated idea that ecological consciousness has been developed only after 1960, and at re-thinking the collaboration between artistic practices, political-ecological theory and environmental activism in contemporary art.

The main question to which speakers should respond is the historical relation between ecology – in its expanded re-conceptualisation as a social and political register – and art, and most specifically the possibility of integrating an ecosophical approach in visual arts studies today. The objective of the symposium is to bring forth an eco-aesthetic evaluation of the interface between art and the biosphere through the emergence of a genealogy of ‘ecological art’ and the production of a critical discourse on art and the environment.

Read the full text of the symposium announcement here.

Victoria Ferentinou

 

Participating speakers:

On the Extinction of the Fireflies, the Hazard of Movement and the Wild Beyond (and by the way do you know the album “I am a piece of atmosphere”?)

Nadja Argyropoulou

Wandering through images and wondering about entanglements of materials, stories, relationships, realities and theories, this short presentation of specific curatorial events (such as Paratoxic Paradoxes , 2014-2017 and Making Oddkin: for joy, for trouble, for volcano love, 2018) will address specific urgencies (i.e. extractivist policies) and possibilities (i.e. an agency through which we can challenge the very languages used to express our knowledge, concerns and practices ref “the environment”). The presentation will draw from the work of poets, writers, artists, activists and philosophers, with a focus on anarchist thought.

Nadja Argyropoulou is independent curator, with studies in history and archaeology (BA, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, GR) and art history and theory (MA, University of Essex, UK). She has curated a considerable number of exhibitions and interdisciplinary events in Greece and abroad and written reviews and texts for magazines, books, solo and group exhibitions. Among her curatorials are, What Remains is Future, Old Arsakeion School, Patras Cultural Capital of Europe, 2006 / Hotel Paradies – 2nd Athens Biennial, Athens, 2009 /The Marathon Marathon project, co-curated with Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Acropolis museum Athens, 2010 / Family Business (initiated by Massimiliano Gioni and Maurizio Cattelan) in New York and Paris (Chalet Society and Palais de Tokyo), 2012-2014 / HELL AS Pavilion, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2013 / “Collecting Architecture- Territories” collective research project, DESTE and GSAPP – Columbia University, 2012-2013 / Wor(th)ship: Tassos Vrettos, co-curated with Yorgos Tzirtzilakis, Benaki Museum, 2015 – 2016, Arles-France, 2016, Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, 2017 / Paratoxic Paradoxes, Benaki Museum, Athens, 2017] / Making Oddkin: for joy, for trouble, for volcano love, Nisyros and Gyali islands, Dodecanese, 2018. She is a member of Aica, IKT and the collectives, Saprofyta and The Climate Collective.

 

 

Conservation Ecology / Art Conservation: Toward a Visual Ecotopia of Change

Chris Ingraham

Conservation ecology is a field of study and practice devoted to preserving our planet’s biodiversity and natural resources. Drawing upon a host of interdisciplinary insights—from evolutionary biology to environmental ethics—conservation ecologists aspire to conserve species, habitats, ecosystems, landscapes, and biota everywhere from threats upon their flourishing. The “before it’s too late” project of conservation ecology calls for manifold methods, including bioengineering, infrastructure design, lobbying, protest, and no shortage of fieldwork with all the -cultures in play: agri-, aqua-, horti-, perma-, and so on. Similarly, art conservation is the practice of preserving, restoring, and studying the essential material constitution of works of art. Encompassing its own host of interdisciplinary knowledges—from art history to chemistry—art conservators aspire to preserve “original” artworks from degradation, discoloration, and deterioration over time. Art conservation’s project to pause the patina of time also calls for a variety of tools and methods: scalpels and x-rays, tratteggio and digitization, among no shortage of others.

Although it’s clear that both fields of conservation have different objects and methods under their domain, then, each seems to share a similar premise: namely, that there exists or has once existed an optimal, original, or complete something to conserve in the first place. In this paper, I challenge that presumption. Instead, I explore what conservation might look like if premised upon an ontological supposition that dynamism and change—rather than some ideal form of stasis and fixity—are intrinsic both to ecosystems and art alike. To do so, I draw upon two unexpected examples: first, the case of natural rights, and specifically the human rights conferred legally to the Ganges River in 2017; and, second, the case of Forensic Architecture, a collaborative research agency (shortlisted for the 2018 Turner Prize) that produces cartographic and architectural models documenting human rights violations. Together, I suggest, these cases reveal some ways that ecological thought and visual art are already constitutively entangled.

Chris Ingraham is an Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Utah and a 2018-19 Fulbright Scholar in Digital Culture at the University of Bergen, Norway. Dr. Ingraham’s scholarship is interdisciplinary by training and design, working across the humanities to think critically about the material, aesthetic, and rhetorical practices that configure the environments we create and inhabit. He has published on such subjects as algorithmic rhetoric, Google Street View art, serendipity, the ineffable, Olympic arts competitions, and a host of other topics that have sparked his curiosity. His first academic book, Gestures of Concern, is about the impalpable force of affective and aesthetic participation in public life. Look for it forthcoming with Duke University Press in 2019. Among his next projects are a book about plant rhetoric, an edited collection about LEGOs, and an extended study of recommendational culture.

 

 

Opposite and inside vibrant matter: photographing “romantic landscapes”

Kostas Ioannidis, Eleni Mouzakiti

The paper we are going to present is the outcome of a common project on the concept of the romantic landscape. About ten years ago, we started wandering around and photographing in the coasts of Northern Germany (Vorpommern, Ruegen). It was there, in the first decade of the 19th century, that together with other artists and intellectuals the romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich lived, worked and wandered. In the course of the project mostly through artistic practice but also through theoretical speculation many issues arose of which the most challenging perhaps was how to confront the traces of the Nazi past left on locations some of which in the recent year have turned out to be major touristic attractions (for instance the Prora Kdf colossal building). However, the most important point of our critical attention has been to question photography’s common conception as a detached and disembodied way of representation. Is it possible that photography could be practiced in the vicinity of other phenomenologically inspired artistic practices that flourished from the 1960s onwards, practices that explored antiocular, embodied ways of gathering knowledge? Discussing the history of contemporary landscape photography and reflecting on our photographic practice we are trying to delineate the possibilities of an embodied practice of the medium. Jane Bennett’s concept of political ecology and Robin Kelsey’s formulation of landscape as “not belonging” will stand as our two major theoretical points of departure.

Kostas Ioannidis
Kostas Ioannidis is an art historian based in Athens, Greece. He works as an assistant professor of theory and criticism of art at the Athens School of Fine Arts and has also taught at the Universities of Ioannina and the Aegean. He has been a grantee of the “Ioannis F. Costopoulos Foundation”, a State Scholarship Foundation Postodoctoral Fellow and a Fulbright Foundation Research Scholar. He has published essays on the issue of text and image, on the history and theory of photography and a book on Contemporary Greek Photography (Futura Publications and Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, 2008). He is currently completing a book on the artistic aspirations of photography during the period 1880-1910.

Eleni Mouzakiti
is a visual artist, photography educator and curator of photography exhibitions and publications. She studied German Language and Literature in Athens, Berlin and Heidelberg. She holds an MA in Image and Communication from Goldsmiths College, University of London and a PhD in Photography from the University of Derby, School of Art Design and Technology. She has been a fellow of the DAAD, the Greek State Scholarship Foundation and the Alexander. S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation. She has worked as a free-lance photographer for magazines, theatres and dance-theatre companies. She has exhibited her projects in various venues and festivals (solo and group shows) in Greece and abroad. Works of her owned by the Portland Art Museum, Oregon, U.S.A., the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Greece, the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography,  the ACG Art Collection and private collections. Her portfolios have been published in various magazines, newspapers, group exhibition catalogues and monographs (monographs: Visitors, in limbo, and Backstage Photographs). She has been an Adjunct Professor for Photography (Practice, Theory and History of Photography) in the Dept. of Visual Arts and Art Sciences at the University of Ioannina. She teaches photography at the Athens School of Fine Arts, in the Continuing Education Programme in Photography. In her work she focuses in the notion of absorptive behavior in the public realm, leisure time geography and issues of history – memory.

 

 

Silences on the Last Wild River of Europe

Ilir Kaso

On the 8th of July 2013, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, together with the Ministry of Environment in Greece signed a document consenting a project to divert the rivers in northern Greece with the aim to enrich the waters of the Ioannina Lake. In the list of the rivers to be diverted, there was the river Aoos as well. This particular river springs in the northwestern part of Greece, specifically the Pindus Mountains in Epirus, near the village of Vovoussa (the ancient name of Vjosa), and it drains into the sea just north of the Narta lagoon – one of the biggest and ecologically richest lagoons of Albanian.

Everything starts in Konitsa, where the civil society had already begun protesting in the area, but beyond the border, in Albania, the people were in complete darkness. No news was being made public by the Albanian media. Completely by chance, the artist found himself involved in the problematic that had to do with the neighboring states function under a global structure that was being randomly applied in the entire region. Together with a group of students in anthropology, part of the Konitsa’s Summer School program, he decided to cross the border and break the silence in the town of Përmet.

They had two different approaches to address this social issue:

  • The first approach came with the crossing of classical methods of anthropological fieldwork research with experimental ad-hoc methods.
  • The second approach would open a long debate on whether they should engage the spreading of the news and if so, under which conditions.

The artist will talk about the difficulties and the strategies they had to face during this “journey”. Crossing the border several times, he has been involved in a triangle in between Art, Anthropology, and Activism.

Ilir Kaso was born in 1982 in Përmet. He graduated in 2005 from the Academy of Arts in Tirana. He is a multimedia artist, refining his own visual and conceptual vocabulary that emerged through his focus on a triangle in between art, anthropology and activism. His work has been exhibited in “MuCem” Museum, Marseille – “Ludwig” Museum, Budapest – “Pino Pscali” Museum, Polignano a Mare – Neurotitan” Gallery, Berli – “Kunstraum Riehen” Gallery, Basel. He has been given the Audience Award, DocuTIFF 2015 – Best Animation Film, Albania Film Festival 2012 – Best Image, AniFestRozafa, 2010 – Public Award, TIFF 2009 – Best Contemporary Artist, AMC 2007 – Special Award, Ballkanima 2005. He lives in Tirana and works as a lecturer at the University of Arts in Tirana.

 

 

The Nature-Culture Complex in late modernity: Humanism, Anti-Humanism, Post-Humanism and the Project of a “Re-Invention” of Nature

Golfo Maggini

Does the creation of post-human entities hybrid in their essence, promoted in the last decades by the enhancing technosciences, have something to fear of the advocates of “deep ecology”, when the latter speak against the violation of the order of Nature? In the so called anthropocene era we go through, there is a harsh critique of the “Promethean shame” (G. Anders) of Enlightenment and modernity, which is often enclined to engage in irrationalism and, thus, to discover anew the power in transcendent beings, such as Nature, “Gaia” or the “Big One”. In the history of Western metaphysics Nature has been defined as the Other of Spirit, as what is given without intermediary* and is alien to the human spirit, a tendency which has culminated in modern science and technology. Within the latter objectified Nature is alienated from the human subject and as such constitutes a challenge to human reason and action. A large part of the recent discussion about the conditions of the late modern technoscientific ideal nourished by 18th century Enlightenment departs from the critique of philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, who talked in the name of a “renaturalisation” of man, hence inspiring a significant number of contemporary trends in philosophy and the history of ideas often qualified as “anti-humanist”. For the anthropologist of science and philosopher Bruno Latour, modernity epitomized the complex of Nature and Culture in the terms of a “Big Divide” (Grand Partage) between the humans and the non-humans driven intrinsically by the need to distinguish categorically the different orders of the Real within a merely anthropocentric perspective. At the same time, what has been encouraged is a logic of transgression (M. Foucault) within an utterly desacralized and world. There is, thus, an urgent need to “redistribute” the main components of what Latour described as the “Big Division”, that is, to determine anew the state of equilibrium between Nature and Culture, as it is the very conception of the Natural and the Artificial, as well as their hybridization that is challenged by today’s technoscientific achievements.

Golfo Maggini is professor of modern and contemporary philosophy at the University of Ioannina, Greece. She graduated from the Department of Philosophy, Psychology and Pedagogy of the University of Athens in 1991. She pursued her postgraduate, doctoral and postdoctoral studies at the University of Paris IV-Sorbonne, University of Paris XII-Val de Marne and the State University of New York at Stony Brook respectively. She has taught philosophy in the Hellenic Open University, the University of Patras, and the American College of Greece. She is the author of Habermas and the Neoaristotelians. The Ethics of Discourse in Jürgen Habermas and the Challenge of Neoaristotelianism (2006); Towards a Hermeneutics of the Technological World: From Heidegger to Contemporary Technoscience (2010), and Bios-Kinēsis-kairos-technē-polis: Phenomenological Approaches (Martin Heidegger-Hannah Arendt-Jan Patočka-Michel Henry) (2017). She has edited in Greek Martin Heidegger’s Phenomenological Interpretations to Aristotle (2011); Françoise Dastur’s Heidegger et la question du temps (2008), and George Steiner’s Heidegger (2009). She has also foreworded a number of key texts in contemporary philosophy, such as Martin Heidegger’s The Will to Power as Art lecture course (Athens, 2011). She is also the co-editor of the conference proceedings on Philosophy and Crisis. Responding to Challenges to Ways of Life in the Contemporary World (RVP Series, Washington D.C. 201.

 

 

The depiction of industry and engineering works in modern German painting

Virginia Mavrika

The Industrial Revolution and the technological progress, alongside their impact on society, economy and environment, brought the emerge

nce of a new genre in painting from the late 18th century onwards. This genre was especially developed in the technologically elevated German speaking world as Industrial painting (Industriemalerei). Initially, the depiction of industry and civil engineering works was considered as part of landscaping, while gradually was enriched with social and political content which concerned the relationship of man to work and nature. In general, these paintings followed their contemporary stylistic trends and were used to praise national technological achievements or private financial and commercial activities. However, other artworks pointed at negative aspects of the industrial activity, such as its effect on the social and natural environments which constituted a subject of concern even in the Romantic era.

Virginia Mavrika is a graduate from the Universities of Athens (degree in Archaeology and Art History) and Oxford (MPhil in Classical Archaeology). She has obtained her PhD in the history of modern art at the University of Athens as a scholar of the State Foundation of Scholarships. Currently working as an art historian in the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports. She has worked as a curator in the Museum of the City of Athens (Vouros-Eftaxias Foundation) and has taught history of modern European and Greek art and cultural management as adjunct lecture at the University of Ioannina and the Hellenic Open University. Her publications’ subject matters include Greek and European painting and architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries, modern Greek religious art, the reflection of national ideologies on art, cultural management etc.

 

 

Embalmed Animals: An attempt to link the work of the artists Damien Hirst and Giorgos Tsakiris

Thanasis Moutsopoulos

Is it possible to associate the work of the Greek artist Yiorgos Tsakiris with the much-discussed “shark” of the well-known British artist Damien Hirst? The latter particularly emphasizes the immortality of the natural beings he uses (both through the title and through formaldehyde, which may be as important as the shark itself). Tsakiris, on the other hand, is interested in the whole life cycle – birth, life, death or sowing, growth, rearing in agriculture.

If you look at the works of George Tsakiris in a place that is not defined as “artistic”, especially if he is, on the contrary, defined as “scientific as in an exhibition he has set up at the laboratories of the biology department of the Aristotle University, then it will be in a relentless confusion.  And what are the boundaries between Tsakiris’ works and the “real” exhibits of the workshop?

This “non-expert” viewer (as if the “specialists” have many more tools to find their way…) will probably feel bewildered or even irritated by his inability to distinguish works of art from scientific material. Undoubtedly the labels next to Tsakiris’ works (but probably not the labels next to the permanent scientific exhibits) will help the situation. But the confusion will stay. And that will probably be one of the most interesting elements of Tsakiris’ work.

Thanasis Moutsopoulos is an Associate Professor of History of Art and Cultural Theory at the School of Architecture of the Technical University of Crete. He studied at the National Technical University.  Master of Design Studies, Harvard University, PhD NTUA. PhD N.T.U.A. Adj. assistant professor at the Department of Architecture, University of Patras, Greece. He teaches History and Theory of Art and Architecture at the School of Architecture, TUC. He collaborated with many reviews (Mute, Archis,…) He was appointed commissioner for the Greek Pavilion (“Athens 2002: Absolut Realism”) at the Venice Biennale of Architecture (2002). He was the artistic director for the Photosyngyria exhibition, an international photography event in Thessaloniki, Greece (February 2005) and Visual Arts in Greece 2005 at the Contemporary Art Museum in Thessaloniki. He curated a great number of group shows in several museums in Greece. Recent international publications: Red Utopia: North Korea and On Cultural Influence (ed. Steven rand, Heather Kouris).

 

 

Convenient Misunderstandings: Meteocultural Models in Britain (1755-1830)

Aris Sarafianos

This paper examines the history of relations between climate theories, the birth of art history and explanations of cultural phenomena. It focuses on the long eighteenth century and it seeks to show the various ambitions and presumptions with which specific climatic models were rife as they were applied to art practices and their history. This talk also explains the tensions and fierce reactions that certain climate models caused among commentators, thus mapping the various professional, national, biopolitical, medical and market forces anchored in competing climate theories during this century. Finally, it charts the most significant facet of this process, namely the move northwards of climate models thought to be ideal for the rise of perfect art – from Winckelmann’s Mediterranean calm to James Barry’s bracing and vigorous climates of the North.

Aris Sarafianos is Assistant Professor in European Art History at the University of Ioannina. He received his PhD from Manchester University where he taught for a number of years (2001- 2008). He has held long term fellowships from the Huntington Library and the Clark Library/UCLA while his research has been supported by awards from the Paul Mellon Centre in London/Yale University and YCBA at Yale University. His work focuses on the extensive interactions between the history of medicine and art history, the history of literature, music and travel during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His essays have appeared in a number of international peer-reviewed journals (Representations, Journal of the History of Ideas, Art Bulletin and Art History et al.) as well as featuring in a series of theme-based edited volumes of essays dealing with the intersections of science, medicine, literature and the arts – for the latest example, see “Wounding Realities and Painful Excitements” in the Hurtful Body, ed. Macsotay, van der Haven and Vanhaesebrouck (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017)

 

 

Art Serving, Studying and Questioning Technoscience over the Past Half- Century

Lia Yoka

The talk will discuss a genealogy of works of art and artistic exhibitions engaging with technoscience since the late 1950s. Along this itinerary, the concept of nature has been treated with great flexibility. What is the status of nature in the emerging landscape? And does that make art today more or less relevant?

Lia Yoka is currently Associate Professor of art history and theory at the School of Architecture, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece and coordinator of the “cultural theories” module at the Interuniversity Postgraduate Programme in Museology. She translates, edits and writes for the Editions des Etrangers, has edited volumes on museology, cultural studies and semiotics, and is interested in the history of comics, 19th-century European painting, critical theory and (historical) semiotics.

 

 

Resilient Futures– A Resilient Project

Chrysa Zarkali

How are visual artists envisioning the future of our planet and what are their critical perspectives on the relationships between people and nature, financial systems, strategies for development and making use of natural resources and public space? “Resilient Futures is the title of a unique project, a collaboration between the cultural organisation Polyeco Contemporary Art Initiative (PCAI) by Polyeco Group and the Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki, of the State Museum of Contemporary Art in summer 2018, in Pireus and Thessaloniki, bringing together Greece’s big port-cities through contemporary art, on the basis of resilience. First it was the public presentation of works from the PCAI collection at the headquarters of the organization, which resulted from the assignments that take place every year by contemporary filmmakers; then, the exhibition at the CACT hosted works by artists from Greece and abroad, with explicit or implicit reference to issues relating to urban, environmental and social resilience, as well as to alternative conceptions of the sustainability of human relationships.

Chrysa Zarkali is a museologist. Since 2006 she has been working as a Public Relations and Communication Manager at the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, designing and implementing the communication plan for all museum’s actions, the public relations and the organisation’s networking. Professionally, she is very much interested in communication, cultural organisations’ networking, strategies for audience development planning, relations between culture and tourism. She has worked in several museums and cultural institutions in Greece and abroad. She graduated from the Department of History and Archaeology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (BA) and completed her MA Degree in the Department of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, UK. Contact email: chrysazarkali@gmail.com, pr@greekstatemuseum.com

 

 

The garden as interface between human and nature

Fay Zika

The garden marks an attempt by human beings to appropriate nature, a practice which includes multiple functions: architectural design and engineering planning, physical involvement and activity, philosophical reflection, aesthetic pleasure, botanical and zoological research, yielding of flowers and fruits. In a few words, cultivation in both the literal and the metaphorical sense of the term. As opposed to a utopia which tends to present a fictional world, the garden constitutes an example of what Foucault named a heterotopia, that is, an alternative but actual environment, within which the relationship between human and nature or universe can be investigated; a microcosm as representation of the cosmos. I borrow the term interface from digital media in order to emphasize the interactive relation between human and nature within the protected environment provided by the garden.

My paper traces some of the major theoretical moves concerning the garden from the end of the 18th century, as an aesthetic but also a political attempt to deal with nature. Kant included landscape gardening in the ‘fine arts’, and specifically the visual arts, as “the beautiful arrangement of the products of nature”, to be viewed and appreciated at a distance. However, the fact –so positive for Kant- that the garden consists of a combination of nature and art, led Hegel to consider landscape gardening as an ‘imperfect art’ wherein the work of the mind is ‘soiled’ by contact with nature. Persecuted by the supporters of art, gardens also became the object of a dismissive attitude from the opposed side, the environmentalist view in favour of ‘wild’ and unmediated nature, where human intervention is considered to ‘spoil’ the purity of the raw and rough natural world. The end of the 20th century marks a ‘return’ to the garden due to a variety of issues such as growing urbanization, multiculturalism and migration, environmental pollution and alienation from the sources of food production. Within this context, the garden appears once again as an active heterotopia, as a quest for a better way of living and as a multisensory artistic practice.

Fay Zika is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Theory of Art at the Art Theory and History Department of the Athens School of Fine Arts. Her research interests include color theory and practice, multisensory perception and aesthetics, identity and gender, the relation between art and nature, the relation between philosophy and the arts and sciences. She has published articles in Greek and international journals, collective volumes and exhibition catalogues. She is the author of Arts and Thoughts: Philosophical Investigations in Contemporary Art (Agra, 2018) and the editor of the Greek translation of David Batchelor’s Chromophobia (Agra, 2013), the exhibition catalogue Absence (Nisos, 2013) and the collection of essays Art, Thought, Life: The Aesthetic Philosophy of Alexander Nehamas (Okto, 2014).