EnviroAnt Workshop in Tallinn, Estonia – Keynote Abstracts

Keynote 1- 14 October 2021. 9.30am CET.

Dr. Rasa Smite and Dr. Raitis Smits

Sensing Environments. Artistic Practices and Methodologies Revealing the Eco-Systematic Relations 

“Are there any medium which better than others can open our senses towards the environment?” (Bruno Latour)

Our senses have always been “mediated”, but with more recent enhancements of various ‘immersive’ technologies, our ‘sensoriums’ have intensified and become more mediated than ever before. Environmental monitoring sensors and remote sensing tools used in environmental sciences and landscape research are extending our knowledge, perception and experiences. Yet, we ask, which practices, tools, technologies may help us better to ‘sense’ the environment? What are the methodologies for creating the meaningful relations (with it)? And – what art can do? If the ‘constructivist’ approach has been used to a large extent in environmental research and other fields, ‘experiential’ capabilities such as sensual and immersive properties of the environment have been mainly used in art practices that create immersive interaction through experience, reflection and speculation.

We will introduce our artistic practices of exploring various environments, real and virtual, sonic and visible, as well as invisible – from pioneering internet radio experiments pushing the boundaries of an “acoustic cyberspace” and artistic investigations in electromagnetic spectrum, to more recent ‘techno-ecological’ art projects exploring the landscapes using sensing technologies, data sonification and visualizations to reveal the invisible activity in nature ecosystems.  such as bacteria activity happening in the swamp ecosystems or volatile emissions of the pine trees in the forest and atmosphere.

To create “Pond Battery” (2014-2015) and “Swamp Radio” (2018) artworks of “Biotricity” series, we performed artistic interventions installing “bacteria batteries”, sensors and transmitting devices in ponds, swamps and other wetlands in North Europe and North America. Environmental data were collected, sonified and visualized making visible the invisible activities in nature such as bacteria living in a pond or swamp sediments producing electricity.

Our recent artwork “Atmospheric Forest” (2021), an immersive VR environment is created using remote scanned 3D forest environment, and visualizes the data of the fragrant emissions of pine trees, revealing complex patterns of relations between climate change, forest emissions and the atmosphere.By showcasing how sensing technologies and immersive tools used in artistic practice are well suited to reveal our interdependence of living organisms on each other and their environment, we would like to discuss future strategies, tools and methodologies for establishing two (or multi) directional link with our environment. Moreover, we argue that focusing our attention on “terrestrial co-existence” (Latour) and combining both ‘constructivist’ and ‘experiential’ approaches may help us to find less hazardous routes into the future and to create interactive relations with ‘more than human’ environments.

Keynote 2 – 15 October 2021. 9.00am CET.

Annika Lems, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology Halle/Saale

Precarious Politics of Placemaking: Why the Historicity of Environmental Future Imaginaries Matters 

In this presentation I will focus on the everyday placemaking practices people in an Austrian mountain community engage in as a response to the exploitative and destructive nature of global capitalism. By zooming in on grassroot projects aimed at food sovereignty, I will show the important social role environmental future imaginaries can take on as a means of creating a sense of belonging and solidarity in “forgotten”, rural places that are marked by unemployment, defunding and out-migration.

However, I will suggest that anthropological analysis needs to inquire into the agency attached to such projects, laying bare the ambiguous nature of supposedly “green” and progressive placemaking practices. By looking into the everyday engagements with history fuelling local struggles for social and environmental viability in my Austrian fieldsite, I attempt to make visible the contours of a troubling politics of place. This politics of place, I will argue, does not just act against extractive capitalism. Based on historically ingrained notions of otherness, it has the side-effect of reproducing reactionary and exclusionary ideas of belonging to place.

Keynote 3 – 15 October 2021. 1.30am CET.

Stine Krøijer, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen

Activism and its futures in landscapes of broken developmental dreams

In the second half of the 20th Century, modernization projects and associated narratives of economic development and progress made their imprint on landscapes and altered human relations to nature. Across ideological and political standpoints such narratives informed people’s outlook to the future and even their projects of progressive political change. Yet no more than a decade after the story about reaching an “end of history” gained momentum among European politicians – a story advocating the idea that a particular politico-economic formation would constitute the end-point of all societal development – it became accompanied and even overwritten by experiences of environmental destruction and anthropogenic climate change. In this presentation, I take my point of departure in landscapes of broken developmental dreams with a view to examine the forms of activism that they may give rise to. Based on what I like to refer to as my dark trilogy – a series of articles that examine the afterlife of progress, political uses of dystopia, and changing rhythms of radical environmental activism – I take the listeners to sites of environmental destruction in both Germany, Denmark and Amazonia. I do so in order to outline human and non-human forms of vigorous action, their relation to imperial debris and renderings of time, and to discuss the roles that anthropologists might take in such projects.

For the full programme, please follow this link

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