Session 4: EcoAesthetics

Sandra ALVARO. Art, Eco-aesthetics And Cosmopolitics

Isabelle Stengers (2015) described our time as catastrophic, the result of convergent crisis concerning global economy, the environment, increasing violence and depletion of social cohesion. The Anthropocene and its consequences have become an urgent subject for scientists and policymakers, but also philosophers and artists. Current art projects intervene in our environment through speculative projects, approaching geoengineering and the proposal of new post-anthropocentric futures, as well as, by the production of new entanglements of humans and non-humans which could mobilise new affects and change our behaviour.

All these projects share the same aesthetics, a new technologically mediated vision, from where our environment appears as a complex network of systems. The Gaia 2.0 (Latour, 2018) resulting from a process of Technomorphisation (Maturana, 1997) which translates our environment to data and rends it predictable and operational.

This presentation examines a selection of environmental art projects with a twofold aim. First, explore the evolution of this aesthetics after the encounter with post-structuralism and critical epistemologies. Second, interrogate about the inclusion of these art projects inside a Cosmopolitics (Stengers, 2004), after considering art as a material form of experimentation with the capacity of worlding -making up an inhabitable world.


Sandra Alvaro works at the intersection of art, philosophy and technology. She develops a theory grounded in practice for the mapping of conceptual frameworks which improve our understanding of the current sociotechnical system and its relations with the Anthropocene. Among her research main areas are the aesthetics and politics of computational technologies; the epistemology of data-driven models; collaborative design and the emergence of new communities of practice; the commons and environmental justice; new materialism and posthumanist philosophy.

Sandra Alvaro holds a PhD in Philosophy from the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona. She has been researcher fellow of the program of Culture Analytics at the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IPAM) in the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and invited artist/researcher at the Laboratoire Paragraphe/CITU at the University Paris 8. Nowadays, she is an adjunct professor of Contemporary Art at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB).


Ellen RØED. Image as Site: The Forest

This artistic research project considers the potential of the moving image as a tool for developing situated knowledge and of its material conditions in terms of experience. It takes as its starting point how devices that produce images, such as cameras and microphones, invite their users to engage with their surroundings by enabling a network of relationships (Røed, 2014). I develop that idea and explore the capacity of video based art for enabling audio-visual ecologies through movement, transience and body, in other words elements of performance characteristic to site (Kwon 2004, Kaye 2000). By considering how the moving image might be engaged as a form of listening, specific environments are explored in order to create artworks that might operate across any dialectic opposition between experience, mediation and representation as a form of ecology of particular sensitivities, presence and place-making. By combining certain practices of site-specific art (performance), sound art (field recording, transposing the field), early video art (performance, materiality, inquiry), and cinematography (movement, gesture), I experiment with the conditions of field recording as methods of inquiry, and approach the recording situation as gestures of listening and tuning, transient temporalities, and relationships between sound, image, body, (custom made) devices, and ethics.

Operating as both visual artist and educator, Ellen J Røed has for the past twenty five years been involved in questioning and exploring electronic and digital materialities and cultures. In the recent years, her interests in the performative and networked aspects of media has developed towards a more specific focus on practices of field recording and on how cameras, microphones and similar devices enable forms of inquiry through ethical, technical and aesthetic conditions in relation to the environment. She has completed a PhD equivalent fellowship in the Norwegian Fellowship Programme for Artistic Research (2014) and is currently professor for the profile area Art, technology, materiality at Stockholm University of the Arts, where she leads a PhD programme in artistic research.


Laura BELOFF. Green Kitsch

The art works emerging from the field of biological and biotech arts have been primarily following the visuality adopted from laboratories and scientific experiments; they are often incorporating petri dishes, glassware, and clinical machine-parts. Amongst numerous artworks one can pinpoint works created with different aesthetics, which could be described to be excessively cute or a result of ‘a poor taste’. This is the generic definition of kitsch.

To consider something what is green, biological and created by natural forces to be kitsch seems unfit; rather natural and kitsch are easily seen in opposite corners. Our cultural history presents various examples of artifacts that can be considered kitsch, which incorporate natural forms and matter, and constitute “relics out of things whose value emanated from their intrinsic relationship to life […]” (Olalquiaga 1998).

The talk focuses on kitsch and biological living organisms especially in the recent years’ practices of biological and biotech arts. The author points towards questions concerning aesthetics of living organisms when biotechnological possibilities are enabling ‘the look’ of an organism to become a design choice. Like Abraham Moles has said that “there is something kitsch at the bottom of each one of us” (Moles 1975).

Laura Beloff (PhD) is an internationally acclaimed artist and a researcher in the cross section of art, technology and science. Additionally, to research papers, articles and book-chapters, the outcome of the research is in a form of process-based installations, wearable artifacts, and experiments with scientific methods that deal with the merger of the technological and biological matter at large. The research engages with the areas such as human enhancement, biosemiotics, biological matter, artificial life, artificial intelligence, robotics, and information technology in connection to art, humans and society. Currently, she is Associate Professor and the Head of ViCCA program at Aalto University, Finland.


John KAZIOR. Filthy Germinators

A short fiction detailing the social and cultural impact of a biosynthetic gardening system on a large american city. The “Germinators”are unsophisticated, but ecologically synchronous automata that have been installed in a dense urban area (despite a great deal of resistance from private interest groups). The impact of the germinator network is polarizing. While ultimately offering food security and overtaking the supremacy of cars in the american urban landscape, the older generation remains largely antagonistic towards the dirty, slightly-dumb, but ultimately ingenious character of the germinators.

This work attempts to give a glimpse of how technology, borne out of programs like the Green New Deal, might impact the social and ecological landscape of the city.

John Kazior is  an American writer and designer. Primarily, his work deals with ecological design and media.

He has a BS in Graphic Communication Design from the University of Cincinnati and a MA in Design Research, Writing and Criticism from the School of Visual Arts in New York. His work regarding ecological design and the commodification of nature has appeared in such publications as “The Baffler”, “MOLD Magazine”, “AIGA Eye On Design”, “Core77”, and “Icarus Complex Magazine”.