Ecology After Nature: Industries, Communities, and Environmental Memory

Ecology After Nature: Industries, Communities, and Environmental Memory


Misho Antadze, Harvest (clip), 2019.

August 14, 2020
Ecology After Nature: Industries, Communities, and Environmental Memory
An online series of film programs and discussions on e-flux Video & Film
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With films by David Kelley and Patty Chang; Daniel Mann and Eitan Efrat; Sasha Litvintseva and Graeme Arnfield; Jorge Jácome; Beatriz Santiago Muñoz; Sasha Litvintseva and Daniel Mann; Emilija Škarnulytė; Susana de Sousa Dias; Su Yu Hsin; Nguyễn Trinh Thi; The Otolith Group; Toby Lee, Ernst Karel, and Pawel Wojtasik; Malena Szlam; Arjuna Neuman and Denise Ferreira da Silva; Zlatko Ćosić; Misho Antadze; Ivar Veermäe; Dinh Q. Lê; Tomonari Nishikawa; Thirza Cuthand; and Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė; and discussions with T.J. Demos, Heather Davis, and others

Programmed by Lukas Brasiskis

Critical thought of the 21st century is compelled to raise the question of the human-nature relationship in new ways, because the basic concepts proposed by modernity for pondering this question—including the idea of a clear-cut division between enlightened culture and to-be-tamed nature—no longer allow us to examine ourselves in ways that might bring in novel practices to face the ongoing environmental and political crisis. It is obvious that the roots of most environmental problems lie in particular forms of social and economic activities of humans—capitalist, colonizing, racist, patriarchal. The philosopher Michel Serres defines modernity’s relation to nature as constituting a “war” based on the “mastery and appropriation” of the earth, against which he calls for the initiation of a new political ecology based on a postcolonial equality between human and nonhuman lives. Here comes an apparent paradox in reflecting on nature today: to maintain a properly ecological view, one has to renounce the idea of a pristine nature that exists outside of history, or inseparably from human activities. In other words, one has to engage in apprehending ecology after nature, as has been recently suggested by a number of critical thinkers. 

In a time “after nature,” new ways of rendering the image of nature, as the art historian and critic T.J. Demos argues, matter more than one might think. As Demos points out, the spectacular visualization of the natural in the epoch of the Anthropocene works ideologically in support of a neoliberal financialization of nature, an anthropocentric political economy, and an endorsement of geoengineering as the preferred—but in all likelihood, catastrophic—method of approaching climate change. He thus calls for the subjection of images of the natural and the elemental to critical scrutiny, and for the development of creative alternatives for representations of nature.

Ecology After Nature: Industries, Communities and Environmental Memory is an online screening series which places reflections on administrative, instrumental, and extractive treatments of nature at its forefront, and exposes various angles of interconnection between the natural and the human-made. Programmed by Lukas Brasiskis, this series presents a selection of twenty-two artists’ films and videos that will be screened on e-flux Video & Film in six parts. From extractive industries, forgotten remnants of war machines, and polluting warehouses of cryptomining to misinterpreted birds, misheard earth strata, and vibrant landfills, the artists featured in this series highlight a non-essentialist view of the manifold forms that the natural takes in today’s world. The screenings will be accompanied by texts as well as two online discussions with some of the participating artists and invited guests, including T.J. Demos and media and culture scholar Heather Davis, inquiring how the infrastructural, the elemental, and the communal could be reassessed through moving images, with a focus on the social and political particularities of environmental issues.

Ecology After Nature: Industries, Communities and Environmental Memory runs from August 14 through November 6, 2020. We start with Part One, whose films will screen for two weeks. The next parts will follow bi-weekly, with new films screened every other Friday.

Part One | Extraction: Environments and Communities
Friday, August 14—Thursday, August 27, 2020

In the first part of the series, David Kelley and Patty Chang’s Spiritual Myopia (2018), Daniel Mann and Eitan Efrat’s The Magic Mountain (2020), and Sasha Litvintseva and Graeme Arnfield’s Asbestos (2016) investigate different angles of the human inclination to extract natural resources from the ground. From a psychological and philosophical analysis of the process of extraction, to a scrutiny of detrimental impact of fossil-fuel capitalism, the three films critically and creatively analyze the aftermath of the senseless extraction of gas, oil, and minerals as well as the waste of energy, labor, and time in the epoch of the Capitalocene.

Part Two | War Machines and Sites of Environmental Memory
Friday, August 28—Thursday, September 10, 2020

The films featured in the second part of the series deconstruct the idea of the war machine and its infrastructures, focusing on the savage effect military ambitions have exerted on the environment. Erasing boundaries between past and present, reality, and dreams, Jorge Jácome’s Flores (2017), Beatriz Santiago Muñoz’s Other Uses (2014), Sasha Litvintseva and Daniel Mann’s Salarium (2017), and Emilija Škarnulytė’s Sirenomelia (2018) critically examine entanglements of military and natural forces. They treat the war machine as a potential site of environmental memories.

Part Three | Decolonizing the Landscape: From Invisible to Visible
Friday, September 11—Thursday, September 24, 2020

In the third part of the series, David Kelley and Patty Chang’s Flotsam Jetsam (2007), Susana de Sousa Dias’ Fortlandia Malaise (2019), Su Yu Hsin’s water sleep II Akaike river under Xizang Road (2019), and Nguyễn Trinh Thi’s Landscape Series #1 (2012) invite us to reconsider the culturally specific dichotomies between the visible and the invisible, and ponder the landscape’s relationship to identity and colonial power. 

Part Four | Reading the Earth: Vibrant Matter and Human Hubris
Friday, September 25—Thursday, October 8, 2020

In the age of advanced technology, the earth could be read as if it were a script that needs to be interpreted—a trace of its own past and future. This recalls traditional beliefs in animistic nature and begs the question: What are the political implications of recognizing that everything—including rocks, garbage, polluted air, volcanic deserts, the oceans—is alive? Films belonging to the fourth part of the series  probe the limits and potentials of visualizating the wasted, the inanimate, and the geological. The Otolith Group’s Medium Earth (2013), Toby LeeErnst Karel, and Pawel Wojtasik’s Single Stream (2014), Malena Szlam’s Altiplano (2018), Arjuna Neuman and Denise Ferreira da Silva’s 4 Waters, Deep Implicancy (2018), and Zlatko Ćosić’s Un-Pollute (2017) examine images of vibrant matter composed by a complex web of active bodies and materials. 

Part Five | Extraction by Different Means
Friday, October 9—Thursday, October 22, 2020

In the fifth part, Misho Antadze’s The Harvest (2019) and Ivar Veermäe’s The Heat (2018) examine the process of cryptocurrency-mining, and the ecological implications of this new mode of energy consumption. As these works implicitly show digital ways of extraction, contrary to naïve beliefs, should be considered as environmentally harmful and socially exploitive as the mining and excavation of the natural resources.

Part Six | Anthropocentric Pasts and Planetary Futures, or Death as New Beginning
Friday, September 23—Thursday, November 5, 2020

Finally, the sixth part of the series questions the privileged temporal and scalar position that the human species on planet Earth claim to have. Dinh Q. Lê’s The Colony (2016), Tomonari Nishikawa’s sound of a million insects, light of a thousand stars (2014), Thirza Cuthand’s Reclamation (2018), and Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė’s Acid Forest (2018) reveal the short-sightedness of attempts to instrumentalize and colonize nature, and propose a long-durée perspective that allow us to surpass a human lifespan to re-imagine the world in its post-colonial stage.

Lukas Brasiskis is a film and media researcher and curator, currently a PhD candidate at New York University in the Department of Cinema Studies, and an adjunct professor at NYU and CUNY/Brooklyn College. His interests include eco-media, the politics and aesthetics of the world cinema, and intersections between moving-image cultures and the contemporary art world. Brasiskis’ texts have been published in both academic and non-academic media, and he has curated a number of screening programs, Including  From Matter to Data: Ecology of Infrastructures (with Inga Lace, Post MoMa, New York),  Environmental Memories in East-Central European Art (Alternative Film/Video Festival, Belgrade), Landscape to be Experienced and to be Read: Time, Ecology, Politics on the work of filmmaker James Benning (CAC, Vilnius), Mermaid with The Movie Camera (Spectacle Theater, New York), a program of experimental films Human, Material, Machine (with Leo Goldsmith, CAC, Vilnius, Lithuania), Baltic Poetic Documentary as Ethnographic Cinema (NYU, New York), Welcome to the Anthropocene  (CCAMP, Lithuania), and a retrospective of the films of Nathaniel Dorsky (CAC, Vilnius) among others.

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August 14, 2020

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