How Many Natures Can Nature Nurture?

How Many Natures Can Nature Nurture?

Photograph of cinematographer Silvino Santos, in Albert W. Stevens "Exploring the Valley of the Amazon in a Hydroplane: Twelve Thousand Miles of Flying Over the World's Greatest River and Greatest Forest to Chart the Unknown Parima River from the Sky." National Geographic Magazine Apr. 1926.

How Many Natures Can Nature Nurture?
June 11, 2015

As part of e-flux journal’s SUPERCOMMUNITY issue #65 for the 56th Venice Biennale, e-flux will host a series of events expanding on the issue’s theme section Apocalypsis, guest-edited by Pedro Neves Marques.

Some days it is hard to believe Atlantic currents haven’t yet stalled, that logging and mining has not yet ended the Amazon, that there is still non-GMO food on our plates, or that the brain waves of elephants and dolphins haven’t yet been transcoded into a human language, that one can’t yet communicate with one’s own enzymes—tell them everything will be all right, after all they’re definitely winning the battle of mutation. 

Everywhere we look, nature is a mess, both materially and conceptually. Unavoidably, as its optimal mirror, culture is not faring much better. This fuzziness between nature and culture may very well prove instrumental for a new evolutionary phase of technocapital in its trajectory towards an animated, hybrid future of global engineering. But it is also testing the limits of the modern anthropocentric system of knowledge, questioning who and what is emerging from the ecological debris of so-called progress as a political subject.

This event program has been organized in collaboration with Mariana Silva and Arnaud Gerspacher, without whose discussions it would certainly not have been possible.

The Native and The Refugee
Thursday, June 11th 7:30pm

Join us for a screening and debate of The Native and The Refugee, a film and multimedia project bridging the Pine Ridge Indian reservation of the Oglala Lakota, the Akwesasne territory of the Mohawks, and the Navajo Nation of the Dine, with militancy in Palestine and Lebanon. Filming, screening, and debating its films in both geographies, The Native and The Refugee profiles the reservation and the refugee camp as spaces of exception: contested sites polarized by a State imposed naturalization of peoples and their struggles for land and autonomy.

The Native and The Refugee (Matt Peterson and Malek Rasamny, with Adam Khalil and Brandon Jourdan)
Audra Simpson, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University and author of Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States (Duke University Press).


Technology at the Limits: Amazonia
Tuesday, June 16th 7:30pm

Recent scientific discoveries have proven what communities in the Amazon could have long confirmed: rather than being a pristine natural environment, the Amazon rainforest is in fact a complex ecosystem terraformed in companionship with other animal and vegetal species. In contrast to such native knowledge, Amazonia has also long been a test site for extractive and cartographic technologies intent in making the region a productive site within capital. With this in mind, how has technology contributed to the perception and construction of Amazonia? And how can such technologies be subverted for justice claims over expropriation of indigenous lands and genocide?

In this discussion and screening, Deneb Kozikoski Valereto and Paulo Tavares will speak about modern technological incursions into the Amazon in the early twentieth century, and how a century afterwards remote-sensing technology used to calculate biomass carbon stocks and the rainforest’s health and role in climate systems may provide the tools for an archaeology of violence, such as in the genocide of Waimiri Atroari during the Brazilian Military Regime. By reading trees, soil, and botanical morphologies as evidences of past human interferences in the forest structure, these archaeologies reveals the deeply political, anthropogenic nature of the living forests of Amazonia as an environment historically and geologically shaped by human conflicts.

Paulo Tavares
, architect and urbanist, Universidad Católica de Ecuador, Quito.
Deneb Kozikoski Valereto, Ph.D candidate at the Latin American and Iberian Cultures Department and Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University, New York.


Animals and Contemporary Art—Aesthetics of Liberation?
Thursday, June 18th 7:30pm

In an historical US court case, the Nonhuman Rights Project is currently pursuing the personhood of three chimpanzees in the state of New York—Tommy, Hercules, and Leo. In parallel, the last two decades of ethological studies have provided an exponential array of insights into animal intelligence and complex forms of sociality, both in anthro-affinity and as utterly alien to us human animals. This is a revolutionary moment in our coexistence with other animals. In light of this, is it the case that contemporary art has as begun to re-envision its understanding of animals and multi species relations? Or rather, despite the occasional counter-example, do the arts continue to favor considerations of taste over ethics, aesthetic transgression over nonhuman recognition, and subjects-as-material over subjects-as-life? Does the role of animals in art allow for a liberating species co-operation, or does it remain all-too fluidly in line with the imperatives of capital over eco-social justice?

Arnaud Gerspacher
, Ph.D candidate in Art History, The Graduate Center, CUNY.
Dominic Pettman, cultural theorist and professor of Culture and Media at the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, The New School, NY.


SUPERCOMMUNITY is a special issue of e-flux journal commissioned for All The World’s Futures—the 56th International Art Exhibition: La Biennale di Venezia. Issue no. 65 spans from May to September with one piece of writing released each day including poetry, short fiction, plays and screenplays, and other epistolary forms by nearly one hundred authors. Under the SUPERCOMMUNITY umbrella there are several sub-themes developed by Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, and Anton Vidokle in collaboration with a number of guest editors including Raqs Media Collective, Natasha Ginwala, Pedro Neves Marques, Boris Groys, Tom Holert, and Coco Fusco.

Some say that our most recent stage of planetary evolution—our current geological epoch—is distinguished mainly by the permanently destructive effects of human industry on the biosphere, in species extinction, deforestation, pollution, radiation, and so on. Which is to say that humanity can no longer be taken as the solution to anything. On the contrary, and from the perspective of the earth, humanity looks increasingly like the problem. Strangely, humans may be eradicated soon, but at the same time this scenario understands humanity as more supremely powerful than at any time since the Enlightenment.

For more information, please contact rivers [​at​]

Nature & Ecology

Arnaud Gerspacher is a PhD candidate in art history at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York, writing a dissertation on animals, posthumanism, and ecology in art.

Paulo Tavares is currently a researcher at FAU-USP, Brasil, and a long-term collaborator of Forensic Architecture.

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