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On becoming earthlings.

The claim that we have entered a geo-historical era in which the global environment is predominantly influenced by human activities has become the challenge of our days. Yet, it is hardly understood. What does it mean to live in the anthropocene?
Do we have to re-invent everything: humanness, technology, and nature, and, moreover, the relations between them? Are we even able to?
And how is all this related to the overall understanding of our habitat, the earth?

Through the act of declaring the anthropocene, humanity – again – is put in the center of everything. That move has led to a lot of criticism, also regarding the aspect of responsibility and agency. There were calls to name it 'Capitalocene' or 'Technocene' instead. Or even ‘Chthulucene’ according to Donna Haraway, who suggests that eco-theory might be inspired by Chthulu, an ancient mythical power of the earth and its waters, soils, and skies. The renewed 'anthropocentrism' happens, though, to the price of a consequent shrinking. The age of man is not named thus, because 'he' has everything under control. Quite the contrary. Humankind as a species, so the lessons of the anthropocene teach us, has been determining the wheel of 'geostory' (Bruno Latour), i.e. geological history, the same way as isotopes and isotherms or carbon atoms: as an accumulation of an egregious multitude of single phenomena.

New Proportions.

Living and thinking the anthropocene means to set humankind into new proportions. Anthropocene calls out for a practice of re-scaling and re-framing to establish other relations between humans and non-humans (and between humans and humans as well). We have to leave the humanistic scope of western thinking that has been taking over the rule of the world for the last roughly 500 years with its inherent strict fissures and hierarchies along the lines of 'culture' and 'nature', between humans (or to be more precise: men) and the rest. If 'nature' was the first colonized object of modern european thinking and conquering, then the concept of the anthropocene puts an epistemological end to colonizations of any kind. Anthropocene-thinking – to modulate a sentence by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro – is the theory and practice of permanent decolonization. There is no species, no life form, no being, as small and irrelevant as it may seem, towards which presumptuousness can be justified any longer.

Anthropocene-thinking tries to connect differently to the beings surrounding us and the environments we are living in, regardless if biological or technological. Who can teach us to become much smaller or much bigger? Small as swarm fish are, or microbes, or even molecules, in order to be able to contemplate and to commiserate, how climatological changes influence local behaviors and how these local changes retroactively have effects on their environments. Or large as clouds or geological dimensions of time, in order to be able to put ourselves in a concrete relationship with the geo-hydrological time of climate, the development time of fossil fuels, or the disintegration time of radioactive and other highly contaminated waste.

Exercises in Non-Humanness.

Since we cannot know where this post-anthropocentrical stance will lead us, it is only possible to practically experience it. How does one exercise the anthropocene? One first step is a change of language. Whether we denote the interplay between the environment-formerly-referred-to-as-nature and the being-formerly-known-as-human 'natureculture', as Donna Haraway and others have done, or wether we use a completely different vocabulary, e.g. talking of 'earthlings' and 'Gaia', as Bruno Latour proposes, leaving the lingual and epistemological base of western thinking with its categorical separations between nature/culture and human/non-human, forces us on unknown territory. We can only get (out of) there step by step, relying on emergent practices and situated knowledges – exercises in post- or non-humanness: in change of perspective and scale, in decentration, in humbleness, or by acknowledging what Buddhist philosophy has been calling ‘interdependent co-arising’.

The Blackmarket invites specialists and activists from fields as diverse as climatology, artificial intelligence, biology, anthropology, ecofeminism, science fiction, performing and visual arts, integrated design, documentary film, agriculture and counterculture, shamanism, religion and other spiritual practices. Besides that, we want to draw attention to the imaginations of and for the earthlings that have always been little: many of the most classical children’s books published in the West deliver lessons in shrinking and expanding to perspectives much smaller and much bigger than human scale, from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland1, Selma Lagerlöf’s Nils Holgersson's Wonderful Adventures2, or Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince, up to Michel Ocelot’s Kirikou.

In the chorus of the events orchestrating and amplifying the global climate conference COP21 in Paris in December, the Blackmarket for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge will play a slightly different tone. In order to map the bio-geo-chemical as well as the imaginary state of things known and not (yet) known about the anthropocene, it offers experts and audience to take part in a series of one-on-one dialogues. It mirrors the places and discourses where world climate politics is made – and where the public is not invited – and gives another representation of ecological democracy. Experts and audience together create a multi-disciplinary, multi-dimensional, hallucinatory space of knowledge – invoking what might become the anthropocene.

Concept

  • Hannah Hurtzig (Mobile Academy Berlin)

Curators

  • Alexander Klose
  • Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez with - Laurens Otto

scientific advisor

  • Denis Couvet (Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle)

worked with the artist Renzo Martens for the Institute for Human Activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2014 he received the price for young art criticism in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

— PRODUCTION: Blackmarket for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge No. 18: On becoming earthlings

worked with the artist Renzo Martens for the Institute for Human Activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2014 he received the price for young art criticism in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

— PRODUCTION: Blackmarket for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge No. 18: On becoming earthlings

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