The Anthropocene thesis has become both a cultural cipher for any number of all-too-human obscenities and a collider of previously staid disciplinary concerns. So, while International Commission on Stratigraphy and the International Union of Geological Sciences continue to debate the scientific merits of a geological reformation called the Anthropocene Epoch, the cultural meaning of the Anthropocene challenges artists, curators, designers, editors and writers to locate the social and ethical significance of this debate in other registers and by other means.
The Showroom hosts a conversation with Lindsay Bremner, Emily Pethick, Anna-Sophie Springer, Etienne Turpin and Joanna Zylinska to consider how knowledge is being produced through cultural practices in the Anthropocene and how the forms by which knowledge is embodied, shared, and relayed can transform epistemic hierarchies of mediation and authority. Said somewhat differently, we might ask of this epoch of the anthropos: should we make books? art? should we read? edit? curate? What do these practices mean and how do they transform as they encounter mass extinction and environmental collapse? The entangled concepts of knowledge, production, and form will serve as three possible ways of approaching questions of cultural practice in the Anthropocene.
This event launches several recent books addressing these questions, including Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin’s edited collection Art in the Anthropocene (featuring Lindsay Bremner and Anna-Sophie Springer), Anna-Sophie Springer and Etienne Turpin’s edited exhibitions Fantasies of the Library (featuring Joanna Zylinska) and Land & Animal & Nonanimal, and Joanna Zylinska’s Minimal Ethics for the Anthropocene.
Lindsay Bremner is Director of Architectural Research in the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment at the University of Westminster and runs M Arch Design Studio 18 (Architecture, Energy, Matter) with Roberto Bottazzi. She was formerly Professor of Architecture in the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia (2006 – 2011) and Chair of Architecture at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg (1998 – 2004). She is an award-winning architect and writer and published, lectured and exhibited widely on the transformation of Johannesburg after apartheid. Bremner’s work since leaving Johannesburg has taken a materialist turn. Her research project Folded Ocean is investigating the transforming spatial and organisational logics of the Indian Ocean world; this has been published in Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, Social Dynamics, Bracket and the edited book Design in the Terrain of Water (Oro Editions, 2014); Geoarchitecture is investigating intersections between architecture, geology and politics and has been published in Urban Forum and the edited books Ponte City (Steidl Verlag, 2014), Questions Concerning Health (GSAPP, 2014) and Architecture and the Paradox of Dissidence (Routledge, 2013).
Anna-Sophie Springer is a curator, writer, and co-director, with Charles Stankievech, of K. Verlag. Her practice merges curatorial, editorial, and artistic commitments by stimulating fluid relations among images, artifacts, and texts in order to produce new geographical, physical, and cognitive proximities, often in relation to historical archives and the book-as-exhibition. She was Associate Editor of publications for the 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art. Before launching K. in 2011, she was also an editor for the pioneering German theory publisher Merve Verlag. Her previous projects as curator include EX LIBRIS at Galerie Wien Lukatsch, Berlin, and other venues, which explored various libraries as curatorial spaces. Anna-Sophie received her M.A. in Contemporary Art Theory from Goldsmiths College, University of London, and her M.A. in Curatorial Studies from the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst, Leipzig.
Etienne Turpin is a philosopher studying, designing, curating, and writing about complex urban systems, political economies of data and infrastructure, aesthetics and visual culture, and Southeast Asia colonial-scientific history. He lives and works in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Joanna Zylinska is Professor of New Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. The author of five books—including Minimal Ethics for the Anthropocene (Open Humanities Press, 2014), Life after New Media: Mediation as a Vital Process (with Sarah Kember; MIT Press, 2012), and Bioethics in the Age of New Media (MIT Press, 2009)—she is also a translator of Stanisław Lem’s major philosophical treatise, Summa Technologiae (University of Minnesota Press, 2013). Together with Clare Birchall, Gary Hall and Open Humanities Press, she runs the JISC-funded project Living Books about Life, which publishes open-access books at the crossroads of the humanities and the sciences. Joanna is one of the editors of Culture Machine, an international open-access journal of culture and theory, and a curator of its sister project, Photomediations Machine. She combines her philosophical writings and curatorial work with photographic art practice.
Emily Pethick is the Director of The Showroom.