“Practicing Exposure” is a collaborative project between Simulacrum and FIBER, an Amsterdam based organisation, dedicated to present and initiate artistic productions at the intersection of audiovisual art, digital culture and electronic music. This year, FIBER started the ongoing research project “Cartographies of the Vanishing Now”, in which artists, designers and researchers explore the potential of sensory art and alternative cartographic methods to remap reality in the age of environmental collapse. “Practicing Exposure” is part of this ongoing discussion on how to relate to an increasingly unstable and precarious existence in the face of a climate emergency.
Ocean air fills our bodies as we walk the beach. Leaning into the wind, inhalation after exhalation, step after step, we weave a thread through air and sand. Ten litres of air per minute, an aerial knot of forty different smells. Salt, sand, seaweed, water, the dog beside us—a binding intimacy. We draw lines through a world of substances, just like substances draw lines through us. Can we say that we do not live in our bodies but in a gathering in and releasing ourselves out into the world?
Toxic clouds, released from a factory, drift along the coast. Wind carries them astray, rain sediments them into the ground. Inland they pollute the living habitats of land-dwellers’; seaward they infiltrate into marine ecosystems to find their way back to is in unexpected ways. On the horizon, where sea and sky dissolve into each other, wind turbines almost drop out of sight. As if retreating from their milieu, they hide their actual presence in the seabed and its habitats. An almost out-of-sight ‘answer’ to the planetary crisis that saturates our lives.
Wind-walking in the anthropocene. We have paved the world with objects. Named by us, rejected and disposed: trashcan Earth, toxic grounds, acid seas. The ecological disconnect that determines the world from a distance – name it, know it, shape it – is comforting but outdated. The strange agencies of the anthropocene cannot be bracketed, controlled or done with. They rebound in unexpectedly, exposing us in ever new ways to our environment. Our conventional categories of thought erode as we can no longer hide from these uncontrollable intimacies that are part of existence. Instead of hiding, we could try to make these intimacies a part of how we think the world in order to open up to new ways of knowing and acting in an environment.
It is this kind of exposure that Sissel Marie Tonn departs from when she traces the toxic flows that pollute the environment around the DuPont factory in Sliedrecht. Flows that sink into the ground, seep into waters and enter into the bodies of plants, vegetables and others dwelling within the ‘risk zone’. Addressing three case studies – nuclear radiation, a vibrating earth and plastic pollution – Renée Hoogland similarly explores different intimacies between bodies and environment. Each of the stories she brings forward shows an urge for humans to inhabit and embody in a different way the ecologically damaged world we have come to create.
“Practicing Exposure” springs from the work of Environmental Humanities scholar Stacy Alaimo. To sink back into her thinking, Michelle Geraerts and Max Litjens interview her and discuss the relation between her work, the landscape of the anthropocene and the turn towards the oceanic. Where Alaimo urges us to plunge into the ocean, Mattia Capelletti dwells in a wetland. His form of writing reads as an answer to extinction in the widest sense: not only that of different species, but also of words, phrases and modes of storytelling. The text, something of a swamp itself, forms a space of encounter with the unknown and the indeterminate.
Central to Practicing Exposure is the recognition that human beings exist in a state of interdependence with their surroundings. Even though this idea may make sense on an abstract level, it can be hard to imagine what an interdependent existence looks like in a more practical sense. Fiona Glen provides a sense of direction by exploring the often surprising ways in which human beings live and have lived together with moss. As it turns out, moss is not only an interesting example of an overlooked phenomenon with which humans engage, but also serves as a model through which we can understand our own existence differently.
Lijuan Klaßen takes this idea of interconnectedness a step further, arguing that bodies not only interact, but even intra-act with each other. She looks at the different ways in which octopi can express themselves, and thinks of these expressions not as the finished result of one single consciousness, but as an ongoing co-constitution of many different bodily processes. In this way, Klaßen provides ground to contest the idea of bodies as unified entities.
Miriam van Rijsingen explores ways to be intimate with our environment through stones, substances commonly perceived as inert and stable objects. She investigates different artistic practices that engage with stones and analyses whether and how these practices perform a ‘lithic intimacy’. Nadeche Remst turns to the work of the Otolith Group to explore potential future scenarios and their nonlinear relation to the present. She analyses how they use the essay film to dissolve boundaries between fiction and documentary. The different stances that artists can take towards their surroundings are also of interest to Johanna Rietveld and Bart Janssen. They explore the position of the artist through the work of philosopher Paul Feyerabend, arguing how an innocent notion of an all-too-human creativity may in fact stand in the way of a truly exposed artistic practice.
Finally, Floating Platform brings together different voices in debates concerning crises induced by climate change: a raft, a fish, a dike, a fisherman and water enter into a conversation with each other and quickly arrive at some of the core questions raised in debates about ecological crises. The non-human participants prove able to come up with original ways of engaging with these questions.
Back on the beach, we may now slowly start to see things differently. The feeling of letting the wind blow the thoughts that burden us in our busy day-to-day lives out of our heads, may no longer be merely a pleasant surprise. A place like the coast, where so many incomprehensibly large and complicated agencies, processes and phenomena are constantly becoming through and with each other, is not a place for human solutions to human problems. Water, air, sand and salt penetrate our bodies and remind us of their presence through smells, tastes, sights and sounds. On this borderzone (of the beach), with our certainties and securities set adrift, we might start to sense the world differently and recognise that there is no choice but to cooperate.
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#. Water-thieves and time-givers
Sissel Marie Tonn
#. Immersed, Unmoored, Unfrounded: Interview with Stacy Alaimo
Michelle Geraerts and Max Litjens
#. Seizing the Means of Perception: Human Stories of Eco-Intimacies in a High-Tech Ecologically Damaged World
#. DRASLAND STRETCH: On modes of being entangled
#. Becoming Strange or Strange Becoming: (Human) life in microgravity and underwater
#. Heal Underfoot: Moss as a Model
#. Camouflage at the End of the World: Attending to Octopus Skin
#. Moving Stones as Lithic Intimacy: Two artists in dialogue with the earth
Miriam van Rijsingen
#. The Disorder of Creativity in Post-Anthropocentric Art: A Feyerabendian Aesthetics
Johanna Rietveld and Bart Jansen
#. How to float in a Sinking World
Joana Velu, Mathild Clerc-Verhoeven, Pepijn Meurs and Rots Brouwer