WhiteFeather was invited to be part of a team of Hexagram researchers, along with Chris Salter, Orit Halpern, Ida Toft, Garrett Lockhart and Thierry Bardini, to participate in transmediale 2017 ever elusive, the 30th transmediale festival for art and digital culture berlin. The research-creation project, entitled, Elusive Life, was a series of workshops taking place at the Museum für Naturkunde that resulted in an exhibition at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in Berlin, Germany.
Deutsche Übersetzung folgt.
This public exhibition and presentation showcases results of the Elusive Life research studio, taking place at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin from 26–29 January. The research studio asks participants to grapple with the alienness of other forms of life, ecology, and the earth through their research and creation practices. Within the context of the museum, participants explore new imaginaries, interventions, and understandings of “elusive life” undergoing new forms of technological transformation. The final works, which potentially take the form of speculative designs, architectural models, audio-visual-graphic essays, writing, and prototypes for artistic creations will be on view in the Cafe Stage area of the HKW.
Präsentier in Kooperation mit Hexagram.
Short Abstract: Elusive Life
Loss, extinction, disaster, catastrophe—these terms presently define our relationship with environments, other species and each other. This workshop will use the space of the Museum für Naturkunde (Natural History Museum) in Berlin to build on these initial questions and begin to ask how we might imagine and design relations to a future earth that neither escapes nor denies the ruins of the one we inhabit. How shall we design and encounter the ineffable without repudiating history or normalizing violence? What forms of knowledge and experiment might produce non-normative ecologies of care between life forms? How shall we inhabit catastrophe?
These are particularly urgent questions given that natural history museums worldwide are stepping up their efforts to digitize collections and build global data infrastructures for biodiversity discovery, analyses and preservation. Some commentators even speak of a “new enlightenment” in relation to digital natural history. Such hubristic diction compels us to take a moment and scrutinise the passage from physical specimen to datafied life, not just with a view to what gets lost in translation but also to what endures of the destructiveness that has given us the physical specimen in the first place. As an imperial institution natural history museums are built on the spoils of colonial extractions while their promotion of specific ways of knowing continues to quell other knowledges. How, we want to ask, can we figure (re-figure?) the museum and the notion of “biodiversity loss” so that they encompass the “[d]ebt to those who are already dead and those not yet born [as these] cannot be disentangled from who we are.” (Karen Barad, 2010)
The research-studio will be a site-based study of both the “public” part of the museum, which has recently been redesigned, and the “non–public” collections which hold most of the museum’s 30 million objects. The collections, divided according to taxonomic phyla, comprise arampant mass of bodies, body parts and other objects, stuffed into cabinets and drawers, biding their time in various stages of decay. Their mass digitization is thus seen as a form of resurrection that can breathe life intowhat Rachel Poliquin has called a “breathless zoo.” The workshop will engage with both the physical specimens and processes of datafying and digitizing life. We will also examine technologies of mass digitization, next-generation biodiversity discovery and remote-sensing (like satellite imaging) that are used to gather and predict biodiversity loss. We will thus grapple with the alienness of other forms of life, ecology, and the earth, as well as produce new imaginaries, interventions and understandings of “elusive life” as subjected to these forms of technological transformation.
The participants will engage with the recent redesign of the museum and data visualizations of biodiversity change, and use these archives and their imaginations to build speculative designs, sound walks, prototypes for artistic creations, audio-visual essays and/or writings that engage with and re-envision how we might experience and encounter loss, extinction,and diversity in order to imagine into being other worlds and ecologies of life. The project will culminate with a public exhibition of these prototypes and designs, to be shown on the following Saturday, February 4th at the Transmediale conference.
More on the transmediale website, here.
Part of WhiteFeather’s contribution to the collaborative work produced: