Block Seminar "From the Body to the Territory: Sensing One's World" (with Prof. Dr. Kevin Henry)
From the body to the territory: Sensing one’s world
In a series of interviews from 2021, Bruno Latour proposes a new way of considering the notion of territory, “not where you are in the sense of geographical coordinates, but what you depend on.” (Episode 4/12—"Down to Earth”: https://www.arte.tv/en/videos/106738-004-A/interview-with-bruno-latour/)) In order to face the phenomenal inaction of our time in front of the ecological crisis, he proposes to start over “from the basics” and to describe in a subjective way what each of us depends on (things, beings, systems…) and how these micro to macro networks shape the world we live in and how they can potentially transform it: “What you depend on will define a territory”.
We can begin by collecting information at an individual personal scale. For example: simply asking (and mapping) the countless things, beings/people, and systems (both visible and invisible) that we rely on daily. This will help us visualize/spatialize (and thus situate) ourselves more realistically in the world. We will then diagram the ‘things’, ‘beings’, and ‘systems’ in order to see their rich connections, illuminate the many dependencies, and begin exploring how they all function together.
Only then can we begin to explore what Latour describes as ‘starting over from the basics’. Our initial work will serve as an audit of us, our connections, and the systems we rely on and are embedded in. Then we will begin the next step of imagining (and building) a new collective world that includes contingencies and relations unforeseen and possibly unforeseeable. Examples of our undertaking include the Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam which has been developing for the last few years a new model of ecological regeneration called “Zoöp” (a combination of the Greek word for life – zoë – and the word cooperation), that allows humans and non-humans to work together in the framework of a legal structure (https://zoop.hetnieuweinstituut.nl/
What are the visible and invisible boundaries and ties (“dependencies”) between us and our environment? Do we live in a world that is quickly turning from analog experience and embodied knowledge to massive corpora of data points collected by corporations from citizens happy to give their 'data' away in exchange for human interaction through social media and other digital activities? In an age of algorithmic flows, we propose to explore what physical topology/geography means and a number of experimental ways to explore it so that we can begin to imagine, in an informed way, what a sustainable future might look like.
Activities will include creating various types of maps based on filtered features like wealth, power, culture, alternative lifestyles, politics, activism, senses, visibility/invisibility, and on and on. We will draw inspiration from several projects initiated recently by researchers from different fields of knowledge such as anthropology, geography, history, philosophy, sociology, art, design, architecture, ethology, … Students will be invited to unfold new narratives and new modes of representation of their own world.
Our main references will be:
• Denis Wood's book: Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas. Woods, a geographer and artist, used the concept of maps and mapping to create poetic maps of a small American town based on very quotidian criteria such as light, animal paths, sign systems, underground infrastructure, etc.
• Feral Atlas. The More-then-Human Anthropocene, curated and edited by Anna L. Tsing, Jennifer Deger, Alder Keleman Saxena and Feifei Zhou, based on a dynamic way to represent the ecological worlds created when nonhuman entities become tangled up with human infrastructure projects.
• The Zoöp project and its methodological approach to sense and experience what makes the quality of interspecific relations as developed by the Het Nieuwe Instituut
• Bruno Latour and Frédérique Aït Touati’s Terra Forma in which they invent new ways to map specific realities such as the degradation of soil for example.
• James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti’s Atlas of the Invisible provides all kinds of graphics to reveal the invisible patterns that shape our lives, as supposed to what can be seen.
• World Brain, a docu-fiction by Stéphane Dégoutin and Gwénola Wagon about the very structures of the digital world.
For more information about Kevin Henry:
Introductory sessions : 27th April and 11th May
Time: 16:00 to 18:00
Room: Prof. Mensa
Students:From the 6th semester on
Block Seminar: 19-20 June / 22-23 June + 26 June (tbc)
Summer term 2023