- WOLFGANG MUCHITSCH (Scientific Director, Universalmuseum Joanneum)
- ELISABETH FIEDLER (Head of Institute of Art in Public Space, Universalmuseum Joanneum)
- Opening remarks
- PHILIPP SATTLER
- MILICA TOMIĆ (artist), DUBRAVKA SEKULIĆ (architect and writer) and ÖVÜL Ö. DURMUSOGLU (curator)
The Scene of the Crime: The (In)Visibility of the Concentration Subcamp Aflenz an der Sulm
From February 1944 to April 1945, a satellite camp of the Mauthausen concentration camp was located in Aflenz an der Sulm near the southern Styrian town of Leibnitz. Almost 1,000 prisoners, mainly from the Soviet Union, Poland, the German Reich and Yugoslavia, were forced to work for Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG, the largest armaments company in Austria. The purpose of the work was to expand an older underground quarry into a factory, which would protect armaments production from Allied air raids, while forcing foreign civilians to engage in this. Until a few years ago, the existence of this subcamp was largely unknown to a wider public. This lack of knowledge can be attributed to the fact that historical research only began in the mid-1980s to deal more intensively with the history of the concentration camps and their subcamps.
The historical approach to places connected with such crimes faces many challenges. These include the complexity of the political, economic, military, and social references that characterize the history of crime scenes such as Aflenz. This also includes the difficult search for traces. At first glance, the site itself hardly reveals anything about its history, and until recently there was no photographic record of the camp available. Sources on the camp's history, at least those that survived destruction at the end of the war, are scattered all over the world. Moreover, with the growing distance in time from the events, the number of potential contemporary witnesses is declining rapidly. For historians, the question is not only what contribution they can make to the visualization of crimes such as the one in Aflenz, but also what contemporary forms of visualization and memorialization are possible.
Cultivating the Soil: Use, Improvement and the Colonial Conditions of Our Present
Cultivation would come to function, throughout the British colonial world, as a justification for the appropriation of indigenous lands. Narrowly defined by political imaginary of private ownership and market exchange, cultivation was intimately tied to an ideology of improvement. The ideology of improvement bound together the twin ideas that land not cultivated was legitimately open for appropriation, and that its inhabitants required civilizational improvement so that they too could enjoy the fruits of possessive individualism. This use of the concept of improvement to impose private property relations where they did not previously exist, in conjunction with a racial order of white supremacy, is captured by the term “racial regimes of ownership”. Indigenous lands – designated as waste and therefore ripe for appropriation – continue to be laid waste by modern forms of use that privilege extraction and exploitation at the expense of myriad forms of life, in a moment of intensified speculative accumulation that has land at its centre.Branimir Stojanović (philosopher and psychoanalyst)
Societal Property or Barbarism
The promise of liberty, equality, and brotherhood for all, inscribed in the phantasm of the French Revolution and the breaking of that promise after the defeat of the second, bourgeois, revolutionary wave of 1848, established the tension between the exterior and interior of colonialism out of which a new subject of world history was to emerge – European citizenry or the ownership society.
During the evanescence of the expansive colonialism from the scene of history, the new inner border appeared for the European citizenry, as a threat to the society of owners. This new border that needed to be colonized is represented in two object-figures, imbued with the power to “block” the European citizenry: the Worker and the Jew. The figures: the Worker, the person without (home)land, nation or religion, the materialization of the promised civic universalism, the one in whom the surplus-value is hidden, the secret locus of the truth of private property and foundation of civil society; and the Jew, an absolute particularity that resists the universalization of the citizenry. These two figures threaten to possess the substance that citizenry lost with the act of Declaration, putting European citizenry into a rift for the whole 20th century.
National Socialism, an ideology born in the heart of European citizenry as its response to the frustrating failures to find a way out of that rift, and Hitlerism, as the final expression of this ideology, were nothing but acts of colonization of these two figure-objects: Worker and Jew – the perverse act of absolute privatization. Is the Yugoslav revolution, as the political response to National Socialism, and its respective result – a new object in world history: societal property – a solution to this, still current, rift?Moderated by MILICA TOMIĆ / DUBRAVKA SEKULIĆ
Yugoslav Aesthetics: Monuments to History’s Bare Bones
If postmodernity was characterized by a global spatialization of time, the last decade marks a shift towards what could be described as a deep temporalization of the globe. The currency of concepts such as the Anthropocene, Capitalocene, coloniality, cosmism, Big History, and ancestrality in contemporary art and theory suggests procedures of temporalization aimed at historicizing (the catastrophe of) the now by identifying its singular, “deep” origin – the human, Capital, Neolithic, colonialism, death, or even, the Big Bang – and testify to a return of History propelled by crisis. Though seemingly less ambitious in scope, I propose to view “Yugoslavia” as another conceptual and (art) historical framework that enables such urgency-driven quests to comprehend the “whole story” through examining Grupa Spomenik/Monument Group’s artistic and theoretical work on finding a counter-hegemonic language in which to address the violent destruction of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Although the Monument Group places their primary intervention in the arena of memory politics, I argue that the Monument Group’s key aesthetic and political significance is the reactivation of the twentieth-century quest to construe a (paradoxically minoritarian) grand narrative of Yugoslav history, grounded in the claim for (the always contested) Yugoslav identity. Relegated to the realm of “failed ideas” and “artificial constructions,” Yugoslavism demands a certain suspension of disbelief, but only in order to suspend belief in the necessity of “really existing” reality. This turn is at the core of the unfinished tradition of Yugoslav aesthetics, in which I situate the Monument Group’s work, and tends to the place where Yugoslavism fails – i.e., nationalism – and opens itself up to non-identitarian forms of belonging and alternative ways of writing world history.Alfredo González-Ruibal (archeologist, Institute of Heritage Sciences, Spanish National Research Council)
The Countermemory of Soil
Soil figures prominently in fascist and colonialist narratives and imaginary, most obviously in the Blut und Boden ideology of the Nazi regime. It has been, however, also central to many other ideological movements of the twentieth century, as in French nationalism – Maurice Barrès’ La terre et les morts – and in Spanish fascism, with the word tierra meaning both ‘land’ and ‘soil’ Spanish. Abstracted notions of soil, earth and land contrast with archaeological approaches, which are deeply empirical. My point is that archaeology, through its engagement with earth, at the same time sensuous and analytical, can counteract the idealized narratives of extremism, in a moment when they are coming back in force. For the short plenary presentation, I will propose an archaeological perspective on soil focusing on the idea of (biogeochemical) countermemory. For the longer presentation, I will illustrate the idea of soil countermemory through three archaeological vignettes where earth plays a prominent role. My stories come from fieldwork, both in Europe (Spain) and in colonial contexts (Ethiopia and Somaliland).Walid Sadek (Chair of the Department of Fine Arts and Art History, American University of Beirut)
The Ruin to Come
In this talk I wish to conceptualize the term Ruin for those who have lived through social and political strife and are reluctant to heed the call for rejoining normative living. By thinking through and redrawing the terms of pre-Islamic poetry, Ruin is placed ahead and not underneath, as a place to poeticize and move towards, a livable place for those who prefer not to shed the cumbersome knowledge gathered during strife.Moderated by JELENA VESIĆ
Processes of Unearthing
In rethinking knowledge production and maintenance through landscapes and spatiality – based on the idea that entanglements of ethnic labels, colonization and institutionalization of colonial ideologies, political-economic organizations of land use, and exploitative labor practices are (en)acted upon the soil – scattered sites can be seen to connect, through processes of dismantling and reconfiguring, that which was previously discarded and made to disappear. Situated in the production and activation of knowledge, this research considers how engaging the living material can initiate constructive processes of inclusion into the future, in lieu of (memorialization) practices, which continue to exclude.
“Indian Country,” Los Angeles
At scorching temperatures, soil activity in Los Angeles is altered through the Indigenous peoples’ burning of land and yet again when such burning is criminalized. In the aftermath of a fire, or wildfire, and during the gradual process of soil degradation, the soil maintains a record, both of itself and of the Indigenous peoples. And it can be unpacked: through wildfire; exploited (labor of) prison inmates fighting the wildfires; encroachment onto land; violence of landownership, land acts, and land seizure; and the aggressive dispersing of Indigenous peoples until they are made invisible. Action and inaction on the soil become a record rather than a deterrent, enduring in their (mis)use.
Like humans, the site has many ways of embodying memory. Memory imprints itself into the cracks, seeping in, until it becomes embedded (into the soil) and composes the site. But unlike humans, if soil perpetually and precisely participates in the production of processes – with different means of recording – then in which ways can unearthing become a strategy, where living material is both a critical resource (in processes of remembrance) and a practice in itself?Bassam El Baroni (assistant professor, curator, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Aalto University, Helsinki)
Desertification as Worldmaking
Prompted by novelist Ibrahim al-Koni’s project to develop a philosophy that emerges from the space-time of the desert, the talk draws on ‘desert’ as both a site/space and a concept. The novel can be understood as an intrinsically urban phenomenon. Its time and reliance on cognitive patterns and biases afforded by the relationality of urban life, place it squarely within an urban framework. al-Koni’s oeuvre examines time, space, and place in the absence of such relationality.
Unlike urban space, cosmic/astronomic indicators provide the only mapping possibilities for moving in desert space. This cosmic entwinement as well as how the desert enforces a paradigm of thinking and encountering the world that challenges empiricism, points to the desert as providing the Archē-Site from which the speculative philosophical tools of today have emerged. A project of investigative memorialization, premised on the demands of this site, traverses patterns of knowledge that interface science with sorcery, truth with fiction, rationality with delirium, and life with death.
Is the desert cut from the fabric of the world, or is the world cut from that of the desert? While the former might be the more popular conception, the latter provides us with an orientation that can activate fresh processes of revision and invention. For al-Koni, the desert is an “instrument of insight” that can draw out the invisible world. al-Koni thus makes a claim on the desert that identifies it as a catalyst for worldmaking.
This research-in-progress also considers how the desert has been utilized as a site for art, art festivals, memorials and "space analogues". In many of these projects, the desert is largely a non-urban 3D canvas for artworks, apparatuses of remembrance, or future scenario experiments that have not fully potentialized it as an instrument of insight. Hence, the currently contested terminology of Desertification is repurposed to reweight and recompose the world, desert-first, as a transdisciplinary exercise in worldmaking.Charlotte Malterre-Barthes (architect, urbanist, Institute for Urban Design, Department of Architecture, ETHZ, Zurich)
Arable Lands, Lost Lands: Tenure, Food, and Urbanization in Egypt
There is only a certain amount of fertile land in the world available to feed us (48 million square kilometers). While there are several reasons why agrarian land is lost – desertification, degradation, transport infrastructure, increased feed, fiber and fuel production – the competition between urbanization and food production is particularly salient to the profession of architecture and planning. Every year, one thousand square kilometers of agriculture and natural land are converted to build artificial areas in the European Union. According to World Bank data, agricultural land surface increased from 36% of the total land area to 39.5% in 1989, and then drastically plummeted to 37.5% following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Pressure on land use is continuous. With the rising demands of urbanization, food, and fuels, urban growth subsumes and consumes agrarian land. Cairo is an illustrative case study of these manifestations, illuminating complementary aspects of the relationship between land tenure, agriculture, and urbanization. During the feudal nineteenth century, until the end of the British occupation in 1952, large agricultural estates emerged with the reform of irrigation systems and the disciplining of the farming population. It is only after the 1952 revolution and the following two decades of Gamal Nasser’s socialist rule that a series of important land reforms were implemented, only to be revised and reversed by western-oriented Anwar Sadat’s Al-Infitah doctrine, a liberalization that inaugurated aggressive neoliberal policies, resulting in market-led agrarian reforms that encouraged large scale agribusiness while dispossessing smallholders and tenant farmers of their lands. In the post-2011 revolution phase, the government of Mohamed Morsi pursued his predecessors’ economic guidelines mixed with Quranic recommendations. The current period, under the presidency of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, is marked by the reassertion of military power over internal affairs, the enduring capitalization of large-scale agriculture, the neglect of the rural population, and the acceleration of farmland lost to urbanization. This chronicle records the land taken from Egypt by colonial forces, from Egyptian wealthy landlords by the new ruling class and peasants, and from peasants by urbanization, investigating colonial legal tools, land tenure reforms and other licit frameworks to uncover how agrarian land – indissociable from the value of its soil – is one of the most powerful biopolitical tools for social and political control in relation to overpopulation, nutrition and class.Moderated by PHILIPP SATTLER
Radio Ghetto Relay: Resisting the Gangmaster System
The video Radio Ghetto Relay (2016) was developed through a ‘remote collaboration’ with Radio Ghetto, Voci Libere (Radio Ghetto, Free Voices), a pirate radio managed by the exploited tomato pickers living at the Gran Ghetto in Rignano (Apulia, Italy). Until its closure in March 2017, Gran Ghetto was the largest shanty town in Italy, housing up to 2,500 migrant workers, mostly coming from Sub-Saharan Africa. The tomato – a non-native species – has become a symbol of Italian food and a substantial export. Yet, its production relies on the gangmaster system, a widespread form of modern day slavery that has been on the rise within the Global North. Within this system, economic migrants and asylum seekers are exploited through violence, coercion, dehumanisation and are confined to illegality. In contrast to to Italian harvesters, African, South Asian and Eastern European harvesters are often beaten, paid less and can incur serious harm if they attempt to leave.
Radio broadcasting allowed the migrant workers residing at the Gran Ghetto to share their experiences of exploitation, discussing the inhumane living conditions that they were subjected to, exposing their struggles and warning other migrants. Building on the harvesters’ desire not to be photographed or filmed, Radio Ghetto Relay avoids a mimetic visual representation in order to concentrate on the radio recordings, relaying the broadcasts through transcription and translation. Through the use of Google Earth and Street View images, the video scans the rural landscape of Southern Italy looking for traces of their presence: as a result, they get materialised as glitches onto the soil to which they are bound – and which attempts to isolate and erase them. Video extracts will be used as triggers to unpack the Italian gangmaster system (and the racism and politics at its core) and the strategies of resistance deployed by the disenfranchised harvesters.Doplgenger (artist duo, Belgrade)
Beneath a Starless Sky, As Dark and Thick As Ink
In this cinematic lecture-performance, Doplgenger intervenes into footage of Yugoslav television that recorded the processes of Yugoslav labor migration to the Western European countries in the 1960s and the export of Yugoslav technology to the Non-Aligned Countries in the early 1970s. Different approaches in media representation of these processes reveals various subtexts, aiding an understanding of the wider economical, historical and ideological context.Anne Historical (Bettina Malcomess) (artist, writer Anne Historical)
Auto-Ignition (Celluloid as Dust, as Ash in the Colonial Archive)
During the South African War (1899-1901), a batch of film reels were intercepted by a Boer general, removed from their casings, and left strewn across the veld to burn in the sun. I begin from this image of nitrocellulose film stock turning to smoke, then into fine, ashen dust, and ultimately soil. This performance-lecture is based on my research into the entanglement of colonial film-making with an emerging filmic and military imagination, defined by two distinct historical moments: the South African War and British imperial propaganda films made in the lead up to World War II. This research tracks the production of a mobile colonial imagination of space and time in a study of pre-filmic technologies: the telegraph, heliograph, phonograph, aerial photograph, cartographic projection and 35mm nitrate film. What I show is that a 3-dimensional picture of space-time is made possible by technologies of inscription and transmission that operate at the level of the grain, multiply inscribing the soil through the molecular, crystalline, cellular and celluloid. In the films, ‘land, sea, air’ merge as a singular materiality tied to the notion of a 'field' that can be acted on. I invoke the idea of the grain and granularity in relation to soil, technology and colonial extraction as a poetics through which to consider filmic inscriptions of whiteness, land and race. I take you on this journey by reconstructing a series of lost films, with the film returned to nitrate, ash and soil, in order to read the histories of violence within (not against) the grain.Moderated by ÖVÜL Ö. DURMUSOGLU
CITY, LAND, IMAGE
Wars and Capital
In my intervention, I rearticulate the main thesis of Wars and Capital (coauthored with Maurizio Lazzarato, 2016/2018), drawing on the critical trajectory we performed within and against the five ‘Ur-books’ I recommended for the library conference.
Contra Agamben, I argue that what operates “almost without interruption from World War One, through fascism and National Socialism up to our own era” is less the State of exception than the continuous creation of the war machine of capital, of which the ‘state of emergency’ is only one possible apparatus (dispositif). Within and beyond Foucault, critically deconstructing the ‘liberal’ sequence leading the French philosopher from Society Must Be Defended (1976) to The Birth of Biopolitics (1979), I deploy the question of the ‘governance’ of the war machine of capital to show, after Carl Schmitt, the colonial origin and horizon of the ‘war amongst the population.’ Finally, to move the discussion towards the current postcolonial and feminist perspectives, I briefly problematize the Deleuzo-Guattarian line of argument in A Thousand Plateaus (1980) that seems to offer the subjectivations of the "revolutionary becomings" as the only political issue of relevance coming from their analysis of the ‘war machine.’
Aufzeigend, dass das nahezu ununterbrochen Operierende – vom Ersten Weltkrieg über Faschismus und Nationalsozialismus bis hin zu unserer eigenen Epoche – die kontinuierliche Schaffung der Kriegsmaschine des Kapitals ist, bewegt sich Eric Alliez hin zu aktuellen postkolonialen und feministischen Perspektiven, wobei er die von Deleuze und Guattari in Tausend Plateaus aufgestellte Argumentationslinie in Frage stellt, die die Subjektivierung des „revolutionären Werdens“ – abgeleitet aus ihrer Analyse der „Kriegsmaschine“ – als einzige politisch relevante Frage anzubieten scheint.Andrew Herscher (Associate Professor of Architecture, University of Michigan)
Settler Colonial Urbanism: From Waawiyaataanong to Detroit at Little Caesars Arena
In the summer of 2017, a 45-block development near downtown Detroit named “The District” opened for business. Anchored by Little Caesars Arena, a new stadium for Detroit’s professional hockey and basketball teams, The District is the largest outcome of the destruction of the multi-racial and working-class Cass Corridor neighborhood and its reformulation as “Midtown,” a spatial product qua neighborhood for the creative class professionals that the corporate interests, foundations, and municipal officials attempting to shape Detroit see as vital to the city’s contemporary redevelopment. Little Caesars Arena includes the “1701 Pub,” named for the year when French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac established a trading post and fort at the place where the city of Detroit would subsequently develop – a place known as Waawiyaataanong to the Anishinaabeg people who inhabited, traversed, and sustained it. Exploring the history referred to by the 1701 Pub, I pose the urbanism that yielded the pub, and the complex of buildings it is part of, as an iteration of ongoing settler colonialism – a process of conjoined unsettlement, settlement, and resettlement that has structured urban development in Detroit from the city's colonial origins to the present. In so doing, I assay the purchase of settler colonialism on contemporary architectural and urban theory.Ana Peraica (Visiting scholar, Danube University Krems / visiting lecturer, Central European University (CEU) in Budapest)
Seeding Trauma to No One: Post-photography and the Image of Death
Whereas landscape was often debated as either having a capacity to memorialize a trauma (Schama 1995) or having a capacity to reconcile it (Mitchell 1994), the power of the photographic image to memorialize (Bachen 2004) was never called into question. There was an early recognition of photography’s role in transmitting personal (Barthes 1980) and social (Sontag 1977) traumas, being tightly connected to death (Bazin 1960). Still, today we are facing a new form of traumatic image, one that does not come after trauma but before, produced by pre-traumatic stress.
Contemporary image culture is almost fully saturated with images of death (Mulvey 2006) and dissection (Klaver 2012). Such imagery also influences ways of living, such as in travel culture, where it promotes visits to memorials, graveyards, battlefields and concentration camps, which we today recognize as a specific type of tourism: “dark tourism” (Sharpley and Stone 2009). Themes of death have been especially revived in these times marked by an awareness of the Anthropocene (Scranton 2015), i.e., times of realization of the scope of ecological catastrophe, often evoking the possibility of the end of life on the planet in toto.
But would the end of life on the planet mean the end of death in image culture? It would seem not, as satellites would continue recording even after the end of life on the planet (Zylinska 2016). However, in contrast to the reception of death of millions at the end of World War II, there will be no observer and no audience of such images.
This presentation puts establishes a relationship between photographs of World War II (made by its villains, survivors, and heroes) and the predominant images of death and dissection in the context of dominant visuals in the post-Anthropocene.Moderated by DUBRAVKA SEKULIĆ
(Sub)Terrestrial Entanglements: Histories of Political Violence and Technoscientific Expertise in Amed
This talk explores the terrestrial and subterrestrial histories of political violence in Amed (officially: Diyarbakır), the largest city in Turkey’s Kurdistan. It offers an ethnographic account of how these histories inform and are informed by notions of technoscientific expertise and the expert’s subjectivity bearing upon ecological activism against crop devaluation, sand quarrying and groundwater privatization in and around the part of Tigris valley that skirts the city’s historic center. A few months after its ancient walls were listed as UNESCO World Heritage in July 2015, Amed’s historic center saw war flare up between pro-Kurdish guerrilla and state forces. Once the fighting ceased, the government expropriated 80% of the historic center while also replacing the city’s elected pro-Kurdish mayors with centrally appointed ones. Throughout these years, construction activity in the city continued unabated, causing a boom in quarrying the riverbank for sand and opening agricultural lands to speculative development. More recently, as Turkey’s construction- sector-driven economy went into recession, sand quarries have been turned into groundwater extraction sites while crops have progressively devalued.
The ecological activists campaigning against these developments, many of whom identify as experts due to their professional affiliation as agricultural and geological engineers, are noteworthy for their ambivalence towards expertise. Previous waves of activism in the region may have understood such ecological damage as that affecting the Tigris valley as merely an extension of the state’s war against pro-Kurdish political movements. But, for the activist-experts discussed in this talk, recent and ongoing developments in the valley ought to be seen as part of a much longer history of prosecution among whose casualties they count expertise itself. This, according to them, is a history that includes the Armenian genocide of 1915-16, by which the activist-experts feel implicated as successors of those whose subject position vis-à-vis violence was not one of victimhood but rather ranged between complicit bystander and active perpetrator. It, moreover, is a history that includes the recent tenure of Amed’s pro-Kurdish mayors under whom several of the activists served as municipal officers and some of whom endorsed speculative development. If recent materially and spatially focused analyses of violence have decisively re-politicized the figure of the expert, this has largely been premised on the assumption that the mutual impact between violence and subjectivity is reducible to clear-cut notions of guilt and innocence whereby expertise is associated either with the design and operation of violent infrastructures or with acts of pro-victim activism and advocacy. The talk argues that these strict associations are complicated by Amed’s activist-experts for whom expertise is an object of loss and desire rather than just one of resentment and guilt or gratitude and pride.Virginia Black (architect, indigenous rights advocate, f-architecture)
iyarisha chagrai in the garden, i may remember
The soils that support the birthing facility run by AMUPAKIN (Asociación de Mujeres Parteras Kichwa de Alto Napo) have been conditioned by centuries of intentional planting toward memorialization. Developed with AMUPAKIN and anthropologist Georgia Ennis, the drawings that constitute Iyarisha Chagrai (“In the Garden, I May Remember”) represent these processes and historicity in an interactive, digital form. Iyarisha Chagrai uses hypermedia representation to situate women’s rituals of knowledge production within the field of architecture and design. By drawing the relationships between women, plants, time and memory, the documentation methodology assists in building literacy toward interpretations of the rainforest as a cultural and historical landscape, re-visioning Western conceptualizations of the Ecuadorian Amazon as a constructed space rather than a homogenous, self-determined and un-intervened natural space.
Against a Euro-centric approach to the monument and the colonial understanding of the forest, my project centers the cultivating labors of Kichwa women as design action, ritual practice, and cross-species collaboration. For centuries, Westerners’ inability to read the forest as a complex environment has hastened its destruction by development practices and extractive industries. The care and propagation of manioc plants (seen as children developing in parallel to the woman’s body) is part of a memory-practice that affirms the chagra as both a heritage-landscape and a subsistence garden. The figuration of women in the gardens of knowledge production redefines stereotypical depictions of the position and image of the indigenous women as bodies to be managed, locating them instead as the arbiters of space and oral histories.
As a project concerned with representation beyond the plan, Iyarisha Chagrai draws upon new disciplinary approaches – including those developed by ethnobotanists, historical ecologists, oral historians, and visual ethnographers – that have facilitated the re-telling of the territory as a space long-developed by human practices. It additionally incorporates the Kichwa language (spoken and written) and indigenous ontology into the conceptual and descriptive approaches to representation.Seçil Binboğa (PhD fellow, Department of Architecture, University of Michigan)
Experimental Nature: 'Saccharum Spontaneum', the Mediterranean, and the Soils of Turkey
Plantations were spatial archetypes where the DNA of soil was modified along with that of crops and made into unique forms of knowledge such as soil maps, crop samples, botanical manuals, and cultivation techniques. The archival evidence that constitutes the backbone of this paper demonstrates geographical dissemination of these forms of knowledge by means of an expanding sphere of agricultural expertise, in this case, stretching from sugar plantations of the Netherlands East Indies and cotton plantations of the American Great Plains to the expansive coastal fields of Asia Minor. In particular, I choose the failed project of sugar cane cultivation – a series of state-sponsored experiments extensively conducted from 1939 to 1945 in Çukurova (a southeastern Mediterranean region of contemporary Turkey) – as an entry point to explore the changing meanings bundled around “soil” (toprak in Turkish) in an effort to understand how various actors including scientists, politicians, peasants, and engineers contributed to the transformation of national territory into what I will call experimental nature.
At the heart of my inquiry lies a desire to unearth the mechanisms of a specific form of data collection and knowledge production: cartographic-taxonomic surveys. By exploring the historical relations between four specific surveys, conducted by sugar technologist Cornelis van Dillewijn (1939), soil specialist Willem van Liere (1947), agronomist Leo Placide Hebert (1952), and soil specialist Harvey Oakes (1952–1954), I aim to discern the lineaments of an alternative history of nature stratified in the soils of Turkey. The two initial surveys indicate how soil became evidence for rendering land visible, legible, and measurable for future agricultural experiments. The two subsequent surveys explain how and why the sugar cane experiments failed in the politically and financially conflictual context of Turkey in the 1950s out of which land emerged simultaneously as a “fictitious commodity” and “natural resource.” My goal is to rethink these entwined conceptions of land as instantiations of an experimental nature undergoing continual construction.Moderated by ÖVÜL Ö. DURMUSOGLU
The Body of the Seed: Archivization, Memorialization and Ambivalence between More-than-Human Lifeworlds
If, as is the starting point of this conference, soil is to be understood as a living archive or palimpsest of historical traces and memories, and as a beholder of ‘performative agency’ and ‘vibrancy’, how are we to conceive of the bodies of the seeds that both populate the soil and move through various infrastructures of circulation, preservation, banking and improvement? Central here is the entanglement between human and more-than-human bodies and the murkiness of the nature/culture binary. The body of the seed can be regarded not simply as a passive vehicle containing genetic information, but as a site of animated ‘liveliness’ – as biological matter through which varying layers of power, desire and knowledge coalesce, and as part of a broader understanding of nature as expressive. In other words, the seed itself – in addition to its containing infrastructures – can be considered a ‘bio-social archive’. Moreover, in its entanglement with other living organisms (human or more-than-human), it can be read as ‘archive-as-subject’ rather than merely ‘archive-as-source’ – as a site of knowledge production rather than simply knowledge retrieval (Stoler 2002, 2009). In considering the body of the seed as archive, my reading moves between deconstruction (Derrida), feminist new materialisms (e.g., Barad) and feminist-indigenous-interspecies critique of genetic archiving (Tallbear). Turning to (indigenous) more-than-human life-worlds and the place of the vegetal therein, I look to productive moments of secrecy, untranslatability and undecidability (‘stubborn remainders’), strategic or otherwise, that resist hegemonic systems of the capturing (and hence policing and banking) of life.
If seed saving is a practice of (agri/cultural) heritage, in what ways can various forms of seed archiving also be understood as memorialization? Through a reading of artistic works by Jumana Manna, Maria Thereza Alves, and Amar Kanwar, I explore some of the productive paradoxes of the notion of an ‘investigative memorialization’, specifically through the prism of seeds. As with testimony theory, what is at stake and ambivalently combined here is a crucial divergence of approaches: on the one hand, the investigative as a quest for the empirical, positivist or forensic as evidentiary; on the other, memorialization as an embrace of the poetic, the excessive or unfathomable, at the limits of the intelligible or representable. Must a choice be made between the two? Here I affirm artistic practice as providing a space in which the tensions and différends between the two might be productively negotiated.Rui Gomes Coelho (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown University, USA)
The Archaeologist Adrift
As an archaeologist of slavery and other forms of unfreedom, I am expected to look at sites and regions and then compare them. But what if I set myself adrift and circulate through and around them? And what if I start that journey from where it was supposed to end? Slavery is the mode of production that allowed the formation of the modern world-system; it is an institution that has been constitutive of modernity. To persevere and be legitimized in the eyes of an increasingly liberal Western society, slavery gradually became a holistic institution in parallel to other institutions, and one that sought to create self-disciplined bodies in the modern society, such as the factory (industrialized labor), the prison (the enslavement of workers), and the school (ideological production of citizens). In this sense, the progressive abolition of slavery in most of the Atlantic world was a step that marked the emergence of a new group of individuals, nominally free but bounded to work and subjected to the discipline of modernity. The experiences of factory workers, landless peasants and forced laborers collapsed into a new form of subjectivity, often racialized and flattened by the former institution of slavery. I argue that the transition between different forms of subjugation in liberal modernity is materialized in landscapes. The architecture of masters’ houses and the pathways that led enslaved workers to the fields are still out there, enforcing the psychogeography of a perpetual transition. More importantly, the contours of the latifundia that consumed the labor of thousands throughout history continue to haunt us across time and space. The coffee plantations of Brazil have been replaced by cattle ranches and the wheat fields of southern Portugal are now being replaced by endless olive groves. Land inequality, the cadence of the labor routines and the destructive appropriation of resources continue to be reproduced and can be recognized on both sides of the Atlantic. Drawing from Situationist International discussions on the material constraints of modernity, I will show how archaeology has the power to navigate the landscapes of unfree labor and make sense of its legacies in the contemporary. By giving up the localness that we archaeologists usually take for granted, I will focus on my own experience as someone who was born in a family of landless peasants of Alentejo, Portugal, who then went on to study slavery in the Paraíba Valley of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and journeyed back to confront the unfinished emancipation.Karin Reisinger (architect, TU Vienna)
Soiling Conflict and Commodification: Whose Collaborative Practice of (Un)Building?
This proposal examines soil as active agent of building and unbuilding landscapes and potentials in alliance with worms, roots, rodents and even humans. These allied, predominantly non-human actors will be shown with two different qualities of making exceptions to growing crops: preservation and commodification of the soil. National parks with memories of conflict show soils as actors, covering memories and transforming areas of conflicts into zones of life, preservation of species and scientific laboratories, burying conflictual memories and making them accessible to non-human inhabitants. In mining areas soil acts to level the ground after human agencies of exploitation have mobilized it to commodify the stone underneath. Plants produce new stability for human and non-human creatures to reinhabit the ground. However, stability cannot always be recreated, and instead catastrophic events can happen when soil becomes unstable.
In both the cases, the work of the soil as opposed to soiling is one of reconstruction and repair, but also of covering and hiding, and shows diverse characteristics of vivid materialities and complex non-human relationships. The empirical findings will be understood through theoretical backgrounds of feminist new materialism and posthuman feminism. Looking at the agency of soil is troublesome, and yet we need an affirmative politics (Rosi Braidotti) and a diversification of the Anthropocene, especially while considering “submerged perspectives” (Macarena Gómez-Baris) within an intersectional feminist approach that asks how we are differently entangled in the labor of soil.Moderated by JELENA VESIĆ
Meteorisations: Reading Amílcar Cabral’s Agro-Poetics of Liberation
This contribution focuses on Amílcar Cabral’s much under-studied early soil science as a body of work not dissociable from his project of liberation struggle against Portuguese colonialism in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. Drawing on research situated within artistic practice, the article explores the definitions of soil and erosion that Cabral developed as an agronomist, as well as his reports on colonial land exploitation and analysis of the trade economy, to unearth his double agency as a state soil scientist and as a ‘seeder’ of African liberation. Cabral understood agronomy not merely as a discipline combining geology, soil science, agriculture, biology and economics but as a means to gain materialist and situated knowledge about peoples’ lived conditions under colonialism. The scientific data he generated during his work as an agronomist were critical to his theoretical arguments in which he denounced the injustices perpetrated on colonised land, and it later informed his warfare strategies. Cabral used his role as an agronomist for the Portuguese colonial government subversively to further anti-colonial struggle. I argue that the results of Cabral’s agronomic work – his care for the soil and attention to its processes and transformations – not only informed the organization of the liberation struggle, but were also crucial to the process of decolonisation, understood as a project of reclamation and national reconstruction in the postcolony.
RUI GOMES COELHO
- Special guest
- FRANZ TRAMPUSCH
Moderated by ÖVÜL Ö. DURMUSOGLU, DUBRAVKA SEKULIĆ, JELENA VESIĆ and PHILIPP SATTLER