Liquidity, Flows, Circulation: The Cultural Logic of Environmentalization
Dec 10-11, 2020 & Apr 22-23, 2021| Leuphana University Lüneburg



Ursula Biemann, Martin Doll, Katerina Genidogan, Rahma Khazam, Sebastian Kirsch, Esther Leslie, Annie McClanahan, Maryse Ouellet, Malte Rauch, Hannah Schmedes, Yannick Schütte, Christian Schwinghammer, Jacob Soule, Yvonne Volkart, Beny Wagner, and Stefan Yong

with the participation of

Migle Bareikyte, Anne Breimaier, Jakob Claus, Lisa Conrad, Erich Hörl, Kassandra Nakas, and Ana Teixeira Pinto

PART 2 – APRIL 2021

Thursday April, 22


16:00 - 17:15 CET


The Cultural Logic of Environmentalization

With Annie McClanahan, Mathias Denecke and Holger Kuhn, response by Milan Stürmer.

The first panel draws connections to the December event and continues the quest for historical and contemporary figurations of flows and liquidity.

Introduction and Wrap-Up (Mathias Denecke, Holger Kuhn)

The first talk will summarize the contributions and discussions from first part of the workshop in December 2020 and reflect on the notion of a cultural logic of environmentalization.

Essential Workers: Gigwork, Microwork, and the Sweated Labor of Logistics (Annie McClanahan)

This talk begins by thinking about the relationship between two eras of “sweated labor”: the early-nineteenth century and the early-twenty-first, both periods on the cusp of massive shifts in industrial automation, and both periods marked by labor informalization. Nineteenth-century “sweated” production labor allowed manufacturers to expand work and output without investing in buildings and machines, as unskilled workers, mostly women and children, did unskilled work for piece-rate wages in their own kitchens, decentralizing the industrial workforce and preventing collective labor unrest. Twenty-first century sweated labor, by contrast, is done by stockers, packers, and delivery drivers forced into nearly machinic levels of work speed-up; denied workforce protections and collective bargaining; self-harrying frantically from store to car to delivery point and back again. Much as the nineteenth century “outworkers” were driven by the lash of piece-rate wages, today’s sweated “essential workers” often labor for tips or other informal wage forms. This talk takes the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to think about how we might map or imagine these regimes of sweated social provisioning, the sites where value is not made (as it is in the “hidden abode of production”) but rather where it circulates.

Annie McClanahan is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine. Her research focuses on Contemporary American literature and culture, economic thought and history, Marxist theory and the theory of the novel.


18:00 - 19:15 CET


Capturing Liquid Forms

With Esther Leslie and Beny Wagner, response by Kassandra Nakas. Chair: Milan Stürmer.

From instagrammable coffee foam and foggy smart networks to Eisenstein’s concept of plasmaticness and the fluidity of form in early animated cartoons.

Adrift on a Froth of Turbid Currents: Economy, Ecology and Smart Technology (Esther Leslie) 

Fogs, froths and foams are part of a turbulent world, with frenetic industrial activity and after-effects, in a context of global warming. Foams and froths drift into daily lives as pollution, but also as desirable – instagrammable – commodities. Coffee foam and froth is symbol and fuel of today’s economy: the networker with a microfoam-topped latte, in one hand, smartphone in the other – the latter, a device linked into a fogging network or Internet of Things. These forms are liquid become dense with particles or data – turbid currents. How do they press into consciousness, as matter we encounter, but also as vaguenesses that suffuse our lives? Is there a nexus between the world of noxious fogs and foamsand the local ones that power, as well as symbolise, contemporary life? How do these turbulent forces impact on environments, social and cultural life, and also language? What are the technical and imaginative capacities of fog, froth and foam? What does their presence in various forms make possible, politically, socially and in terms of the adaptation of our imaginations? Furthermore, in what ways do these turbid currents in multiple registers produce, direct, inflate, extend economic action – and how is this perceivable – as our fogging networks of smartware merge, indistinctly, with the foggy perceptions of an obscured abode of contemporary capitalist production.

Esther Leslie is Professor in Political Aesthetics and Co-director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities. She has research interests in Marxist theories of aesthetics and culture, with a particular focus on the work of Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno. Other research interests include the poetics of science, the bleeding edge of technologies, European literary and visual modernism and avant gardes, animation, colour and madness, art philosophy and politics. Her books are Walter Benjamin: Overpowering Conformism (Pluto 2000), and Hollywood Flatlands, Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant Garde (Verso 2002), Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry (Reaktion, 2005) and Walter Benjamin (Reaktion 2007), Derelicts: Thought Worms from the Wreckage (Unkant, 2014), Liquid Crystals: The Science and Art of a Fluid Form (Reaktion, 2016) and, with Melanie Jackson, Deeper in the Pyramid (Banner Repeater, 2018).

Her translations include Georg Lukacs, A Defence of ‘History and Class Consciousness (Verso 2002) and Walter Benjamin: The Archives (Verso, 2007), On Photography (Reaktion, 2015) and, with Sam Dolbear and Sebastian Truskolaski, Walter Benjamin The Storyteller: Tales out of Loneliness, (Verso, 2016).

Becoming Plasmatic: From Cells to Cel Animation (Beny Wagner)

My paper charts a historical shift in the visual culture of flow and circulation in the first half of the twentieth century by examining Sergei Eisenstein’s concept of plasmaticness in relation to early microcinematography. In On Disney (1986 [1941-44]), Eisenstein developed this concept in response to what he saw as Walt Disney’s achievement of conjuring life’s pure essence onto the screen: plasmaticness “behaves like the primal protoplasm, not yet possessing a stable form, but capable of assuming any form” (Eisenstein 1986: 32). I will explore Eisenstein’s equation of fluidity with liberation as indicative of a historical crossroads during which the interwoven forces of capital, technology and science were becoming liquid. The fluidity of form identified in early animated cartoons was also a major concern in early scientific moving images, nowhere more evident than in microcinematographic films. Reading animation through microcinematography, my paper will sketch an emergent set of relations between body, technology, and environment, in which spectators were summoned to escape the confines of their limiting subjectivities and “become more like blood: fluid, pervasive, and unfixed from a locale” (Cartwright 1995: 82). By exploring plasmaticness in relation to the pervasive liquidity of contemporary power structures, I aim to draw a series of conceptual and artistic strategies in the context of circulation in the Anthropocene.

Beny Wagner is an artist, filmmaker, researcher and lecturer. His work across different media unfolds along the ever shifting boundaries of the human body. He has researched topics such as the history of metabolism, agricultural production, the politics of waste, histories of monsters. He has presented films, exhibitions and lectures globally: Berlinale, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Guanajuato Film Festival, Eye Film Museum, CAC Vilnius, Sonic Acts, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, 5th and 6th Moscow Biennale for Young Art, Berlin Atonal, Media Biennale WRO, Venice Biennale, among many others. His work has been featured in Artforum, Spike Magazine Quarterly, Frieze Magazine, Kaleidoscope Press, Flash Art, and his writing has been published by Sonic Acts Press and Valiz. Wagner is currently a PhD candidate at the Archeologies of Media Technologies research group at Winchester School of Art, Southampton University, supported by the South Southwest and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (AHRC). Wagner has been a senior lecturer at Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam since 2017. He was a researcher at Jan van Eyck Academy in 2015-6.

Kassandra Nakas is an art historian, writer and curator based in Berlin. She received her doctorate at Freie Universität Berlin and the habilitation at Leuphana University Lüneburg. She was a Guest Professor at University of Arts in Berlin and, most recently, a deputy Professor at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Karlsruhe. Currently, she teaches at the TU Braunschweig and is a member of the DFG-funded scientific network „Fluidity: Materials in motion“.

Friday April, 23


14:00 - 15:15 CET


Reasoning with and against Circulation

With Hannah Schmedes and Katerina Genidogan, response by Malte Fabian Rauch. Chair: Mathias Denecke.

How can the leak as a feminist figure of thought unravel operations of circulation, containment and its insufficiencies? And how can the documentary Before the Flood (2016) shed light on eco-governmentality, green capitalism and the logistics of turbulence?

The White Cultural Logic of Green Capitalism: Reflections on the Post-politics of the Future in Before the Flood (Katerina Genidogan)

For this presentation I will try to outline the cultural logic of green capitalism as expressed by the trend of ‘sustainable development’ that is part of a broader process of post-politicization, and elaborate on how it constitutes part and parcel of what I call logistics of global turbulence. Drawing on the imagery and the dialectics of the 2016 documentary film Before the Flood, I aim at problematizing the emergence of green idols and the overall popularization of sustainability culture that eventually succeeds through the neoliberalisation of nature, fantasies of liberal cosmopolitanism, and mechanisms of post-political governance. By concentrating on specific instances in the film, I will show how today’s white green politics of mainstream culture are intertwined with white epistemological assumptions that lead to the reduction of the future to the prediction of climate, and inevitably play a crucial role in the post-apocalyptic discourse of climate change and its material consequences at the level of eco-governmentality. The circulation of specific reasoning, I will point out eventually, disseminates fears through the contamination of the imaginary with threats for a rather dystopic future, making the future safe for the greening of the markets and the futures industry.

Katerina Genidogan is a doctoral candidate within the Research Training Group ‘Cultures of Critique’ at Leuphana University of Lüneburg in Germany, where she is working on her dissertation under the title “Chronobiopolitics, Postcolonial Governmentality and Whiteness on Global Scale,” a researcher at Nubuke Foundation in Ghana and a member of the collective Partial Versions. She has completed a BA in Business Administration with major in Financial Management at AUEB (Athens University of Economics & Business), a Graduate Diploma in Contemporary Art History and a MRes in Curatorial/Knowledge within the Visual Cultures Department at Goldsmiths University of London. For the winter semester 2020-21 she will be teaching “Chronobiopolitics” as part of the Complementary Studies at Leuphana Univeristy. 

Leaky Infrastructures – Figures of containment and leakage in feminist thought (Hannah Schmedes)

“Leaks and eddies are everywhere” writes Donna Haraway in Staying With the Trouble. Indeed, leaks are omnipresent: in discourses about the female body, in closed systems sciences as the failure of flow in material infrastructures, but also in discursive constellations of knowledge production in the form of leaked documents or whistleblowing. These infrastructures are designed to maintain a background status and to become anesthetic in their intermediary function. Contrary leaks symbolize their becoming-apparent as a failure to contain. In this sense, the leak appears as a figure of knowledge that can reveal something previously enigmatic.

Following up on these forms of leakage, the notion of containment and its porosity are revisited, regarding their gendered and sexualized implications. From this point of view, I will develop a reading of the leak, which departs from this very localization of technologies of circulation and containment. In following various infrastructural lines and their porous points I will pursue Sarah Ahmed’s thesis as to whether and to what extent a “leak” can become a “lead”.

Hannah Schmedes is currently finishing her Master’s in European Media Sciences at the University of Potsdam. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Sciences and Philosophy by the Leuphana University of Lüneburg, with a thesis on Donna Haraway’s Cyborg. She is part of the theory collective texture, where she currently runs a feminist writing workshop that deals with Wikipedia’s publishing and interface policies.


16:00 - 17:15 CET


Historical Politics of Circulation

With Martin Doll and Sebastian Kirsch, response by Maryse Ouellet. Chair: Migle Bareikyte.

From utopias of perfectly regulated circulation to the drama of flows around 1900 – What we can learn from history about our contemporary technological condition.

“Where the sun does not come, there the doctor comes”: Naturalism as Scenic Ecology (Sebastian Kirsch)

The paper tries a re-reading of naturalist drama, portraying it as a genuine reaction to contemporaneous environmentalization processes and thus to phenomena of liquefaction that were experienced as a “slow disappearance of matter around 1900” (Christoph Asendorf). First, the focus will be on naturalism‘s pronounced reference to the sun, i.e. its strong “solar orientation” (Juliane Vogel) as we can find it particularly in Gerhart Hauptmann (“Before Sunrise”, “Before Sunset”, “Helios”…). Not only does naturalist drama expose lighting effects which – due to electrification and thus to new possibilities of “artificial” sunlight – no longer follow a chronological arc. Since it strengthens the milieu-forming powers of lighting, it also portrays patchworks of social groupings defined by diverse lighting conditions.

Against this background, the second step is to show that naturalism generally captures a historical superimposition of a classical „solar order“ by a governmentality that seeks to regulate a multitude of flows. This applies not only to the biopolitical administration of modern masses emerging around 1900, i.e. to topics like alcoholism, epidemics, inheritability and eugenics. Rather, naturalist drama is a drama of flows in an even more comprehensive sense: for example with its “discovery” of dialect as an organizing force of language flows, or its thematization of political solidarities as a connecting element of social currents.

Sebastian Kirsch is a German theatre scholar who was last affiliated as a Feodor Lynen research fellow to the Department of German Studies at NYU. Having worked particularly on the history of the baroque theatre and of the ancient chorus, he holds his PhD (“Das Reale der Perspektive”, 2011, publ. 2013) and his habilitation (“Chor-Denken. Sorge, Wahrheit, Technik”, 2018, publ. 2020) from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Kirsch also had research positions at the universities of Vienna and Düsseldorf.
Next to his academic work he worked as an editor and regular author for the German theatre magazin “Theater der Zeit” (2007-2013) and has been cooperating as a dramaturg with directors and performers Johannes M. Schmit and Hans-Peter Litscher.


Utopias of Flow and Circulation in the 19th Century. A Media Archeology on the “Pile of Debris” of History (Martin Doll)

The saddle period between 1750 and 1850 became a standing term for a new “orientation of the present towards the future” (Gumbrecht on Koselleck). Whereas in pre-modern times the grievances had been accepted as God-given, i.e. unchangeable, at the beginning of the 19th century they were for the first time perceived as transformable by political subjects. The future became an open space for planning action. Since Koselleck is primarily interested in the history of mentality and social as well as political semantics, he puts very much emphasis on human agency. With the epochal changes following the French Revolution, however, numerous mediatechnological and, linked to this, logistical and infrastructural innovations took place. And they were heavily entangled with socialist and liberal political movements.

My presentation is a plea for taking the relevance of these political mediatechnological ensembles seriously. I will refer to exemplary utopias and communist policy objectives to elaborate on the political interrelations between humans and media technology in the 19th century: from Charles Fourier’s Phalanstère architecture to Marx’ and Engels’ reflections on communication technologies and Edward Bellamy’s rotocybernetic ideal state. All these examples are characterized by their reflection on 19th century capitalism and, even more important, by their emphasis on the emancipatory potential of certain forms of flow and circulation in specific milieus: Fourier’s Phalanstères aim at a constant movement of the workers/inhabitants within the building; Marx’ and Engels’ do not only analyze the circulation of mere capital, but also construe the electrical telegraph as a productive force, because it leads to an accelerated circulation of goods; last but not least in Bellamy’s ideal state everything is in a perfectly self-regulated constant flow (e.g. goods and groceries, audio entertainment, information and decision-making processes). Hence, in my presentation I will offer some thoughts on the political history of the concepts of flow and circulation. Furthermore, all these efforts to change technopolitical futures have ended on the “pile of debris” of history, speaking with Walter Benjamin. In view of the current rhetoric of “there is no alternative”, they bear important historical evidence on a different political understanding of the present – a present that was understood as an opportunity to change the future.

Martin Doll earned his Ph.D. in Media Studies in Frankfurt/M. with a thesis on forgeries and hoaxes (published as Fälschung und Fake. Zur diskurskritischen Dimension des Täuschens, 2012 and 20152). After two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the ICI Berlin, he was an Assistant Professor in the research project ‘Aesthetical Figurations of the Political’ in Luxemburg. Currently, he is Junior Professor for Media and Cultural Studies at the Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf. He has co-edited several volumes in the book series ‘Texte zur politischen Ästhetik’, the most recent one on political animals (Politische Tiere. Zoologie des Kollektiven). He has published articles and book chapters on architecture as a medium, utopias and media, politics and media. Martin Doll is currently working on a project on the technologization of politics/the politicization of technology in the 19th century. During his stays at Yale University, which was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), he established together with Paul North the ‘Yale-Düsseldorf Working Group on Philosophy and Media’.

Miglė Bareikytė is a Postdoc at the University of Siegen, Department of Media studies. In 2020 she defended her PhD thesis at the Leuphana University in Lüneburg on the topic of situated Internet infrastructure research in post-socialist Lithuania. She holds degrees in Media studies, Communication Studies, and Political Science from Free University of Berlin, Vilnius University and Vytautas Magnus University. Her current research focuses on the topics of situated algorithmic accountability, geopolitics of media, media ethnography and digital methods. Her general research interests comprise infrastructural politics, representation, and distribution of power in Europe. Miglė currently resides in Berlin.


18:00 - 19:15


Grounding Flows

With Rahma Khazam and Christian Schwinghammer, response by Jakob Claus. Chair: Holger Kuhn.

Putting scientifically inspired onto-flux into profane and fleshly contexts and exploring the binary of liquidity and regulation in contemporary art.

The Ambivalent Logic of Liquidity (Rahma Khazam)

Contemporary artworks exploring the logic of liquidity and flow reveal not only unsuspected continuities between seemingly different phenomena, but also friction and even discontinuities. Jenna Sutela’s works, for instance, remind us that the human perspective is just one among many, and that although we are entangled with our surroundings, the circulation of information can be discontinuous – regulated or even impeded by the difference in perspective of the technological and microbial systems with which we co-exist.

The friction between regulation and flow may be traced back to Zygmunt Baumann, who pinpointed the ambivalence of modern society, split between the desire for radical transformation but also for order and regulation: postmodernity, or liquid modernity as he later called it, was the expansion of modernity’s thirst for change, at the expense of its insistence on control. Pursuing this course, the logic of flow on which environmentalization is based distances itself ever further from rigid forms of control. This paper will explore the binary of liquidity and regulation, showing how it recurs in contemporary art and in the philosophical and technological discourses informing environmentalization, from new materialism through to the environmental monitoring systems described by N. Katherine Hayles in Unthought (2017): these operate autonomously, while undergoing increasingly pliable and distributed forms of control.

Rahma Khazam is a Paris-based researcher and art historian affiliated to Institut ACTE, Sorbonne Paris 1. She studied philosophy and art history and received her Ph.D. from the Sorbonne in aesthetics and art theory. Her research spans the fields of contemporaneity, modernism, the post-human, speculative realism and new materialism and has been published in edited volumes, exhibition catalogues and academic journals. She recently completed an edited volume on the work of the artist Franck Leibovici and is currently a researcher (Ingénieure de recherche) at ENSAD, Paris.


Onto-Flux? Groundings of an ever-flowing world and the question of context (Christian Schwinghammer)

In the wake of neo-materialist inflections of the ‘humanities‘, there is currently a tendency to ground reality in a state of onto-flux, as pulsating in relentless process and movement from the ground up. By bundling scientific inspiration, especially from (quantum) physics and biology, into generic concepts such as matter itself or life itself, the emphasis here is often on a preindividual ‘stream’ that continually overflows every ‘thing’ with potentialities to become otherwise. The presentation will follow such ontological imaginings in their ethico-political thrust while at the same time pursuing recent attempts to orient them to their own context sensitivity (see, e.g., Roy 2016). This is not only to suggest the need to read encompassing ontological concepts in light of concrete techno-scientific experiments, practices, and measures. It is also about contrasting the implications of a notion of reality as thoroughly flowing with what seems to lie at its conceptual margins: the layer of profane (human and non-human) existences, the connections and exposures of fleshly realities to concrete environmental conditions, impressions, and impacts. To this effect, (re-)turning to the issue of contextuality might put weight on questions of what exceeds a gesture of ontologizing flux or where a full affirmation of this ontology might deplete itself.

Christian Schwinghammer studied Political Science with a focus on Political Theory at the Free University Berlin. He is currently a PhD Student at the Research Group SENSING: The Knowledge of Sensitive Media in Potsdam (University of Potsdam, University of Applied Sciences Potsdam (FHP), Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF, ZeM – Brandenburg Centre for Media Studies). In his doctoral project, he deals with questions of alterity in the context of the recent theoretico-practical turn to the ontological premises of indeterminacy and relationality. His research interests include theories of alterity, ontology and metaphysics, media philosophy, and philosophy of technology.

Jakob Claus is a research associate at the Institute of Art and Visual Culture at Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg currently preparing his PhD. In 2020 he finished his M.A. at the Humboldt University in Berlin on epistemological layers and genealogies of the Anthropocene. His research interests focus on technology and media theory, the formation of knowledge regimes, and colonial modes of epistemological exclusion.


Thursday Dec, 10




Opening Remarks

With Mathias Denecke, Holger Kuhn and Milan Stürmer

Is there a cultural logic of environmentalization that revisits and perhaps radically revises the notion of the cultural logic of late capitalism famously described by Fredric Jameson?
It has become a truism that capital circulates, that data, populations and materials flow, that money offers liquidity. Investigating the production of these movements and states from a logistical perspective, the proposed workshop focusses on issues of endless, frictionless circulations and continuous flow to investigate their specific logic. Our assumption is that nothing circulates or flows without also being regulated. This places us within the discussions of environmentality, of regulation, modulation and control through the environment and qua processes of becoming-environmental. Focussing on concrete spaces of circulation, flow and liquidity, as well as their cultural (re)presentation, we want to discuss whether there is a cultural logic of environmentalization that revisits and perhaps radically revises the notion of the cultural logic of late capitalism famously described by Fredric Jameson.



15:00 - 16:15


Modes of Circulation

With Stefan Yong and Jacob Soule, response by Ana Teixeira Pinto. Chair: Milan Stürmer

From the logistical sublime to merely interesting affects, and from the city to exhausting urban environments.

The Sublime and the Logistical: On the Dullness of Circulation Aesthetics (Stefan Yong)

If systems of circulation are the material basis for the figural ungraspability of the capitalist world-system in its totality, then it’s no surprise that so many cultural critics, especially those committed to the project of cognitive mapping, would revive the old aesthetic category of the sublime to better comprehend our circulatory present. This presentation outlines the affordances and limits of the notion of the sublime in these theoretical projects, in order to ask what alternative aesthetic categories can deepen our understanding of the logics of circulation. I draw on Sianne Ngai’s work on marginal aesthetic categories to look beyond the sublime and argue that representations of circulatory rationality are better expressed through more easily overlooked aesthetic experiences, from the minute tedium of “stuplimity” to the muted ambivalence of the “merely interesting.” I suggest that these aesthetic categories emerge through encounters with repetitive and modular logistical forms, as affective reactions to the frictionlessness of pure process or the stumbling disappointments of imperfect circulatory closure. I argue that, precisely by virtue of their undeniable triviality, these experiences stage a thwarting or miniaturisation of sublime experience, and thereby delineate a historically specific form of cognitive mapping for an age of cultural saturation.

Stefan Yong is a PhD student in History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His current project, shaped by political economy, infrastructure studies, and Marxist literary theory, investigates the historical co-determinations of logistics and capitalist crisis.

The City Novel After the City: From Density to Circulation (Jacob Soule)

This paper will aim to put forward some general arguments from an ongoing project on the city novel in its contemporary form. Beginning with a re-reading of Raymond Williams’ The Country and the City, it will ask what happens to the idea of the city once its opposite—the country—no longer serves as its primary conceptual antagonist. I will argue that city novels in the contemporary period can no longer be read in the light of Williams’ opposition, but must be understand as interrogating the emergence of the “urban” as a distinctive third term: neither city nor country. Key to understanding this transition, I will argue, is to analyze how novelists are engaging with “the city” as a site of circulation (broadly conceived), exponentially unthinkable as a discrete spatial unit measured by population density. Indeed, a major part of my argument will be that the city novel, as a literary mode (not quite a genre), has always understood the city as a circulatory site—primarily through the construction of narrative patterns that privilege the circulation of objects, people, and money. I will end my discussion with a brief analysis of Georges Perec’s An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris (1975), interpreting it as a moment in literary history that marks a shift from circulation as an implicit concern of literary writing about the city, to an explicit one.

Jacob Soule is a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at Auburn University. In December 2019, he received his PhD from Duke University’s Program in Literature. His writing has appeared in Contemporary Literature, Alluvium, and Failed Architecture, among other venues. He is currently at work on a book project provisionally titled The City Novel After the City: Planetary Metropolis, World Literature.


17:00 - 18:15


With and Against the Flow

With Yvonne Volkart and Maryse Ouellet, response by Anne Breimaier. Chair: Mathias Denecke

Experience and Representation: Investigating aesthetic strategies of expressing relations

Technologies of Care (Yvonne Volkart)

We live in times of extreme contradictions. On the one hand, we face ubiquitous computing and datafication of the world in the hands of few, on the other, old cultural practices like (permaculture) gardening, fermentation, cooking, etc. are claimed to be alternative ways to interrupt the economy of seamless circulation. However, alternative ways do not necessarily suspend the dominant culture. On the contrary, we notice an increased interest in the use of technological means for e.g. sensing non-human forms of existence, and generating new forms of relationality and care for “the environment”. Can this widespread hope into the emphatic power of ecomedia be interpreted as a symptom of “The Cultural Logic of Environmentalization”, as proposed by the organizers? Especially if we consider the fact that they belong themselves to a ravenous infrastructure of depletion? And how does an aesthetics of flow come into play? Drawing on my ongoing research *Ecodata-Ecomedia-Ecoaesthetics* which, among other, involves artists working with environmental media and developing an aesthetics of flow, I try to show that the transversal potential of an artistic project lies in the creation of an aesthetic event which provides unexpected relations with my (more-than-human) co-beings and affects me to care for them.

Yvonne Volkart lectures art and media theory at the Academy of Art and Design FHNW Basel where she has led the Swiss National Science Foundation research project Ecodata – Ecomedia –Ecoesthetics. The Role and Significance of New Media, Technologies and Technoscientific Methods in the Arts for the Perception and Awareness of the Ecological (2017-2021). In collaboration with Sabine Himmelsbach (HeK, Basel) and Karin Ohlenschläger (LABoral, Gijon) she co-curated the exhibition and book project Eco-Visionaries. Art, Architecture and New Media After the Anthropocene (2018). Publications include her dissertation Fluide Subjekte. Anpassung und Widerspenstigkeit in der Medienkunst, Bielefeld: transcript 2006, and: “Aesthetic Strategies in the Wasteocene”, in: Aldouby, Hava (ed.): Shifting Interfaces. Presence and Relationality in New Media Arts of the Early 21st Century. Leuven University Press Leuven. Her concerns lie in the modes how aesthetics, ecology, technology, and feminism come together and bring us in relation to the world.

Toward an Aesthetics of Environmentalization: Realist Sublime in Contemporary Art (Maryse Ouellet)

This paper will examine how the climate crisis impacts contemporary visual representations of global capital. I want to confront the realist aesthetic of videos and films, including Ursula Biemann’s Deep Weather (2013), with the postmodern one theorized by Fredric Jameson. More specifically, I will focus on their respective interpretation of the category of the sublime. Jameson conceived of capitalism’s flows and systems of power has having a derealizing effect, which supposedly translated, aesthetically, in an experience of the sublime. Contemporary art, however, tends to try and anchor the transcendent power of global capitalism in the environmental context it affects. Through an analysis of the aesthetic strategies that artists use to render this reality sensible, I will demonstrate they do not simply refute the aesthetic of the sublime rightly attributed to the vast network of relations that connects local actors within the larger ecological and economical chain; rather, artists move away from the postmodern interpretation of the sublime toward a realist sublime. The transformation of the aesthetic category of the sublime, from the postmodern to the realist, will thus serve as a guide to map the emergence of a cultural logic of environmentalization.

Maryse Ouellet is a postdoctoral fellow in the department of media studies at the University of Bonn. She holds a PhD in art history from McGill University. Her research focuses on the intersection between art and philosophy as it manifests itself in the way contemporary artists reinterpret transhistorical categories such as melancholy, the sublime or realism. Her recent work has been published in Racar, Canadian Art Review and Konsthistorisk tidskrift/Journal of art History.

Anne Breimaier is an art historian, curator and educator based in Berlin. She currently works as a research assistant at the Institute of Philosophy and Sciences of Art (IPK), Chair for Contemporary Art, at Leuphana University Lüneburg, where she teaches the theory and history of contemporary art and media with a particular focus on photography, film, video and performance. Her recent work as a curator includes Ian White – Cinema as a Live Art / Becoming Object, for Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art, Berlin (2019). Her forthcoming book Hollis Frampton: ADSVMVS ABSVMVS, in memory of Hollis William Frampton, Sr., 1913–1980, abest (ed. with Matthias Gründig, Essen 2021) documents the results of an interdisciplinary project with art history and photography students leading to the exhibition of one original edition of Frampton’s series at UG im Folkwang, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany (2018).


Friday Dec, 11


15:00 - 16:15


Fluidity, Movement, and the Built Environment

With Malte Fabian Rauch and Yannick Schütte, response by Martin Doll. Chair: Lisa Conrad

Can liquid architecture be built on solid ground? Can drifting through urban space create an unsettling of architecture?

Critique de la circulation: Constant, Debord and the Design of Environments (Malte Fabian Rauch)

If one were to write a history of the “cultural logic” of liquidity and circulation, the Situationist would have to be characterized both as a critique and a symptom of the “becoming-environmental” (Hörl) of power, capital, and art. Grounded in a Marxist critique of post-war architecture and cybernetics, Debord and Constant may be among the first theorists who targeted the space of the metropolis as a restrictive field of circulation, strictly determined by the flows of capital. In opposition, they developed the vision of a generalized form of circulation through urban space that would actualize the transformative potential and revolutionary energies latent in the city. Debord and Constant theorized these dérives—unproductive drifts through the city—as experimental field work that would lay the foundations for a new architecture: an architecture that would not be concerned with settlement, but with movement—constantly changing environments that allow for permanent circulation. The aim of this talk is to highlight the relation between Situationists and cybernetics and to addresses the Situationist reception of urban ecology. Reading the Situationist project against the backdrop of this discourse, the talk will outline their janus-faced place in the history of environmentalization.

Malte Fabian Rauch is a researcher in the DFG project “Cultures of Critique” at Leuphana University in Lüneburg. He is the editor of Reiner Schürmann Essays and Lecture Notes, published by Diaphanes and Chicago University Press. In 2019, he edited a collection with essays by Reiner Schürmann, Tomorrow the Manifold: Essays on Foucault. Currently he prepares an edition with Reiner Schürmann’s lecture notes on Marx, which is scheduled to be published in the Fall. Besides his work as an editor, he has published extensively on a wide range of themes in critical theory, contemporary art and aesthetics.

Lead Fish. Architecture between fluidity and stasis. (Yannick Schütte)

In his seminal work Fish Story Allan Sekula observes the erasure of the sea’s fluidity by a new fixity of transport routes and the imposition of a terrestrial, perspectival ground plan due to the circulation of container ships. Meanwhile the land as a site of production becomes increasingly fluid itself by means of a global informational infrastructure and the flows of labour, finance and logistics. This contribution examines a parallel phase transition between solid and liquid of material and form within architecture. While traditionally associated with solid, rectangular structures of concrete and steel, contemporary architecture follows an aesthetics of curves, flows and a topological complexity that insinuates the liquefaction of forms. At the same time the advent of this new International Style is closely intertwined with the emergence and comprehensive usage of computer-aided-design (CAD) software that has been crucial for the production of spatial simultaneities. This fluid architecture of continuous variation and relationality is the actualisation of a politics and economy of flexibility, a mode of production that obscures labour conditions and power structures behind pliable surfaces. The paper explores this very tension between the aesthetics of fluidity, circulation on the one hand and the material solidity of the built environment and spatial organisation on the other.

Yannick Schütte is a MA student of European Media Studies at the University of Potsdam and works as a student assistant at the Cluster of Excellency “Matters of Activity. Image Space Material” of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. In 2018 he finished his bachelor’s degree of Cultural Sciences, Digital Media and Cultural Informatics at Leuphana Universität Lüneburg with a thesis on Susan Schuppli’s concept of the material witness. In his practice he is interested in researching interdependencies of technology, infrastructure and knowledge as well as its genealogies through the lens of epistemology, aesthetics and material culture.

Lisa Conrad is a lecturer in media, cultural and organization studies at the Institute for Sociology and Cultural Organization (ISCO) at Leuphana University of Luneburg. After finishing her studies in European Media Culture (B.A.) and Media Management (M.A.) at Bauhaus-University Weimar, Lisa worked as a research assistant at the chair of European Media Culture. Since 2009 she had a position as a research associate at the chair of Media Management and started to write her dissertation «Organisation in the Sociotechnical Mangle» (published at Transcript in 2017). From 2016 until 2019 she has been Research Associate (Post-Doc) at the Digital Cultures Research Lab at Leuphana University. Recent publications from 2019 include the paper «The organizational powers of (digital) media», published together with Armin Beverungen and Timon Beyes (in: Organization 26 (5), 621-635), as well as «Planning Table» (in: Oxford Handbook of Media, Technology and Organization Studies. Beyes, Timon, Holt, Robin & Pias, Claus (eds.). Oxford: University Press, 321-332), and «The Organization is a Repair Shop» (in: Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization. 19, 2, 303-324). Lisa is also part of the editorial collective of the journal ephemera: theory & politics in organization. Her research areas encompass practices of organizing and their infrastructures, STS, and media.


19:00 - 20:30


Epistemic Ecologies in the Arctic and the Amazon

With Ursula Biemann, Maryse Ouellet, Erich Hörl and Rahma Khazam. Chair: Holger Kuhn

Artist talk, panel discussion and screening of Acoustic Ocean (Biemann 2018) and Subatlantic (Biemann 2015)

Part I: Film-Screenings

Ursula Biemann, Acoustic Ocean,2018, 18 minutes

Ursula Biemann, Subatlantic, 2015, 11 minutes

Grounded in a research-based practice, Ursula Biemann creates video essays and texts that address the interconnection of politics and the environment across local, global, and planetary contexts.

In her most recent work, Acoustic Ocean, Biemann combines scientific, personal, and phenomenological narrative in an exploration of oceanic depths and interspecies relations above and below the waterline of the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway. The female aquanaut and human protagonist of this semi-fictional narrative places sensing instruments such as hydrophones and parabolic microphones along the shore in search of communication and connection with beings that inhabit the depths below. This watery world holds memories of evolution that span time scales, and also swirl with the possibility of dissolution. Microscopic creatures, for example, with bodies porous and vulnerable to the increasing acidification of their habitat, foretell of an unknown future existence.

The speculative SF video essay Subatlantic (2015), like much of Biemann’s creative practice, poetically considers how issues in geology and climatology merge with human politics and history. Set in the Shetland Islands, Greenland’s Disco Bay and on a tiny Caribbean Island, and occurring at the end of the 2,500 year old Holocene epoch, the video’s relational eco-geography captures moments of aquatic flows through invisible ocean streams and melting Arctic icescapes, and reads this interconnected system as both a hyperobject (one of an expanded geo-space-time, as Timothy Morton writes), and a modeling of intensive science and virtual philosophy (as according to Manuel De Landa).

Part II: Ursula Biemann: Video-presentation on the project: Devenir University. Indigenous University Project in Amazonia, 2019-2021

“Commissioned by curator Maria-Belen Saez de Ibarra of the Art Museum at the National University of Colombia UNAL in Bogota, my field research in the summer 2018 took me to the South of Colombia. At the invitation of the leader of the indigenous Inga people who guided me for several weeks through these panamazonic post-conflict territories, I am now involved in the co-creation of their most ambitious project, an indigenous University. The project aims to create an institution for higher learning and knowledge production toward life-sustaining ecological cohabitation in the region.

In the Latin American indigenous context, despite the violent impact of colonization, the cosmovision that humans are an integral and equal part of all life systems has enjoyed a long uninterrupted history from which we have much to learn at this time. Locating the institution at the confluence of an Indigenous cosmological understanding of interaction with Earth and all species, and Western environmental science sharing these concerns, the project examines the many creative possibilities of merging these distinct knowledge systems in fertile ways.

The University plays an important part in repairing and maintaining the ongoingness of relationships occupied by extractivist economies. It’s a decolonial as well as a relational University, searching for an ecology of knowledges (Boaventura de Sousa Santos).”

Part III: Online discussion with Ursula Biemann, Maryse Ouellet, Erich Hörl, and Rahma Khazam, chaired by Holger Kuhn

Maryse Ouellet is a postdoctoral fellow in the department of media studies at the University of Bonn. She holds a PhD in art history from McGill University. Her research focuses on the intersection between art and philosophy as it manifests itself in the way contemporary artists reinterpret transhistorical categories such as melancholy, the sublime or realism. Her recent work has been published in Racar, Canadian Art Review and Konsthistorisk tidskrift/Journal of art History.

Rahma Khazam is a Paris-based researcher and art historian affiliated to Institut ACTE, Sorbonne Paris 1. She studied philosophy and art history and received her Ph.D. from the Sorbonne in aesthetics and art theory. Her research spans the fields of contemporaneity, modernism, the post-human, speculative realism and new materialism and has been published in edited volumes, exhibition catalogues and academic journals. She recently completed an edited volume on the work of the artist Franck Leibovici and is currently a researcher (Ingénieure de recherche) at ENSAD, Paris.

Erich Hörl is Professor of Media Culture and Media Philosophy at the Institute of Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media (ICAM), Leuphana University of Lüneburg. Since 2020 he is also Vice President of Leuphana. His current research interests concern the development of a general ecology of media and technologies as well as a critique of Environmentality as the contemporary power-form and capital-form. He publishes internationally on the history as well as the problems and challenges of the contemporary technological condition and has a special expertise in Simondon Studies, Heidegger Studies as well as Guattari Studies.  His publications include General Ecology. The New Ecological Paradigm (editor, Bloomsbury, 2017); Sacred Channels. The Archaic Illusion of Communication (Amsterdam University Press, 2018); “Critique of Environmentality: On the World Wide Axiomatics of Enviromentalitarian Time,” in Critique and the Digital, eds. Erich Hörl, Nelly Y. Pinkrah, Lotte Warnsholdt (Diaphanes 2021, forthcoming); “The Environmentalitarian Situation: Reflections of the Becoming Environmental of Thinking, Power, and Capital”, in Cultural Politics (Vol. 14, Issue 2, 2018); “A Thousand Ecologies: The Process of Cyberneticization and General Ecology,” in The Whole Earth. California and the Disappearance of the Outside, eds. Diedrich Diederichsen and Anselm Franke (Sternberg Press, 2013), and “The Technological Condition,” in Parrhesia: Journal of Critical Philosophy (Issue 22, 2015). He just edited a unique collection of Gérard Granels work total production in a German translation: Die totale Produktion. Technik, Kapital und die Logik der Unendlichkeit (Turia+Kant, 2020).





This workshop is hosted by the DFG research training group Cultures of Critique and the research project Elements of a Critical Theory of Media and Participation which is part of the DFG research group Media and Participation. It is organized by Mathias Denecke, Holger Kuhn and Milan Stürmer.