From Ownership to More than Planet

, Ayenan, credit: Lydia Zimmermann

Who owns the truth? Who owns the planet? At the Ars Electronica Festival 2023, the overarching theme of truth will also be explored in terms of how we can think beyond the concept of ownership of nature and establish a more sustainable relationship with nature. This theme is addressed by the EU project More-than-planet, co-founded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, whose contents are part of the festival in various areas: Theme Exhibition, More-than-Planet Lab, WE GUIDE YOU Expert Tours and last but not least the Theme Conference on Friday – the More-than-Planet Day – give impulses to rethink our perception and understanding of the environment and the ecosystem we depend on. So let’s take a look at the projects and content that More-than-planet brings to the Ars Electronica Festival.

As every year, an important part of the festival is the Theme Exhibition. Selected artworks encourage us to question existing views of the world and to think critically about our relationship with the planet. For example, in the context of the European Union’s More-than-Planet Project, Cartographies of the Unseen by Felipe Casteblanco and Lydia Zimmermann will be presented. This Installation, made in collaboration with the indigenous media collective Ñambi Rimai, invites viewers on a journey through a vertical landscape in southwestern Colombia shaped by territorial conflicts and resistance in the region, while documenting an ongoing biocultural peace process driven by indigenous spirituality and stewardship. Moreover, Adriana Knouf’s TX-2: MOONSHADOW demonstrates that space missions can be constructed for queer, postcolonial futures in contrast to contemporary commercial, military, and expansionist ventures. Ceux sans qui la terre ne serait pas la terre by David Shongo echoes Malcolm Ferdinand’s critique of dealing with ecological collapse, emphasizing the disconnect between environmental consciousness and social urgency. That’s just a glimpse of the projects in this year’s Theme Exhibition, which can be discovered at POSTCITY during the Ars Electronica Festival.

In the midst of the Theme Exhibition – in the basement of POSTCITY – you will also find the More-than-Planet Lab. This workshop space invites visitors to experiment and further explore the themes of More-than-Planet. Living traces, narratives and images are meant to create a new perspective on the perception of our planet and also help to rethink established educational practices. The Waag Futurelab will present the Planetary Public Stack, a bundle of socially inclusive technological components, and host a workshop where participants will work on the technologies and skills to develop collaborative and arts-based approaches to environmental challenges. Planetary Mattering, also hosted in collaboration with Waag Futurelab, explores how representations of the planet shape our views and influence our actions. Mattering concerns both matter and its meaning, promoting ecological awareness and a sense of justice. Systemic change in the times of polycrisis provides a space to engage in discussions with artists and scientists about the challenges posed by the ecological and climate crises which are deeply intertwined with other crises, such as economic, social and geopolitical. This constellation was recently termed “the polycrisis” by researchers. The goal of the practice-based exploration is to seek solutions for sustainable transformation and to discuss how it can be implemented in a way that respects ecological limits and reconstructs new post-fossil infrastructures and social and cultural practices.

Those who would like to get a different view of the Theme Exhibition and take a closer look at selected projects can do so with one of the WE GUIDE YOU Expert Tours. Here you will be guided through the exhibition with curators and artists. Terraforming Earth – Decolonising Space with Annick Bureaud looks at the exhibition primarily with a focus on the concepts of terraformation, the process of making other planets habitable, and colonization. Those interested can attend this tour on Thursday, 9/7/2023. On Saturday, 9/9/2023. Marko Pelijhan and Uroš Veber’s tour MIKRO MAKRO, from observation to orientation invites visitors to examine in more detail works that can be understood as system observatories. There will also be an attempt to identify common thematic areas and approaches.

Last but not least, an entire day of the festival – the Friday – is dedicated to the motto More-than-Planet. This is particularly evident in the Theme Symposium. This basically extends over three days – from Thursday to Saturday – and on More-than-Planet Day is titled (Un)Earthing the Truth. Ownership and Narratives about the Planet. In collaboration with the More-than-Planet Project, this conference invites participants to question the concept of truth as an economic entity and to analyze the complicated relationship between ownership and nature. Visionaries from diverse fields, including artists, scientists, researchers, and economists, will come together to question the narratives that shape our understanding of environmental issues. Confirmed speakers include Sian Proctor, who will examine collective value creation in the ownership of space and the role of the state in addressing global challenges. Stefan Brunnhuber looks at societal ownership of nature, encourages thinking about transformative change, and draws insights from his book Financing our Future. Mordecai Ogada talks about conservation in Africa in the context of neocolonialism, and Aina Abiodun motivates people to take action with her contribution on owning the planet, money and responsibility.

This program is co-founded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union through the More-than-Planet Project. 

More information about the highlights of the Ars Electronica Festival 2023 can be found here. Details are continuously published online.

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