Off-grid: Refuge through Escape
Curated by Feifei Zhou
What is a refuge like? Most of us may think of it as a shelter. A canopy in the rain, a bolthole in the storm, or a heated house in the snow. Refuge is where we feel protected and safe. Refuge in the more-than-human Anthropocene may look quite different. Fish break out of a net and return back to the river; the river is its refuge. A frog escapes from the industrial pen and inhabits the pond; the pond is its refuge. For them, refuge is where they are longing for; where they feel they belong. Industrial capitalism constructs the world in Grids. Plantations lie in grids, dividing lands up in blocks of monoculture. Commercial farms crowd livestock with fences, packing animals into claustrophobic clusters. Indigenous lands are converted into zones for development and experimentation, where local ecologies are radically capitalized into profit-making resources. Refuge is somewhere outside that grid.
This day re-evaluates the taken-for-granted industrial grids that became the ethos of capitalist master-planning, through a series of talks, screenings and presentations on more-than-human narratives/cases of seeking refuge by breaking out of the grid.
With: Feifei Zhou, Zahy Tentehar, Sonia Levy, Dele Adeyemo, Tom Svilans, Anna Tsing
Introduction to Off-grid: Refuge through Escape by guest curator Feifei Zhou
Feifei Zhou is a Chinese-born spatial and visual designer. She was a guest researcher at Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA), during which she co-edited the digital publication Feral Atlas: The More-than-Human Anthropocene (Stanford University Press, 2020) with anthropologists Anna Tsing, Jennifer Deger, and Alder Keleman Saxena. Her work explores spatial, cultural, and ecological impacts of the industrialised built and natural environment. Using narrative-based spatial analysis, she collaborates intensively with social scientists to translate empirical observations and scientific research into visual representations that aim to both clarify intricate more-than-human relations and open new questions. She is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia GSAPP.
Karaiw a’e wà (The Civilized) examines contemporary indigenous identities and living experiences amidst historical erasure of Indigenous knowledge, technologies, and livelihood practices, as well as the ongoing struggles for radical industrialisation and ecological exploitation.
Zahy Tentehar (1989, Cana Brava, Maranhão, Brazil) is a multidisciplinary artist, filmmaker, actor, and activist from the Tentehar-Guajajara people. Interweaving dialogue in her first language, Ze’eng Eté—a dialect of the Tupi-Guarani trunk—and Portuguese, Guajajara’s video works examine contemporary indigenous identities and experiences amidst ongoing struggles for land rights and against ecological exploitation in the aftermath of colonial invasion.
Tackling issues of hybridity, assimilation, autonomy, and techno-centric civilization, Guajajara’s Karaiw a’e wà (The Civilized) (2022) considers Indigenous Futurism as a methodology for countering the historical erasure of indigenous knowledge, technologies, and creative forms.
Artist Sonia Levy will present her film Creatures of the Lines made in collaboration with anthropologist Heather Anne Swanson, which explores the underwater world beneath the stretched and straightened waterscape of England colonial and industrial history and present.
Sonia Levy's inquiry-led practice considers shifting modes of engagement with more-than-human worlds in light of prevailing Earthly precarity. Her work operates at the confluence of knowledge practices to interrogate western expansionist and extractivist logics. She was the 2022 recipient of the S+T+ARTS4Water's 'The Future of High Waters' residency hosted by TBA21 in Venice. She was the 2021 commissioned artist at Radar Loughborough and Aarhus University's Ecological Globalization Research Group. Levy participated in the 2020 Artquest's Peer Forum' Rewilding' at the Horniman Museum and Gardens. She has exhibited in the UK and internationally, including shows and screenings at Centre Pompidou, Paris; Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris; Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris; ICA, London; BALTIC, Gateshead; Obsidian Coast, Bradford-on- Avon; Goldsmiths College, London; The Showroom, London; Pump House Gallery, London; ZKM Karlsruhe, Art Laboratory Berlin; HDKV, Heidelberg; Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA; Verksmiðjan á Hjalteyri, Iceland; and The Húsavík Whale Museum, Iceland. Her work has been published by MIT Press, Thames&Hudson, Antennae Journal, The Learned Pig, Billebaude, Verdure Engraved, and has appeared in NatureCulture and Parallax journals.
Artist and Architect Dele Adeyemo will present his film Wey Dey Move, which explores the overlapping relationships between the spiritual, ecological, and social lifeworlds at the centre of the megacity of Lagos and how they combine to produce new creative cultures centred on movement and dance.
Dele Adeyemo is an architect and urban theorist conducting a Chase/AHRC funded PhD at the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London. His research intersects Black studies with urban studies to question how the rise of logistics is driving processes of urbanisation. Positioning slavery as the ghost in the machine of logistics, Dele explores how circulations established in transatlantic slavery, at the foundation of modernity, live on in the contemporary production of space. His work mobilises a Black aesthetics through writing, film, and attention to movement and aural sensation in order to unsettle the machinic fantasies of logistics to reveal its fleshy underpinnings.
Architect Tom Svilans will discuss his project Timber Stories: Narratives of a Forest Resource, which employed digital data capturing at multiple scales and within disparate contexts to present forest as a diverse, living being rather than a plantation; “a place, an ecology, a resource, a statistic, a home, perhaps also as a dream.”
Tom Svilans is an architectural designer, design consultant, and researcher, focusing on digital fabrication, materiality, and emerging technologies. Tom is currently an Assistant Professor at CITA (Centre for IT and Architecture) at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen, Denmark. His research focuses on digital design across the timber value chain - from forestry to construction - and methods of integrating new imaging and information-communication technologies in the design and fabrication of engineered timber elements. Tom holds a PhD from the Royal Danish Academy, as part of the EU-funded InnoChain research network. The PhD develops a digitally-augmented material practice for the design and manufacture of large-scale free-form timber structures. It was supported by close collaborations with leading Swiss timber contractor Blumer Lehmann AG and multi-disciplinary Scandinavian architecture practice White Arkitekter. Tom has presented and published his work internationally. Tom has taught at, among others, the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL; the Architectural Association (AA); the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC); and the Royal Danish Academy.
Anna Tsing (online)
Anna Tsing will be reading (online) parts of her book "The Mushroom at the End of the World" and discusses how this valuable edible mushroom emerges from capitalist ruin, providing hope in moving forward.
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing teaches anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and sometimes also at Aarhus University. Her research follows the humble trails of mushrooms into the great economic, cultural, and ecological dilemmas of our times. She is the author of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the possibility of life in capitalist ruins (2015), Friction: An ethnography of global connection (2005), and In the Realm of the Diamond Queen: Marginality in an out-of-the-way place (1993), all published by Princeton University Press. She has co-edited numerous volumes, most recently, with Carol Gluck, Words in Motion: Towards a global lexicon (Duke University Press, 2009). Between 2013 and 2018, she was Niels Bohr Professor at Aarhus University, where she co-directed Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA) with Nils Bubandt. Anna is a co-editor of Feral Atlas: the More-Than-Human Anthropocene.