[Image: COP19, United Nations Climate Change Conference, Warsaw, 2013. Photo: Giulia Bruno and Armin Linke.] Anthropocene Observatory by Territorial Agency (John Palmesino and Ann-Sofi Rönnskog), Armin Linke, and Anselm Franke :: February 7 – April 26, 2015 :: Opening: February 6, 6:00 pm :: BAK, basis voor actuele kunst Lange Nieuwstraat 4, 3512 PH Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Anthropocene Observatory is a research exhibition and discursive space that proposes to rethink the contemporary world through the prism of the “Anthropocene thesis.” The Anthropocene is understood as an epoch in geological chronology during which the global impact of human activities is inscribed onto planet Earth. This geohistorical era — marked by the domination of the human species — has brought along transformations that bear unprecedented consequences for all facets of our present and future. Through what ways of looking and knowing, of feeling and being, can we assess these radically altered circumstances? What (future) vocabularies of politics, science, and art might enable us to know, envision, and do things otherwise?
Developed by Territorial Agency (headed by the London-based duo of architects and urbanists John Palmesino and Ann-Sofi Rönnskog) in collaboration with Berlin-based artist Armin Linke and curator Anselm Franke, Anthropocene Observatory forms a complex knowledge archive and study environment that gestures towards ways of approaching these questions. Functioning as an observatory, it puts forth the data and knowledge collected and generated over the course of the last two years, offering them up for public inquiry and critical exploration, so as to probe how the Anthropocene thesis is being recognized and disputed, embraced and discredited, negated and applied across a wide spectrum of scientific, political, and cultural contexts.
Consisting of films, interviews, printed documents, and installations that uncover issues ranging from spatial and territorial modelling to climate change and environmental politics to applied systems analysis to supranational power operations and their institutions, Anthropocene Observatory attempts to image and reconstruct the tangled interrelationships between geology and political history. By making visible how the capitalist world-system is interlocked with the rapid transformation of the Earth system — how changing sources of energy correlate with particular political, legal, managerial, and spatial orders, from city-states dependent on wood, to imperial reliance on the harvesting and uneven distribution of coal, to the global constellation’s dependency on fossil fuels and nuclear energy—the project asks whether the extant infrastructure of knowledge, politics, science, and art is adequate in meeting these colossal challenges. Anthropocene Observatory urges us to not leave these issues unaddressed.
Anthropocene Observatory is part of a research, learning, exhibition, and publishing trajectory at BAK from February to June 2015. It takes place during the semester on Human-Inhuman-Posthuman within BAK’s long-term research project Future Vocabularies (2014–2016), and is realized in dialogue with BAK Research Fellow Prof. Rosi Braidotti and collaboration with the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University, Utrecht.
The exhibition is accompanied by a series of talks, master classes, and a curriculum within BAK’s platform for education and talent development, Learning Place. For a full program, see: www.bakonline.org.
Anthropocene Observatory is made possible with support from Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin. The activities of BAK, basis voor actuele kunst have been made possible by financial support from the City Council of Utrecht and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands. The parallel project of Future Vocabularies, titled Future Collections (2014–2015), is realized in collaboration with the Centraal Museum, Utrecht and has been made possible by the DOEN Foundation, Amsterdam.