A trans- and interdisciplinary conference at the University of Hamburg, 21/22 February 2019

Whilst, led by obvious geo- and biopolitical interests, a fierce fight over the existence and dimension of human-made climate change is taking place in the political arena, earth is acting unimpressed. Nevertheless, events like droughts, floodings, famines, melting glaciers and the extinction of species are striking us so directly that it seems impossible to clutch at the distancing dichotomy of nature and culture. Based on the measurable and visible extent of human impact on earth geo sciences already invented a new geological era: the anthropocene. However, its epistemes – like those of other sciences and humanities – seem disposable.

Instead of pursuing dichotomous world views or despairingly taking the escape route of climate change denial into an imagined parallel world, Bruno Latour (2017, 2018) proposes to set out for the ‘critical zone’. The ‘critical zone’ is the thin near-surface layer of earth between the bottom of the groundwater and the tops of the trees. There, rock, soil, water, air, and living organisms constantly interact and constitute through highly complex transformational processes the conditions for all terrestrial life. In this zone earth displays its agency relevant to humans. Now it is essential to explore this new territory to understand the inseparable interweaving of humans and terrestrial processes.

Such an exploration raises questions of visibility and display. Therefore, the conference undertakes an image-theoretical expedition into the critical zone to collect evidence to answer the following questions:

- What are the living conditions for images in the critical zone?
- Can images be understood as mediators between earth and humans or as agents within the critical zone?
- Which image strategies arise to stage the new political actant ‘earth’?
- Do there exist other animalia symbolica (Cassirer) next to humans in the critical zone?
- How are conditions of visibility in the critical zone configured for its figurative symptoms?
- How do images form/educate within the critical zone? Ho do they (de-)construct world views?
- How are images involved in the transformation of knowledge on climate change?
- How does artistic practice articulate these questions, i.a. as critical pointing gestures and transforming creators?

Please send your proposals for papers (30 minutes) and a short academic CV to Jacobus Bracker and Stefanie Johns until 31 October 2018: post@bildkontexte.de. The success of this expedition is crucially dependant on its interdisciplinary composition. There is no limitation to specific periods, cultures or assemblages as – like with the preceding four conferences – historical, cultural, and social contrasts are understood as essential epistemic instruments.

Place and time: Warburg-Haus at the University of Hamburg, 21/22 February 2019.

Organisation: Jacobus Bracker (Institute for Archaeology and Cultural History of the Ancient Mediterranean, Faculty of Humanities, University of Hamburg), Stefanie Johns (Art and Visual Education, Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Hamburg).

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