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Contamination, Art & the Environmental Condition- 2023 Symposium

Kovela - Rare Earth Element Deposit, gamma radiation intensity distribution, Erich Berger 2020

Date: 9 March 2023: 13:00 – 19:00 EET

Venue: Academy of Fine Arts, K-218, Mylly Building, Sörnäistenrantatie 19, 00530 Helsinki

The symposium addresses how visual arts, film, performance, and sound practices can relate to the current environmental condition from extractivism to contamination. It focuses on how different bodies of water and air, soil and subsoil express direct and indirect signs of histories that can be measured as well as narrated and imaged. These signs and traces might offer us novel acoustic ecologies – as soundscapes, or as subtle frames for artistic engagement through visual arts and performance. 

The symposium is the culmination of Ecological Thinking: ‘Environment, Data, Contamination’ (EDC) course organized at the Academy of Fine Arts in collaboration with Aarhus University, DKHelsinki Biennial’ 23 and Uniarts Research Pavilion. The symposium is part of the Terra-Performing project: https://www.uniarts.fi/en/projects/terra-performing/

Schedule (all times are EET Helsinki) – The symposium will also be available via online streaming in Zoom: https://uniarts.zoom.us/j/63155400764 . You may be asked to provide your email for registration to get admitted.

13.00: Opening remarks by Mika Elo 

13.10: Introduction to Helsinki Biennial’ 23 by Joasia Krysa (UK)

13.30: Jussi Parikka (Aarhus University, DK) – Contamination as a Method

13.45: Samir Bhowmik (Uniarts,FI) –  Heat Work: Extractivism and Performance

14.15: Asia Bazdyrieva (Critical Media Lab, Basel) – Bodies as Lands: Resourcification as Method

15.00: Coffee Break 

15.15: Erich Berger (FI) – Radical Witnessing and the Politics of Scale

16.00: Heather Davis (The New School, NY) – Unrelenting: Pervasive Contamination

17.00: Coffee Break 

17.15: Presentation by Course participants 



Asia Bazdyrieva is an art historian whose research spans visual culture and environmental humanities at large. Her projects focus on Soviet modernity and its ideological and material implications in spaces, bodies, and lands. She holds an MA in Art History from City University of New York and an MS in Analytical Chemistry from the Kyiv National University. She was a Fulbright scholar in 2015–2017, an Edmund S. Muskie fellow (2017), a Digital Earth Fellow (2018). Bazdyrieva co-authored ‘Geocinema’ — a collaborative project exploring the possibilities of a “planetary” notion of cinema. Concerned with the understanding and sensing of the earth while being on the ground, the project includes vastly distributed processes of image and meaning making. She is currently a resident at Transmediale (Berlin) and a Ph.D. candidate at MAKE/SENSE program between Critical Media Lab and University of Arts and Design Linz. https://criticalmedialab.ch/people/asia-bazdyrieva/

Erich Berger is an artist, curator and cultural worker based in Helsinki. Throughout his artistic practice, he has explored the materiality of information and information and technology as artistic material. His interest in issues of deep time and hybrid ecology led him to work with geological processes, radiogenic phenomena and their socio-political implications in the here and now. Berger is exhibiting internationally in museums, galleries and festivals and his work received awards from renowned organisations like Ars Electronica, ZKM, Telefonica, File Prix and CERN. http://randomseed.org/web/index.html

Samir Bhowmik is a Helsinki-based multi-disciplinary artist, architect and scholar. He is currently an Academy of Finland Research Fellow (2022-27) at the Academy of Fine Arts (Uniarts Helsinki) where he teaches and explores extractivism & ecology through film, installation and performance. His ongoing project ‘Terra-Performing’ examines extractivism through intelligent performance research. Samir received a Doctor of Arts (2016) from Aalto University, Finland, and a Master of Architecture (2003) from the University of Maryland, United States. His collaborative artistic works and writings have appeared in Leonardo (MIT Press), Helsinki Biennial 2021 and the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021. https://samirbhowmik.cc

Heather Davis is an assistant professor of Culture and Media at The New School in New York whose work draws on feminist and queer theory to examine ecology, materiality, and contemporary art in the context of settler colonialism. Her most recent book, Plastic Matter (Duke University Press, 2022) explores the transformation of geology, media, and bodies in light of plastic’s saturation. https://heathermdavis.com

Joasia Krysa is a UK-based, Polish-born curator, researcher and scholar working at the intersection of contemporary art and technology. She served as artistic director of Kunsthal Aarhus, Denmark (201215), and was part of the curatorial team for Documenta 13 (2012). She was the co-curator of Liverpool Biennial 2016, has previously worked with WRO Media Art Biennial in Poland, and has presented online exhibitions at Tate Modern and The Whitney Museum of American Art, amongst others. She is currently Professor of Exhibition Research and Head of Art and Design at Liverpool John Moores University and holds an adjunct position at Liverpool Biennial. She is the curator of Helsinki Biennial 2023. https://www.hamhelsinki.fi/en/2022/03/31/joasia-krysa-to-curate-second-edition-of-helsinki-biennial-opening-june-2023/

Jussi Parikka is Professor in Digital Aesthetics and Culture at Aarhus University. He is also visiting professor of at Winchester School of Art (University of Southampton) and at FAMU at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague where he leads the project  Operational Images and Visual Culture (2019-2023, funded by the Czech Science Foundation). In 2021 he was elected as member of Academia Europaea. He has authored and edited several books, including Insect Media (2011), A Geology of Media (2015), Photography Off the Scale (edited with Tomas Dvorak, 2021), and the co-authored Lab Book: Situated Practices in Media Studies (with Lori Emerson and Darren Wershler, 2022). His new book Operational Images is forthcoming in Summer 2023.  https://jussiparikka.net/

Ecological Thinking

This is the course blog for K-JI-11-23A – Ecological Thinking. In 2023-24, we explore “Vertical Ecologies” by visual arts, film and performance. The course is co-organized by Giovanna Esposito Yussif and Samir Bhowmik. Previously, in 2022-23, we organized a year-long collaborative research studio with Aarhus University, DK, Research Pavilion 2023 and Helsinki Biennial 2023 on the themes of environmental data, sensing and contamination.

Header image credit: Abelardo Gil-Fournier and Jussi Parikka / Seed, Image, Ground (2020)- With permission from the authors.

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