Co-Workers Beyond Disaster

puts forth the speculative powers of story-telling and science-fiction to re-think the ways we inhabit our environment.

Bétonsalon - Centre for Art and Research
Paris, France
16:00 08 October - 18:00 30 January 2016

Artists: Antoine Catala; Ian Cheng; Melissa Dubbin, Aaron S. Davidson & Violaine Sautter; Vilém Flusser & Louis Bec; Jasmina Metwaly & Philip Rizk; David Ohle; Agnieszka Piksa & Vladimir Palibrk; Pamela Rosenkranz; Daniel Steegmann Mangrané; Wu Tsang; Nobuko Tsuchiya; Haytham el-Wardany

Curated by Mélanie Bouteloup and Garance Malivel

Co-Workers unfolds over two different chapters: The Network as Artist at Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, and Beyond Disaster at Bétonsalon – Centre for Art and Research.

Co-Workers: Beyond Disaster puts forth the speculative powers of story-telling and science-fiction to re-think the ways we inhabit our environment.

Cloudy, freezing in the outskirts, cold tonight, colder tomorrow, warming Thursday and Friday, cooling off by Saturday, sleet by Sunday, double suns on Monday, and so on, according to the everyday charts, indicating a possible trend—warm, cool, cooler, etcetera, chance of light-to-heavy blister snow, probable drizzle washing out the artificial month, gas breaks at Amarillo, Great Chicago, and Texaco City, no moons tonight, shelter animals if necessary, please stay tuned…

 Flows of information, words, data, dematerialized transactions, precipitations, and tidal waves.Alarming observations of freak weather. Which today, the stock market or the weather report, influences the course of things? Loss of legibility, failed predictions, non-linear logics.

In his essay “Infinite Game of Thrones”, the artist Ian Cheng examines the cognitive evolution of individuals faced with a changing environment, with rules endlessly repeated and redefined: “Perhaps the most intimate crisis we face today is the limits of human consciousness to really grasp non-human scaled complexity. What is nonhuman scaled complexity? Strangelove. Y2K. The sprawling codebase of Microsoft Windows. The Amazon rainforest. Climate change. Big data. Antiterrorism. Cancer. The unknown unknownness of an expanding universe. A dynamic something composed of such vast interconnectivity and such deep causal chains that it cannot be metabolized by humans as a comprehensible whole. Too much to hold in the head. Impervious to narrativization.”[i]

Roving chuff clouds, floxiness hovering above L.A. unpredictable, nothing verified, minimum forecast, probable extensive sunsout, birdfall index high per hundredcount, earlier reports not reliable, premature, lofty hopes for a sunsy weekout, otherwise rain and sleet.

The world that we have built appears today to be dominated by an increasing ambivalence: that of an ever more complex interconnectedness that allows both new modes of exchange to emerge and practices and knowledge to circulate – yet, in an age of mass technological and industrial production, it does so with an alarming loss of legibility, and an increase in the threats to human and ecological survival. At the moment when the news media is focused on the twenty-first United Nations Climate Change Conference in Le Bourget, following two decades of attempts to negotiate international commitments to climate change, Co-Workers: Beyond Disaster seeks to examine the ways in which we interact with our environment from a variety of disciplinary vantage points that take into account different economic, cultural, and social influences. Indeed, the distinction, as it still too often prevails, should be avoided between issues relegated to the “environmental” realm (pollution, global warming, preservation of natural resources, loss of biodiversity, etc.) and others to the “social” realm (migration, employment, racial, sexual and wealth inequality, public health, violence, etc.), in order to seek viable responses to the various upheavals with which we are currently confronted.

Seven oval spheres in Scorpio according to the charts, probable deadly Friday, chance of a two-Tuesday mock week, brackish drizzles in the midlands, lozenges melting in the drugstores.

 Echoing the metaphor put forward by the writer Haytham el-Wardany in his essay “Notes on Disaster”[ii], the exhibition Co-Workers: Beyond Disaster seeks to examine, not the tragic dimension that inheres in a state of disaster, but rather the transformations and forms of collective action that disaster occasions. This raises the question of emancipation and re-empowerment, in the sense that disaster, as el-Wardany argues, “is a communal event, in which stricken individuals band together in a stricken group and search for a new beginning. And in this way, it is also a political event, for disaster is a collective fumbling towards a new reality in which the individual might finally return to himself.” In other words, how to transform a critical situation into a ferment of renewal that gives itself to thought, both individually and collectively?[iii]

 Government relaxes moon control. Moons behave erratically. You are urged to stay indoors.

  Co-Workers: Beyond Disaster proposes an alternative perspective, a change of outlook based on the speculative power of storytelling and science fiction, as a means to rethink the ways we inhabit our environment. Bringing together a dozen works, for the most part resulting from collaborative processes, the exhibition will also hold a regular series of talks and public events. Artists, researchers, and activists from different fields have been invited to participate in various workshops and meetings, notably with students from the École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts de Paris Cergy and the Université Paris Diderot. Shifting the focus away from an anthropocentric viewpoint, the different approaches and works brought together in the exhibition allow for a renewed awareness of other forms of life, communication and interaction. Co-Workers: Beyond Disaster has been conceived as a space dedicated to exploring new forms of languages and syntax – with the wager that future possibilities to live and cohabit will depend on the attention we pay to multiple modes of expression and awareness.

Two suns cooling at the horizon, restless moons, animals should be sheltered, travelers are warned, all craft should return to port, possible flood on The Jelly, toxic snakes in the treetops, the wind alive again, temperatures will…

 David Ohle, weather reports from the novel Motorman (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1972).




Image: God Mode, Ultragramme, 2015

[i] Ian Cheng, “Infinite Game of Thrones,” originally published in The Machine Stops, ed. Erik Wysocan (New York: Halmos, 2015

[ii] Haytham el-Wardany, “Notes on Disaster,” originally published in the online magazine ArteEast Quarterly (Winter 2015). Translate from the Arabic by Robin Moger .

[iii] See the essay by Giovanna di Chiro, “Linving Environmentalisms: Coalition Politics, Social Reproduction, and Environmental Justice”, originally published in Environmental Politics, 17:2, 276-298, Routledge, 2008. Di Chiro calls for a “living environmentalism” in which citizens can combine forces in order to preserve or regenerate the ecosystems that influence the reproductive processes on which all communities depend.