Zooetics: Nature / Interspecies / Anthropocene

Friday, 19 December, Kaunas University of Technology, Kaunas, Lithuania

Zooetics is a series of public lectures at Kaunas University of Technology, Winter 2014. Leading thinkers across the fields of humanities, design and engineering will unpack the notions of Interspecies, Anthropocene and Nature, and propose new conjunctions across these ideas. The Lectures are free but it is essential to book since places are limited.

Zooetics: Nature / Interspecies / Anthropocene
Friday, 12 December, 1:30–4 pm, Kaunas University of Technology, Kaunas, Lithuania

Timothy Morton – I Believe in Coral

In his talk Timothy Morton will argue that Nature is a human construct. It is a human construct in two ways. Firstly, Nature is a concept that inhibits actual understanding of lifeforms and their coexistence. (This coexistence is what is often called environment.) Secondly, Nature as periodic cycling of Earth systems is a physical product of human intervention in these systems, an intervention that eventually gives rise to the Anthropocene and its global warming and mass extinction. Nature is not simply an incorrect concept. It is dangerous.

Jae Rhim Lee – The Infinity Burial Project

The Infinity Burial Project was founded and is directed by Jae Rhim Lee. It proposes alternatives for the postmortem body that promote and facilitate an individual engagement with the process of decomposition. The project features development of a unique strain of mushroom that decomposes and remediates toxins in human tissue, development of a decomposition ‘kit’, burial suits embedded with decomposition activators, an open source burial container, and a membership society devoted to the promotion of death awareness and acceptance and the practice of decompiculture (the cultivation of decomposing organisms).

A new intensification is reshaping the surface of the planet: human changes to the Earth’s climate, land, oceans and biosphere are now so great and so rapid that the thesis of a new geological epoch defined by the actions of humans – the Anthropocene – is being widely debated and articulated. This thesis is developing across a number of circuits, institutions, organisations, scientific and intellectual fields, all of which are equally affected by this unfolding discourse, as much as the environments in which they act. Operating as an observatory, a composition of documentary practices and discourses, the project traces the formation of the Anthropocene thesis. The project combines film, photography, documentation, interviews, spatial analysis and fieldwork to form an archive and a series of installations, seminars, debates and cultural interventions.

Across a number of specific international agencies and organisations, information about scientific research is acquired, registered, evaluated, processed, stored, archived, organised and re-distributed. These behind-the-scenes processes and practices, that lead to the equally complex decision making procedures, form new discourses and figures of shift. The Anthropocene Observatory documents these practices in a series of short films, interviews and documentary materials. The aim of the project is to illustrate in detail the unfolding of the thesis of the Anthropocene in its many streams of influence.

Timothy Morton is Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English at Rice University. He gave the Wellek Lectures in Theory in 2014. He is the author of Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence (Columbia, forthcoming), Nothing: Three Inquiries in Buddhism and Critical Theory (Chicago, forthcoming), Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minnesota, 2013), Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality (Open Humanities, 2013), The Ecological Thought (Harvard, 2010), Ecology without Nature (Harvard, 2007), seven other books and 120 essays on philosophy, ecology, literature, music, art, design and food. He blogs regularly at:

Jae Rhim Lee is a visual artist, designer, and researcher whose work proposes unorthodox relationships between the mind/body/self and the built and natural environment. Her work follows a research methodology which includes self-examination, transdisciplinary immersion and dialogue, and DIY design, ultimately taking the form of living units, furniture, wearables, recycling systems, and personal and social interventions. In 2008, after working for the City of New Orleans Mayor’s Office of Recovery Development and Administration, Jae Rhim founded and directed the MIT FEMA Trailer Project which examined the environmental, social and political history of FEMA Trailers deployed in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. A FEMA Trailer was converted into the Armadillo, a mobile composting centre with vertical gardens and rainwater catchment system, permaculture library, and indoor multipurpose space. Jae Rhim’s current work, the Infinity Burial Project, proposes alternatives for the post-mortem body, trains a unique strain of edible mushroom to decompose and remediate toxins in human tissue, develops a decomposition ‘kit,’ and a membership society devoted to the promotion of death acceptance and the cultivation of decomposing organisms.

Jae Rhim studied psychology and the natural sciences at Wellesley College, received a Master of Science in Visual Studies from MIT, and holds a certificate in permaculture design. Her work has been exhibited in Europe and the US. She received a 2009 Creative Capital Foundation Grant, a 2010 Grant from the Institut fur Raumexperimente/Universitaet der Kunste Berlin, and a 2011 MAK Schindler Scholarship and Artist Residency in Los Angeles, CA. Lee is a 2011 TED Global Fellow and a Research Fellow in the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology in Cambridge, MA.

John Palmesino is an architect and urbanist, born in Switzerland. Together with Ann-Sofi Rönnskog he established Territorial Agency, which designed the integrated vision for the future of the Markermeer, in the Netherlands. He leads the Masters course at the Research Architecture Centre, Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the initiator and curator of the research project Neutrality, a multidisciplinary investigation into the territorial implications of UN policies and self-organisation processes of transformation and control of contemporary human landscapes.

He was Head of research at ETH Zurich, Studio Basel / Contemporary City Institute 2003-2007, a research platform for the investigation of the transformation patterns of the 21st century city founded by the Pritzker Prize winning architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. His research at ETH Studio Basel focus on Paris, Napoli, San Francisco, St Petersburg, Hong Kong, and the Canary Islands. His recent publications include Switzerland–An Urban Portrait (2007). Open and Closed: Transformations in the 21st Century City is the working title of his forthcoming publication. He also co-founded multiplicity, a research network on contemporary territorial transformations. This Milan-based organisation deals with contemporary urbanism, representation of inhabited landscape transformation, visual arts and general culture. Multiplicity is a research network of architects, urbanists, social scientists, photographers, filmmakers and visual artists. His work has been exhibited at documenta11, the Biennale di Venezia, the Triennale in Milano, KunstWerke, Berlin, Musée d’Art Contemporaine de Paris, Van Abbe Museum Eindhoven, and IABR Rotterdam.