POST GROWTH [New research series – 2019-2021…]
An invitation to challenge the dominant narratives about growth & progress
What ideological, social and biophysical factors precipitate the current environmental crises? What agency is available for transformative practices and imaginaries to redefine how we satisfy our energy and material requirements and avert large scale ecosystemic breakdown?
The Post Growth exhibition invites us to challenge the dominant narratives about growth and progress, and explore the radical implications of a speculative economic model based on energy emitted by the Sun. The exhibition provides perspectives for a shift away from the overexploitation of fossil fuels — ancient sunlight — energy concentrated over millions of years on which the reproduction of our societies mainly depends today.
The series of artworks presented re-envision social metabolism through an understanding of the energy it requires, reconnecting human survival with the living and material activity of the biosphere, drawing on ecofeminism, indigenous knowledge, environmental accounting and historical materialism.
In complement to the main exhibition, a series of workshops, discussions and filmed interviews will further explore the transition scenarios for a post-fossil society and their implicit challenges. Post Growth is an invitation to a collective and practical examination of the future of life on the planet, examining the notion of growth, in its many facets and implications, testing the limits of technology, of politics and of our imaginations.
An initiative by DISNOVATION.ORG (Nicolas Maigret & Maria Roszkowska) and Baruch Gottlieb (http://baruchgottlieb.com) with Clémence Seurat (https://medialab.sciencespo.fr/equipe/clemence-seurat/) , Julien Maudet and Pauline Briand (https://paulinebriand.cargo.site/Presentation)
Production: iMAL (https://www.imal.org/en) | Co-production: Chroniques | Programming: Jérôme Saint-Clair | Hardware developers: Vivien Roussel & Thomas Demmer | Transcription & translation: Dasha Ilina | Website: Macha Savykine | 3D: Jules Barton | Camera assistant: Yubo Dong
1. POST GROWTH TOOLKIT
A toolkit to facilitate orientation in the context of the current environmental crises
(Video interviews, board games, posters, workshops)
As the COVID-19 crisis broke, there were a number of calls to seize the situation and bring about an ecologically-informed transformation of the capitalist growth model, even going so far as to make a radical break with the prevailing model. Today, we see most governments intend on returning their economies as soon as possible to the productivity levels from before the interruption, despite the dire consequences this will have for the environment. Those who called for a rupture have not been able to grasp the opportunity to bring about a radical re-envisioning of sustainable humanity on this planet.
In order to better understand the foundations of today’s political and ecological crises, the artist collective set out to meet researchers, theoreticians and activists, and collected a number of stories and operational concepts in the form of video interviews. Focusing on notions such as planetary limits, the rebound effect, ecosystem services and the seventh-generation principle, these videos are published online to help cultivate a community and a set of theoretical and narrative tools that re-examine the utilitarian vision of nature conceived merely as a standing reserve for human industry, delegitimizing the logic of resource optimization, and technological solutionism. These proposals seek to encourage the prototyping and envisioning of radically different modes of living in relation with our environment.
With this in mind, during the course of the project we regularly host meetings with researchers with insights from various facets of the issue to contribute to this collective reflection, to sketch out paths leading towards social forms which understand themselves as part of all life and take into account the complexity of their ecosystemic symbiosis.
2. ENERGY SLAVE TOKEN
Human labor to fossil fuel conversion units
(Installation, series of 5 standard weights made of bitumen, poster, 3D video)
In 1940, R. Buckminster Fuller introduced the term “energy slave” to describe the energy required to power the modern lifestyle. The concept “energy slave” refers to the technological or mechanical energy equivalent to the physical working capacity of a human adult. The energy requirements for any lifestyle can be calculated as a number of “energy slaves” equivalent to the number of human labourers which otherwise would be needed to produce the same amount of energy. In 2013, it has been estimated that the average European employs the equivalent of 400-500 “energy slaves” 24 hours a day.
The Energy Slave Token consists of a series of weights made of bitumen, which are the energy equivalents to specific quantities of physical human labour time (ie. 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, 1 life). This series of weights is designed to present the orders of magnitude that separate the labor power generated by our human bodies from the energy exploited mostly from fossil fuels which powers the technosphere. These open source tokens are designed to be easily replicated, used and distributed without restriction.
3. THE FARM
Ecosystem services estimation experiment
(Installation, 1m2 of automated cultivation, LED grow lights, camera, video streaming)
The prevailing economic orthodoxy, by which we are trained to describe and value our daily relationships with society, the world, and the biosphere, maintains this assumption inherited from the 18th c. that natural resources are unlimited, and consequently their value tends towards zero. This in effect invisibilizes and devalues the material dependencies of our societies in ecosystems. How to describe anew our relationship with the living world, and the circulation of energy and matter in the biosphere, in order to hyper-visibilize these dependencies instead of obscuring them?
As a response, “The Farm” experiment consists of one square meter of wheat cultivated completely artificially in a closed environment where all inputs are controlled and measured (water, light, nutrients…). This protocol allows to estimate the orders of magnitude of material and energy flows otherwise provided by ecosystems on arable land. The aim is thus to hyper-visibilize the immense scale of ecosystem contributions, an implicit affluence, fundamental to all human and non-human processes, which is invisibilized by convention in neo-classical economics.
“The Farm” seeks to demonstrate a fundamental and paradoxical challenge to the proposal from agro-industries to provide for the nutritional needs of large urban populations through grow houses and other artificially controlled environments. This 1 square meter experiment makes manifest the vast technical infrastructure and energy flows required to grow a staple food such as wheat in an artificial environment. In today’s economy it is profitable to artificially produce agricultural products with high water content such as leafy greens and tomatoes. However, from a systemic understanding, this apparent profitability and efficiency of the current system relies on the availability of cheap fossil energy, unaccounted-for resource extraction and pollution all over the globe, incurred in subordinate processes from mining and electronics manufacture, to international freight. The present experiment seeks to reveal the numerous layers of invisibilized interdependencies, and to provide a speculative reference reckoning of the incalculable ecosystem services at play in conventional agriculture.
4. SOLAR SHARE
Radical sustainability: a speculative economic model based on solar irradiance
(Installation, digital video with sound, coins made of plastic waste, diagrams)
High on fossil fuels, modern societies normalized the ideology according to which humankind could detach itself from the constraints and material limitations of planetary life. These constraints become harder to ignore, as the planet’s holding capacity begins to falter, and its resources run dry. How are we to reconnect with the physical, material and living reality of the world on which we depend entirely? Even today, the prevailing economic models still seem to ignore the extent to which necessary circulation of matter and energy depends on crucial physical processes for the regeneration of the biosphere or for human societies.
The “Solar Share” framework explores various speculative and radical economic models, based on the only energy input actually renewed over very long time scales here within the geo-biosphere : the extraterrestrial energy coming from the Sun. It aims to revise the prevailing economic growth narratives with an acknowledgement of the material conditions required for the persistence of our form of life in the biosphere. It proposes futuristic visions of new relationalities between humans, life and the Earth system.
The computational and diagrammatic models that have emerged from this artistic research aim to engage a broad public with vital information from science. By externalizing, in artistic and aesthetic forms, the energy systems that govern the planet’s metabolism, these models are intended to supplement critical discussion of our prospects on this planet, both in specialized spheres and in the general public, with an emphasis on the unquantifiable and missing data which lurks behind and threatens to undermine scientific, political and economic confidence.
- POST GROWTH | Sep. 3, 2020 – Feb. 7, 2021
IMAL, Art Center for Digital Cultures & Technology – Brussels, Belgium https://www.imal.org/en/events/post-growth
- POST GROWTH | Nov. 14, 2020 – Feb. 20, 2021
3 bis f, lieu d’arts contemporains - Aix-en-Provence, France https://chroniques.org/en/oeuvre/post-growth/
IN THE PRESS
- We Make Money Not Art – Ideas and toolkit for a world in crisis
- Neural #64 – Post Growth (Issue co-curated with A. Ludovico)
- HOLO Magazine – Life After The Crash (Dossier on Post Growth)
- Usbek & Rica (FR) – 9 Concepts to talk about the world to come
Production: iMAL (https://www.imal.org/en) | Co-production: Biennale Chroniques (https://chroniques.org) – 3bis f (http://www.3bisf.com) | With support from: University of California Irvine (https://uci.edu) , Productions Intérieures Brutes, ArTeC (https://www.univ-paris8.fr/eur-artec) , La Labomedia (https://labomedia.org) , UCL Louvain La Neuve (https://uclouvain.be/fr/index.html) , CNC (Dicréam) (https://www.cnc.fr)