Dark Ecology Vimeo Album: A möbius research trip for thinking on objects beyond human perception

To sustain and develop ongoing ideas and conversations about some of the subjects within the three-year research project Dark Ecology, we invite key figures back to speak, reflect and build (upon) work in different settings. Philosopher and theorist Timothy Morton, from whom we borrowed the title Dark Ecology, is one of the people who has been an integral part of this unfolding journey. In 2007, philosopher and theorist Timothy Morton wrote Ecology without Nature (2007), in which he introduces an ‘Ecological Thought’, a reasoning that sets apart why the Romantic notion of ‘Nature’ no longer seems adequate. In his subsequent book The Ecological Thought (2010), Morton writes that ‘ecological thought’ is not nice and green, or a 'celebration of all things natural'. Rather, ecological thought is about the interconnectedness of things. This means that real ecological thought also includes all things human (the ugliness, negativity, irony and horror), interconnected within a 'mesh' that we can no longer make sense of, at least not without the confusion invoked by knowing that we are part of this selfsame mesh. Humans are both part of an object and an observer of it; we are directly affected by our ecology; it is not something remote from us. The mesh is dark, and this dark ecology of the mesh puts 'hesitation, uncertainty, irony, and thoughtfulness back into ecological thinking'. This is what thinking about Dark Ecology entails.

Timothy Morton - Human Thought at Earth Magnitude - Dark Ecology 2014

Timothy Morton was a keynote speaker during the first Dark Ecology Journey in 2014 at Samfundshuset in Kirkenes, where he spoke on 'Human Thought at Earth Magnitude’, a title inspired by his friend, Professor of Media and Innovation Douglas Kahn. Morton talked about what happens when we scale our thinking to the level of Earth magnitude; while statements can become highly accurate and specific, they are still far from universal. Thinking at Earth magnitude is deeply intertwined with paradoxes in human thought: the loop form that Morton describes as the basis to being anything at all.  Morton also ‘invented’ the concept of the 'hyperobject', which is probably as important to our research as the concept of ‘dark ecology’ (and is part of the title of a book he published in 2013). In 2014, Arie Altena and Lucas van der Velden interviewed Morton immediately after the first Dark Ecology Journey about the concept Dark Ecology and his experiences during the trip. When asked about the relationship between hyperobjects and the idea of 'beauty', Morton answered: "The headline is: beauty is the imminence of death. [...]  Something is already tuning to you, even before you saw it. It emanates a seductive field and so you have a relationship where one could shrink-wrap the other. An appearance that shrink-wraps another appearance, is, for want of a better word, death. Beauty is almost like a homeopathic dose of death. This means beauty is not a thing that I can protect from all the other things like ugliness and disgust and kitschiness. It’s got a kind of disgusting, funny, little sickly halo around it that is part of it. We still have a very toxic default ontology that sees the aesthetic as just candy on top of the boring cupcake of things. Its not correct and modern science proves that it isn’t. Especially in our culture, people want beauty to be very functional. They want to be able to identify what something beautiful is for, so they can relax. But that’s exactly what you cannot do with beauty. Perhaps the most ecological art is the most ambiguous." 2014 Dark Ecology Interview with Timothy Morton by Arie Altena and Lucas van der Velden    Timothy Morton: Subscendence – Sonic Acts Festival the Geologic Imagination 2015 In the 2015 Sonic Acts invited Timothy Morton back to speak in Paradiso, Amsterdam during Sonic Acts Festival The Geologic Imagination. Morton spoke about hyperobjects, by unpacking the concept of subscendence, the inverse of transcendence. Subscendence happens when something shrinks into its component parts in such a way that the whole is always less than the sum of its parts. This new concept is very useful for thinking ecological beings: in an ecological world, beings are always fragile and incomplete; even the massive ones, such as hyperobjects, exist in precisely this way.  Graham Harman: Anthropocene Ontology – Sonic Acts Festival the Geologic Imagination 2015 During the same block at the 2015 Geologic Imagination Festival, Graham Harman is a leading figure within the Object Oriented Ontology (OOO) school of thought (the philosophical study of existence) took to the stage to discuss some of the basic problems inherent to the Anthropocene. The proposed Anthropocene is not an anthropocentric epoch, for the obvious reason that it highlights the fragility of the human species rather than human supremacy. This split between the Anthropocene and the anthropocentric compels us to recognise an important philosophical distinction that is seldom acknowledged. Namely, the fact that humans are involved as ingredients in the creation of some entity does not mean that the entity has no autonomous reality apart from humans. The Anthropocene climate is generated by humans and is independently mysterious to us, and the same holds for other fields that have been ‘anthropocene’ from the start: human society, art, economics…. Graham Harman: Morton’s Hyperobjects and the Anthropocene – Dark Ecology 2015 Harman was invited to join the second Dark Ecology Journey in 2015. During his keynote at the Samfundshuset in Kirkenes, Harman discussed Morton’s hyperobjects, explaining that although they are things that influence our daily lives, we cannot perceive them completely through our human senses. Hyperobjects are entities that exceed the usual dimensions of a human life, to become ‘anthropocene objects’, which require human beings as one of their components, even if they are not exhausted by human access to them. Hyperobects thus transcend the scales of spatiotemporal specificity; they are too massively distributed over time and space. Harman mentions the Universe, global warming and plutonium as examples of such objects and moves on to the topic of change to explain the difference between Morton’s objects and the objects in Latour’s actor-network theory. In opposition to Latour, hyperobjects always have an amount of change in reserve. Things are not exhausted at every moment. Not all aspects are expressed at all times, though they might be in the future.   Timothy Morton. Dark Ecology. For a Logic of Future Coexistence. 2016.  We are on the brink embarking on the third and final Dark Ecology Journey, and Timothy Morton has been invited to present another lecture, this time in the light of the release of his 2016 book Dark Ecology.  Whenever Morton writes Dark, he never meant literal darkness. ‘Dark ecology starts off dark, as in dark and depressing. It evolves into dark as mysterious. But then, in the end, its dark like sweet dark chocolate.’ The literal darkness that enshrouded the first two Dark Ecology Journeys made the experience of the place pretty surreal; it brought an aesthetic to the entire experience. Aesthetics is very important to Dark Ecology because it illustrates the ways in which ecological objects withdraw from their visible properties. In Dark Ecology (the book), ‘Timothy Morton argues that ecological awareness in the present Anthropocene takes the form of a strange loop or Möbius strip, twisted to have only one side.’ Similarly, the Dark Ecology research journeys have been trying to deal with such an object: first two Journeys occurred during winter solstice, in darkness, while this third and final Journey take places just before the summer solstice.  Timothy Morton: Dark Ecological Chocolate - Dark Ecology, Friday 10 June 2016, NIBIO Svanhovd, Norway During his 2016 Dark Ecology lecture Morton will provide an experiential map, or a phenomenology of dark ecology. He asks what the chemicals that make up ecological awareness are, and argues that they form a very distinctive pattern that we are traversing right now.  For writing on the subjects that inspired Dark Ecology take a look at our yearly Dark Ecology Reading lists, compiled by Arie Altena:  Reading List I (2014) Reading List II (2015) Reading List III (2016)

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