July 20th 2023
to July 23rd 2023
Research, Public Program
Floating University Berlin
All public events are hosted at Floating Berlin,
free and open to all bodies.
How can we think and relate to toxicity, both on a material and also on a conceptual level? How can we overcome the binary distinctions derived from modernity that separate what is toxic from what is safe and blur the boundaries between the natural and the artificial, between the body and the environment? How can we render visible the invisible, how can we materialise the ethereal? How are the limits between security and toxicity set and by whom?
While the term toxicity immediately unfolds a shared imaginary related to harmful agents, ecological violence and environmental quality levels, we also want to refer to toxicity in social and political relations, cultural practices and our co-existence with more-than-human worlds.
Over four days in July members of Floating University Berlin, the Institute for Postnatural Studies (Madrid), and researcher Maria Morata as a pollinating agent will gather in Floating University’s rainwater retention basin together with guests and allies to think, exchange, explore, and resonate with each other on the theme of toxicity, in search of new ways of survival on a planet that has truly become intoxicated. Employing various modes of engagement, the group of artists and researchers will work to expand the term, establish a more fluid understanding, and establish a living archive on site. The research process will be shared in open events including screenings a presentation and discussions.
Thursday, July 20th - 9:00 PM
Public Program: A place to live, or not Screening curated by María Morata
The film program navigates through three material encounters with different forms of toxicity between air, water, and human bodies in three different places. Also, The bar will be open, as the Thirsty Thursday Program runs in parallel.
The Veiled City Natalie Cubides-Brady UK, 2022, 13 min, No dialogues
In 1952, London was engulfed in the Great Smog. As a result of industrialization, a leaden fog settled over the entire city. The archive images from this period become fictional letters from a desolate future.
Ligne Noire / Black Line Mark Olexa, Francesca Scalisi Switzerland, 2017, 10 min
A young woman swims up a turbid river against the current, energetically pulling in a fishing net to the chant of a muezzin. It is a glimpse of reality, captured on the spot in the Sundarbans nature reserve in Bangladesh when it was hit by an oil accident that devastated both its ecosystem and the local population.
Là où nous sommes / Where we Are Amélie Bargetzi Switzerland, France, 2021, 36 min Languages: French, English Subtitles: English, French
How can you live in Fos-sur-Mer, a southern French town studded with refineries and chemical plants? Some inhabitants endeavor to resist their condition—in every sense of the term—by talking to the filmmaker, whose camera frames their nightmarish landscape, in which it sometimes unearths parcels of ambiguous beauty. The film program navigates through three material encounters with different forms of toxicity between air, water, and human bodies in three different places. Also, The bar will be open, as the Thirsty Thursday Program runs in parallel.
Friday, July 21st
Non-Public Program Collaborative research with Toxic Commons
Toxicity is a slippery phenomenon that poses many methodological challenges. Not only are humans poorly equipped to register and act upon it, but it is also difficult to think meaningfully about its abstracted casualties and the way it connects life-worlds on a planetary scale—in what is becoming an increasingly toxic common. The sharing session will begin with a series of propositions and artistic positions that invite ways to think through this conundrum together. To ground the discussion further, two research sites will be put into conversation and conceptual comparison: the post-industrial chemical town Bitterfeld-Wolfen in former East Germany, and the industrial city of Fushun, situated at the edge of Asia’s largest open pit mine in the Northeastern Region of China.
Caroline Ektander is a Swedish architect and artist-researcher based in Berlin. Her design work deals with toxicity and ways of expanding common understandings of pollution in post-industrialised landscapes. Together with Antonia Alampi and Prof.Simone Müller, she co-founded the art-science platform Toxic Commons in 2018.
Mia Yu is an art historian and curator. Her research-based practice centers on global extractive frontiers, affective ecologies, and eco-poetics from the perspective of Northeast Asia. Her most recent exhibitions/discursive projects include “Liu Yujia: A Darkness Shimmering in the Light” and “Ecological Entanglements from Northeast China and Beyond”.
Friday, July 21st - 9:00 PM
Public Program Short Film Screening (open-air) and discussion with the artist Eternit by Richard Dmitri Hees
The video essay investigates the role of modernist architect Paul Baumgarten in the distribution of asbestos products in post-war Germany. By going to the archive with a camcorder, visiting an asbestos-filled villa, and looking for torn-down factories, Richard Dima Hees is tracing the history of Germany’s leading architect in asbestos technology.
Richard Dima Hees is a master's student of architecture at UdK Berlin and writes books. He currently works on the topics of asbestos, white-collar crime, and a small town in New Jersey. In Winter 2022 he published a fiction book called Kramer’s Gift about the TV Series Seinfeld. Furthermore, he writes a Substack Blog under the pseudonym Steen Tofteng.
Saturday, July 22nd
Non-Public Program: Collaborative research with MELT Pressure deep-time plastic massage
Pressure on the body can slow down heartbeats and create feelings of calmness – or, might, if the pressure becomes too much, bring up questions of how much it is that one can hold. In this session, we will create pressure objects from plastic bags, sand, and stones to experience weight as a Zeitgeber (time-giver) on our bodies. The plastic itself is a material of pressure and time, as crude oil is formed through both, only to be then transformed into a material that capitalism burns through all too quickly. In this pressure deep-time plastic massage we will experiment with holding pressure literally.
MELT (Ren Loren Britton & Iz Paehr) study and experiment with shape-shifting processes as they meet technologies, sensory media, and critical pedagogies in a warming world. MELT currently builds projects along four different research tracks: ACCESS SERVER, The Meltionary, Counting Feelings, and Zeitgeber. Their arts-design research cooks up practices that generate material and infrastructural transformations that intersect Trans* feminism and Disability Justice. Working with change and MELT(ing) as a kaleidoscope their work engages multiple topics at once: climate change, the potential for political reformulations, critical technical practice, and access-making. MELT shares work in the form of videos, installations, websites, lectures, and workshops.
Sunday, July 23rd - 2:00 PM
Public Program: Fluid Toxicity Archive Closure presentation and discussion
We aim to build an on-going archive of the present moment which includes different ways of understanding toxicity. It will contain not only our research materials, thinking processes and embodied experiences but the resonances of our encounters with other agents and bodies. In this presentation, we will present some of our materials and will discuss how an object, a bodily experience, a feeling, and a process can become a living and evolving archival document.
Thursday, July 20, 9 pm – Film Screening (open-air) “A Place to live, or not” Curated by Maria Morata Friday, July 21, 9 pm – Short Film Screening (open-air) “Eternit” by Richard Dmitri Hees Sunday, July 23, 2 pm – Fluid Toxicity Archive, presentation and discussion