Since the end of the twentieth century, Earth system sciences combined with biology have profoundly transformed the relationship between the human species and the world it inhabits, to the point of achieving a vertiginous reversal: what becomes clear is that living organisms are not just occupying the world, but making it. According to the researchers, ethologists, ethnologists, geochemists, and biologists who are constantly repopulating the Earth, bringing to light new dimensions, it seems that life is much more numerous and much more diverse than previously thought and that the world has different limits than the ones commonly accepted. These new scientific approaches demand a rethinking of the relationship to the land, in order to navigate in a changing and unpredictable Earth: soil collapse, disappearance of islands, extinction of species, desertification, water warfare, submergence of sea fronts, flooding of the valleys. The ruin of territories caused by the climate crisis is generating a spatial crisis that calls into question the very tools used to describe it. Indeed, the lack of a common image and imagination is a major obstacle to understanding roles and interactions in devastated environments. Through the work Aït-Touati has been pursuing for several years on stage with Bruno Latour and on paper with the architects of the SOC collective, she will discuss the combined efforts of art and research to capture a plural, multiple, moving, and animated Earth. In this perspective, the map and the stage become laboratories, spaces for modeling and reconfiguring ways of living.
Frédérique Aït-Touati is a historian of literature and modern science, a seventeenth century specialist, and a theatre director. She is a research fellow at the CNRS and a member of the Centre de Recherches sur les Arts et le Langage at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. She works on the uses of fiction and narrative in astronomy in the seventeenth century, as well as the history of images and scientific instruments; more recently, her research has focused on the narratives and aesthetics of the Anthropocene, particularly in theatre. Her books include Fictions of the Cosmos (2011), Histoires et savoirs (2012), Le Monde en images (2015), Terra Forma (2019).
The lecture is part of the current ICI Lecture Series ERRANS, environ/s. There is hardly a discipline, field, or discourse within the natural and social sciences nor the humanities that hasn’t long been touched and transformed by the notions of milieu, environment, or Umwelt. The recent revival and proliferation of ecological discourses can be understood, at least in part, as a response to the increasingly complete immersion in technologically in-formed environments.
The transdisciplinary impact of these new concepts has not yet been captured, nor is it clear that it can be captured, but while the life sciences play a prominent role in them (having adopted, in the 19th century, concepts from physics and transgressed into the social sciences, for example, as racist discourses and social Darwinism), they don’t operate as the leading science in this transformation. Instead, this process appears to be a multidirectional, non-hierarchizable, and errant movement, itself constituting a complex ecology of knowledge.
ERRANS environ/s contemplates aspects of this frequently divergent, potentially errant, and certainly ongoing transformation of not only the sciences or cultures of knowledge, but also cultural and artistic production at large. It will investigate the ways in which an attention to environments can have the effect of dissolving boundaries or making them permeable, questioning clear-cut distinctions, undermining naive ontologies, decentring the subject, folding nature and culture, and producing complex political ecologies attuned to far-reaching entanglements.
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