School of Machines, Making & Make-Believe presents a 5-wk online class on navigating apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narratives
About this event
How do artists, designers and activists use biohacking, robotics, synthetic biology, photography, collaborative experiments or gaming to investigate existential threats, devise creative strategies for survival and explore humanitys strange fascination for apocalyptic scenarios?
/ Five-week Live* Online class begins 8. November ends 6. December
/ Every Monday, 6pm-8pm, CET
/ Small class of participants
/Tickets available through Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.com/e/an-artistic-toolkit-for-the-apocalypse-tickets-167607836551
Heatwaves and forest fires, elevated sea levels, rising CO2 emissions, massive drop in insect populations. Distrust in democracy, civil unrests, super intelligence gone rogue, pandemic. But also asteroids hitting the Earth, nuclear bomb, antibiotic resistance, cyberwar, uncontrollable financial crisis. And all the unknown unknowns. For most of us, these disasters used to be confined to science-fiction, video games and Hollywood blockbusters. Not anymore. Every morning, news headlines seem to suggest that reality has imploded and that the end of the world is about to land on our own backyard.
How will the human race get through escalating global catastrophes? As the past few years have painfully shown, we can't prevent a catastrophe, but maybe we can build a world far more resilient to it. Doing so requires imagination and a bit of faith. Faith in solidarity between humans or faith in technology. Sometimes both.
Survivalists are getting ready for a post-apocalyptic future. Some of them buy properties in New Zealand, some stock up on unpalatable freeze-dried food for their underground bunker, others plan to build a spaceship and colonise another planet. Details differ but the spirit is the same: everyone for themselves! The so-called "collapsologists” also believe in the incoming collapse of our thermo-industrial civilisation. However, they are of the opinion that what will save us is a mix of science, resourcefulness and solidarity.
The class will be looking at doomsday scenarios through the prism of science, technology and art. Each week, we will discuss the works of artists, designers and other creative minds who navigate apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narratives or who simply acquaint themselves with surviving skills.
There will be space for questions and conversations. Hopefully, some of them will offer catharsis.
#massextinction #BlackSwan #GreyRhino #DragonKing #ExistentialRisks
Week 1: A moment to get to know each other
The programme of the first Monday consists of informal introductions (who we are, why we are here but also what you can expect from the coming weeks) and the viewing of a couple of short videos by artists. The short movies, which will look at what a more or less dystopian and catastrophic future might look like, will be the starting points for informal discussions about our anxieties, our hopes and the various (un)wise strategies our fellow human being have devised to face any incoming catastrophe.
This first encounter will also be an opportunity to give a broad overview of the history of the apocalypse and its representations. The end of the world is an age-old human invention and artists have always tried to make sense of both natural disasters and man-made catastrophes.
#BlackDeath #Armageddon #eschatology #InThisTogether
Week 2: Whos laughing at the doomsday peppers now?
Fear is a powerful creator of conspiracy theories and other highly dramatic narratives.
Fear is also a big market opportunity where it does not pay to be subtle. It is a lifestyle with its own aesthetics, language and market. Its own reality shows, expos and camps.
Survivalists range from families who amass food and water supplies in their basement to wealthy individuals who buy bunkers and other fortified properties in remote locations.
Its very tempting to dismiss these communities as gangs of machos in search of an opportunity to parade their mettle. Doomsday preppers also reveal a wider cultural apprehension and a loss of faith in governments' capability to take care of their own citizens. We can even see echoes of this anxiety in governments and private companies' ongoing attempts to secure our genetic, cultural, biological and digital patrimony (in the form of seeds, sperm, animal tissues, etc.) behind heavy doors.
The artists and designers whose works will be discussed in Week 2 investigate the impact of this culture of fear on society and experiment with surviving skills.
#FuneralPotatoes #Underground #BunkerBliss #NuclearShelter #Trumpocalypse #Unabomber #antinatalism #BugOutVehicle
Week 3: Technology to the rescue
While Week 2 asked the question Can you buy resilience?”, this week will explore whether or not resilience and survival can be engineered.
Silicon Valley and its disciplines across the world are devising plans to save the world from climate meltdown, human obsolescence and other impending calamities. Their technosolutionist approach is rooted in the assumption that technology is far more reliable than other people. Cue to devices that reverse CO2 emissions, to medical technology that will make humans immortal, to algorithms that suppress civic unrest at its roots or to glass powder scattered over the Arctic in an effort to help ice grow back.
Perhaps indeed unbridled innovation will save us. Or at least some of us. Perhaps we wont mind any loss of privacy if a risk-management” technology makes us safer. But what if something goes wrong? Sooner or later a technology capable of wiping out human civilisation might even be invented. General Artificial Intelligence, for example, might one day outwit us and finally transform the planet into that pile of paper clips. Or, more prosaically, the mineral resources necessary to build green technologies will deplete and stop the ecological transition in its well-meaning tracks.
The artists whose works will be discussed in Week 3 explore the ambivalent role of innovation, dismantle some of its ideological blind spots and challenge turbo-engineered solutions to future threats.
#SurvivalOfTheRichest #geoengineering #transhumanism #technosolutionism #technochauvinism #PleistocenePark
Week 4: What if there is a Planet B after all?
The Moon barely has any atmosphere. The average temperature on Venus is 462 degrees Celsius. You cant even breathe on Mars. And yet, space represents the new El Dorado for many nations and private companies. Asteroids mining, Moon bases, human settlement on Mars, orbital/suborbital/lunar space tourism, etc. Nothing is too bold, too expensive, too technically challenging. In a world that tends to dystopia and apocalypse, its more tempting than ever to believe that spreading into the cosmos and giving rise to a galactic civilisation will save humanity's future.
Is this drive to rocket us to Mars, the Moon or Titan the new face of imperialism and human hubris? Or is it a reasonable alternative to a planet that might one day no longer be able to nurture us?
Some of the artists, architects and designers featured in Week 4 examine the possibility of genetically engineering humans who can survive on other celestial bodies, investigate the legal right to appropriate outer space resources and design spaceships that behave like living organisms.
#computationalplanet #terraforming #SpaceX #Starlink #extremophiles #neocolonialism
Week 5: Repair, don’t despair!
Collapsology, a movement born in France in the mid-2010s, postulates that the inevitable collapse of our thermo-industrial” civilization will force us to do what weve always been doing throughout evolution: we will keep on being a social species, we will cooperate and quietly build up local resilience.
The collapsologists study the collapse of our civilisation as scientifically as possible. Their thinking is anchored in the latest studies coming from disciplines as different as biology, climatology, economy, geopolitics, etc. However, they add elements of story-telling, imagination and intuitions in order to outline the world after”.
Collapsology theses have met with many critics but they have the merits of boldly confronting the threats looming in the background of our daily existence. They also challenge the tendency some of us might have of feeling so defeated and powerless that we dont take action.
Collapsologists are not the only ones who see hope in solidarity and imagination. The artworks and design projects presented in the final week attempt to shape a world more perennial and more respectful of future generations. That world will probably be a bit uncomfortable, decidedly low-tech and a bit provincial but it will decidedly be more convivial.
Who is this course for?
Artists, designers, makers and pretty much anyone interested in human, in non-human life and their future. Come join us. Enthusiastic like-minded community included. No experience necessary.
The classes are live?*
Classes are 'live' meaning that you can directly interact with the instructor as well as with the other participants from around the world. Classes will also be recorded for playback in case you are unable to attend for any reason. For specific questions, please email info[at]schoolofma.org
We realise we're living in uncertain times. During this time, we are offering a limited number of pay-what-you-can solidarity tickets for this online class. These are reserved for women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ who would otherwise be unable to attend. We are a small organisation with no outside funding and like many, we are also in survival mode and we ask you to consider this when making your donation.
Note: Due to the fact that we are receiving way more requests for Solidarity tickets than we can accommodate, we ask that if you have already taken three that you please purchase a regular ticket in order to make them available to other people. Also, please note that we may send a follow-up email asking you to confirm your eligibility for these tickets. We are trying to make our classes accessible to as many people as possible and greatly appreciate your understanding and support.
Please Note: For tax purposes, we need to include the 19% VAT on top of ticket price.
IF YOU LIVE IN THE EU AND HAVE A VAT NUMBER— IT IS VAT ZERO! WE ENCOURAGE EVERYONE TO HAVE AND PROVIDE THIS VAT TAX NUMBER.
In order to utilise this feature at checkout, under Registration Type & Tax Receipt Information, select Business (which as a freelancer you technically are). Then enter in your USt.ID.
If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch: info[at]schoolofma.org
Regine Debatty we-make-money-not-art.com/
Régine Debatty is a curator, critic and founder of http://we-make-money-not-art.com/, a blog which has received numerous distinctions over the years, including two Webby awards and an honorary mention at the START Prize, a competition launched by the European Commission to acknowledge "innovative projects at the interface of science, technology and art".
Régine writes and lectures internationally about the way artists, hackers, and designers use science and technology as a medium for critical discussion. She also created A.I.L. (Artists in Laboratories), a weekly radio program about the connections between art and science for Resonance104.4fm in London (2012–14), and is the co-author of the “sprint book” New Art/Science Affinities, published by Carnegie Mellon University (2011.) She co-authored, together with Vuk Ćosić and Prof. Vladan Joler a guide about AI and culture for the Council of Europe (to be published in early 2021.)