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Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art

Online discussion “Towards Eco-critical Perspectives on Environment in the Baltics”

19.06.21

On 19 May at 6 pm has happened a discussion “Towards Eco-critical Perspectives on Environment in the Baltics” 



 The discussion took place on Facebook.


The discussion focused on eco-critical examinations from fields of contemporary art, architecture, geography and other practices across the Baltic region to determine the past and present entanglements at stake surrounding the natural environment and imagining potential futures of our human-environment systems


Participants: Artis Svece un Anita Zariņa, Jonas Žukauskas, Jurga Daubaraite & Egija Inzule, Redi Koobak, Lukas Brašiskis

Respondent: Epp Annus

Moderator: Inga Lāce

 

How have discourses of nature developed in the Baltic region? What are the relationships between natural and artificial systems in the region and what are the discourses surrounding them? What are the possibilities and limits of mediating the ecological subjects through visual culture? How can we change our attitude towards nature, intercalating ecocritical positions with posthumanist ecology, through discourse, visual culture, research, and contemporary art?


Environmental issues exceed the national or even the regional borders, nevertheless, there are specific nodes that form the local attitudes, and impact policies – from the local discourses regarding nature, environment and climate, to energy and transport systems and other infrastructures. The Baltic region also shares a common history of environmentalism. Most notably, at the end of the 1980s, following the changes initiated by perestroika in the Soviet Union, environmental protection movements emerged both in Latvia and in other Baltic and Eastern European countries.


In Latvia, the movement was led by the Environmental Protection Club, which also acted as an essential part of the Latvian reawakening movement, combining ecological, anti-colonial and nationalist ideas. The regular Prayer at the Sea, which addressed the pollution of the Baltic Sea, took place in all the three countries. In the times of a dire ecological crisis, it is important to review examples of past activism, their goals and failures, while we witness a younger generation of climate activists emerge. 

 

 

This is the second discussion of the research and exhibition project “Reflecting Post-Socialism through Post-Colonialism in the Baltics”, organized by the Latvian Center for Contemporary Art, analyzing the imprints of post-socialism and post-colonialism in the Baltic region and looking at them through the prism of current environmental concerns and nationalism.


Presentations


Nature Discourses in the Post-Soviet Latvia

We have recently started a multidisciplinary project on nature discourses in Latvia, our team consists of philosophers and geographers, and our aim is to disclose the various (and competing) ways nature is understood and represented in Latvia. We work in the framework of Environmental Humanities that consider ecological issues to be inseparable from the cultural meanings and social practices. We are particularly interested in the conflicts that arise regarding the initiatives aimed at protecting nature sites and areas and the role competing nature discourses play in these conflicts.


Artis Svece is a philosopher at the University of Latvia. His main areas of research are Human-Animal Studies and ecocriticism but recently his scope of interests has widened to include biophilosophy and Environmental Humanities. He has published widely in the Latvian popular press on a variety of topics including cultural and art criticism, social and environmental issues.  


Anita Zariņa is an environmental geographer at the University of Latvia whose research examines the landscape of postproductivist era, focusing on values, practices and environmental knowledge. In her past projects she has studied path dependent landscape change and modernist transformation of wetlands. Currently her work is related to the shift in nature conservation from species protection to ecological processes at landscape scale that includes her interest in rewilding and human-animal relations. 



Towards Forest Architecture

The Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been described as an energy island in relation to the infrastructure underpinning the European Union. The three states have been altering their linear infrastructural dependencies that were conceived in the years of Soviet central planning into rhizomatic networks of interdependencies of the European Project – the Baltics are framed by the overlay of these two versions of modernity that are shaping the culture and politics of this region and societies’ relationships to their environment. The futurity of the region is inscribed into the built environment as projection of many aspirations, utopias, spatial change, all forming complex cultural and material conditions. 


Building on this research and reflecting on the role of cultural practices and institutions in framing environmental relationships we have lately initiated the Neringa Forest Architecture project at NAC of Vilnius Academy of Arts that focuses on forest as constructed space, an infrastructure, an environment of ecosystems that are shaped and reliant on human actions – regulated, governed, exploited by technologies, industries and institutions.


Neringa Forest Architecture is a project by Jurga Daubaraitė, Egija Inzule and Jonas Žukauskas initiated at NAC of Vilnius Academy of Arts. 


Jurga Daubaraitė and Jonas Žukauskas are a duo of spatial practitioners currently based in Vilnius. Through architectural, curatorial and research projects they aim to create new relations between societies and their environment, past and future, by seeking to rearticulate architecture across a wider ecology of practices. They curated the exhibition The Baltic Material Assemblies at AA Gallery and RIBA in London (2018), and were co-curators of The Baltic Pavilion at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition at Venice Biennale (2016), and co-editors of The Baltic Atlas published by Sternberg (2016). Among other projects Daubaraitė and Žukauskas are currently working on Creative Playground and Garden in Vilnius.


Egija Inzule is curator and director of NAC of Vilnius Academy of Arts in Nida, Lithuania. In order to respond to the hybrid character of NAC that includes running a residency programme, organising an international doctoral school, curating the arts programme, hosting students’ seminars and managing the general premises of NAC, Inzule works on developing processes and initiate productions that emerge from historical, geopolitical and sociopolitical analysis and reflection of the Curonian Spit with focus on significance and agency of NAC in this context. Inzule has worked as curator in the teams of castillo/corrales, Paris, Istituto Svizzero di Roma and Shedhalle, Zurich. She is currently based in Zurich and Nida.  


Together they initiated Neringa Forest Architecture, a project that investigates Curonian Spit as a case study in the context of the Baltic and Scandinavian forests, considering it as an entanglement of ecologies, representations, and both colonial and industrial narratives.

 

 

Feminist Questions about Environmental Crises

Drawing on contemporary feminist theory, this presentation ponders upon the intersections between feminist studies and environmental justice. Among the many possible questions that feminist scholars have theorized are: What do the massive environmental crises have to do with bodily-bound ideas about sex, gender, and sexuality? How might we understand ecological and climate crises, rooted in relations of power, including gender, race and colonialism? What can feminist thinking contribute to visions for environmental justice, at both local and planetary scales? In light of this feminist work and the ethno-nationalist environment movements that have been important in the Baltic States in the past, I want to ask: what questions should we be asking about the environment here and now?


Redi Koobak is a feminist cultural studies scholar whose work focuses on discourses of gender, race, and sexuality in Eastern Europe, particularly Estonia. She is currently Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Women’s and Gender Research (SKOK), University of Bergen, Norway. She has worked as Assistant Professor in Gender Studies at Linköping University, Sweden and as Lecturer in Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, USA. She is the editor, with Madina Tlostanova and Suruchi Thapar-Björkert, of the volume Postcolonial and Postsocialist Dialogues: Intersections, Opacities, Challenges in Feminist Theorizing and Practice (2021, Routledge).



Environment Beyond Nature in Contemporary Baltic Artists' Films 

Increasing environmental crisis poses new questions for the Baltic artists working with the audiovisual medium, who face a challenge: to visualize the Anthropocene properly, one has to renounce the traditional idea of pristine natural sites which is embedded into the national histories of the region. Referring to the film programs he has curated for e-flux and Post MoMA, Lukas Brasiskis will present some ideas around the artistic visualization of the Anthropocene situating it in the Baltic context.The question of what strategies filmmakers apply to expose various angles of interconnection between the historical, the natural and the human-made will be discussed. 

 

Lukas Brasiskis is an Associate Curator of Video and Film for e-flux and film and media researcher, currently a PhD candidate and adjunct professor at New York University. His interests include eco-media, the politics and aesthetics of world cinema, and intersections between philosophy, moving-image cultures, and the contemporary art world. His texts have been published in both academic and non-academic media and he is currently co-editing a Cinema and the Environment in Eastern Europe for Berghahn Books and Jonas Mekas: The Camera was Always Running for Yale University Press. Lukas has curated a number of screening programs, including the ongoing True Fake: Troubling the Real in Artists’ Films (e-flux, NY), Ecology After Nature: Industries, Communities, and Environmental Memory (e-flux, NY), From Matter to Data: Ecology of Infrastructures (with Inga Lace, Post MoMa, NY), Environmental Memories in East-Central European Art (Alternative Film/Video Festival, Belgrade), Landscape to be Experienced and to be Read: Time, Ecology, Politics on the work of filmmaker James Benning (CAC, Vilnius), Mermaid with The Movie Camera (Spectacle Theater, NY), Human, Material, Machine (with Leo Goldsmith, CAC, Vilnius, Lithuania), Baltic Poetic Documentary as Ethnographic Cinema (NYU, NY), Welcome to the Anthropocene (CCAMP, Lithuania), and a retrospective of the films of Nathaniel Dorsky (CAC, Vilnius) among others.


Epp Annus is associate professor with Tallinn University, Institute of Humanities (Estonia) and a lecturer in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures at Ohio State University (USA). She received her Ph.D. from the University of Tartu (Estonia). Her publications in English include Soviet Postcolonial Studies: A View from the Western Borderlands (Routledge, 2018) and Coloniality, Nationality, Modernity: A Postcolonial View on Baltic Cultures under Soviet Rule, ed. by Epp Annus (Routledge, 2018). Her research interests include Soviet and post-Soviet Baltic cultures, postcolonial studies and phenomenology of everyday life. She is an author of a novel and several children books.


The project is supported by the State Culture Capital Foundation in Latvia.


Emīlija Škarnulytė, Energy Island (still), 2018. Courtesy of the artist
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