Call for Papers | THE SWAMP POTENTIAL, Kunstlicht Vol. 45, no. 3-4

Guest editors: Suzie van Staaveren and Robbie Schweiger
Deadline: 15 April 2024
Published: November 2024

We are thrilled to announce the call for papers for the upcoming issue of Kunstlicht dedicated to the ecological and discursive potential of swamps within artistic practices and design cultures.

Recent projects, such as Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol presented at the Chilean Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022 and Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas’ retrospective Partially Swamped Institution at the Vilnius National Gallery of Art in 2023, oppose dominant interpretations and representations of the swamp as hostile, underdeveloped, and unprofitable and reveal the ongoing (post)colonial and climate crimes that are connected to these kinds of landscapes. With organic and archival materials and immersive multisensorial installations, the projects point to the potential of swamps as complex ecosystems of human and non-human coexistence and as political agents able to reverse colonial logic and provide bases for community-based activism and resistance.[1]

Ariel Bustamante, Carla Macchiavello, Alfredo Thiermann, and Dominga Sotomayor, “Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol,” Chilean Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale, April 23-November 27, 2022. Photo: Helene Romakin.

For this issue of Kunstlicht, we invite you to think with us and imagine the potential of swamps through art and design practices. What insights does studying (the history and the representation of) swamps with their many human and non-human inhabitants bring? How do these transitional areas between land and water afford other ways of physical and ethical connections to the environment in a time of deep ecological crisis and social injustice? What can artistic practices and design cultures learn from swamps (as spaces or metaphors) in order to create or imagine other ways of being in the world? And how can art practices and design cultures contribute to raising awareness of the swamp’s potential?

Swamp, wasteland

As was shown in the above-mentioned exhibitions, swamps have often been (wrongfully) interpreted and represented as negligible, superfluous, hostile, underdeveloped, and nonprofitable spaces. A word that is often used when talking about swamps is ‘wasteland’, a term articulated by philosopher John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government (1690).[2] In his theory of property, which counts as a cornerstone of capitalism, Locke argued for certain ways of using land – transforming wastelands into ‘productive’ areas, thereby legitimising capitalism and settler colonialism. Being considered a wasteland often led to the drainage and exploitation of swamps, both in the European mainland as well as in European colonised territories. Similar categories – waste and productivity by cultivation – were also applied to the human inhabitants of these landscapes:  “associated with wildness, wilderness, and savagery […] the category of wasteland also defined who would and who would not become most vulnerable to dispossession and/or enclosure.”[3] The drainage, exploitation and sometimes flooding of swamps, the latter being the case after the completion of the Afobaka dam in 1964 in Suriname, had disastrous consequences for the complex ecosystems of these transitional areas between land and water and their human and non-human inhabitants. As a current exhibition at the Museum Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam, shows, the effects of the flooding in Suriname are still felt today as the event led to the mass displacement of the Maroons, who are the descendants of Africans enslaved during colonial times. Starting in the 18th century, they rebelled against their oppression, fled their captors, and formed autonomous communities in the inland swamps.[4]

Soengoe Kondre / Submerged Heritage, Nieuwe Instituut, 2023. Photo: Aad Hogendoorn.

Only in more recent decades has the ecological and discursive potential of swamps resurfaced more clearly. Swamps are not only living waters full of interdependent and interconnected life forms, category-denying and fugitive spaces for communities like the Maroons, they also question colonial, capitalist and (neo)liberal ideas of land use and ownership. In that vein, swamps can function as what decolonial scholar Brenna Bhandar describes as a “new political imaginary of property in which freedom is connected to shared practices of use and community rather than individual possession.”[5]

However, the awareness of the importance and potential of the swamp as an ecological buffer zone in times of climate crisis was again founded on the capitalisation and colonisation of swamps. As some types of swamps (peatlands and mangroves) are highly efficient at carbon storage they too become tradable, exchangeable and profitable goods. Large companies that, for example, operate in aviation or the fossil fuel industry, use these landscapes for calculated carbon offsetting and compensation, with which they buy the right to do harm elsewhere. It is becoming increasingly clear that the idea of carbon offsetting and compensation is no solution to the climate crisis. Instead, it is part of the same colonial, capitalist and (neo)liberal ideas of land use and ownership that keep harming ecosystems and displacing communities. But are there other ways?

In his book The Gift (1983), scholar Lewis Hyde proposes an alternative to the capitalisation of nature and Lockean ways of land use and ownership in order to establish ecological regeneration. According to Hyde, humans should engage in a gift relationship with nature, which could take the form of rituals that connect and exchange with nature. This awareness of interspecies interconnectedness and interdependence, which Hyde illustrates with pre-Colombian and pagan hunting, harvest and sacrificial rituals, recognises our involvement in and reliance on ecological regeneration as it tends to view nature as an extension of ourselves rather than ‘a stranger or alien available for exploitation’.[6] Consequently, gift exchange inherently restrains the destruction of natural resources; through it, we refrain from ecological degeneration unless we knowingly endanger ourselves in the process. Gifts, according to Hyde, are works of art. Conversely, it can be argued that artworks are gifts. They foster trust among strangers and pave the way for new possibilities and potential futures.[7]

Informed by his Yoruba ancestry and inspired by the Maroons (not only in Suriname but all over the Americas), academic, poet and philosopher Bayo Akomolafe is thinking of ways to escape the capitalist and colonial logic in dealing with the climate crisis. Instead of action and productivity (fighting and solving), he advocates for a more humble approach of: dwelling on, slowing down, listening, and witnessing what has occurred.[8] He describes this approach as a form of “climate grief,” a process which does not look for a solution or way out, but instead calls for reflection and rituals of mourning and caring to find a way to live with the ecological losses. According to Akomolafe, it is time to “hack the system” by shaping spaces and communities where complexity, interspecies interdependence, and relationality take precedence over human domination and productivity. Just like swamps, Akomolafe sees art as such a space and community. Art as a space for questioning and imagination as resistance to productivity and capitalist and colonial logic. Art as a space of “creative surrender,” where physical and ethical connections to the environment can be explored.[9]


Life Compensation Lottery

The paragraphs above are the product of the research conducted for the Life Compensation Lottery that incites this call for papers. Life Compensation Lottery will be presented in Amsterdam in 2025, and is initiated by artist Suzie van Staaveren and curated by Robbie Schweiger (who are the guest-editors of this issue of Kunstlicht). The project revolves around the organisation of a postcode lottery amongst people living around the Volgermeerpolder, a drained former swamp consisting of peat that over the course of the 20th century was turned from waste into productive land resulting in a heavily polluted area bordering Amsterdam-Noord and the municipality of Waterland.[10] All residents living in this area participate automatically and for free and have a chance to win a unique prize: carbon compensation for their entire life. After the draw, the winner’s carbon emissions will be estimated as accurately as possible by a climate scientist and compensated by restoring local peatland on top of the contamination at the Volgermeerpolder. In cooperation with various local interest groups, a performative public programme will be organised in the Volgermeerpolder in the form of an award ceremony of the lottery and the unveiling of a monument designed by Suzie van Staaveren. This permanent artwork will have multiple functions: it will be the connection between the life of the winner and the growing peatland at the Volgermeerpolder, it will be a memorial to the environmental damage caused in the area, and it will function as a basis for community-based activism and the creation of rituals that connect and exchange with this landscape.

Aerial photo of the Volgermeerpolder via tauw.nl. Photo: Tom Kisjes.

Although Life Compensation Lottery takes carbon offsetting as its starting point, it simultaneously criticises this phenomenon. It addresses and makes visible the shortcomings and complexities of carbon offsetting and compensation while also engaging in community-based activism and ecological regeneration. Compensation is bureaucratically complicated and involves the commodification of nature. By highlighting the limitations and ethical issues surrounding carbon offsetting, it challenges the capitalist and colonial logic of buying compensation for environmental damage. By framing compensation as something won by chance and luck through a lottery system, the project disrupts the idea of compensation as a transactional process. The project connects the compensation to a specific geographic area and a human life (that of the winner), emphasising that offsetting is not universally applicable and that alternative physical and ethical connections to the environment must be found.


We invite scholars, artists, ecologists, climate activists and practitioners from various disciplinary backgrounds and from all stages in their academic, creative, professional or resistance practice to elaborate on the issues raised and submit a proposal for essays, interviews, poems and other poetic and experimental texts, prose, playlists, and visual works.

Proposals (200-300 words) with attached résumés and related image material can be sent to redactie@tijdschriftkunstlicht.nl by no later than April 15, 2024. Selected contributors will be notified shortly thereafter and invited to write a 2,500/3,000-word essay (excluding (foot)notes), or to submit an artistic contribution.

Please note: Contributors who publish in Kunstlicht will receive three complimentary copies. Kunstlicht is a volunteer-run academic journal and is unable to provide an author’s honorarium. Three years following publication, essay contributions will be uploaded to the freely accessible online archive.


[1] Valentina Sansone, “Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas Embrace the Swamp,” Frieze, Issue 239 (2023): Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas Embrace the Swamp | Frieze; Helene Romankin, “Field Notes: “Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol.”Chilean Pavilion. 59th Venice Biennale,” e-flux Education (2022): Field Notes: Helene Romakin on “Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol,” Chilean Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale – e-flux Education.

[2] John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Ed. C. B. Macpherson (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1980), 20–22.

[3] Judy Whitehead, “John Locke and the Governance of India’s Landscape: The Category of Wasteland in Colonial Revenue and Forest Legislation,” Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 45, No. 50 (December 11–17, 2010): 83.

[4] “Soengoe Kondre / Submerged Heritage,” Nieuwe Instituut (2023): Soengoe Kondre / Submerged Heritage (nieuweinstituut.nl).

[5] Brenna Bhandar, Colonial Lives of Property: Law, Land, and Racial Regimes of Ownership, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2018): Duke University Press – Colonial Lives of Property (dukeupress.edu).

[6] Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, (New York: Vintage, 2007): 28.

[7] Ibidem.

[8] Ayana Young (host), “Dr. Bayo Akomolafe on Slowing Down in Urgent Times,” for the wild (podcast) (2020): Dr. BAYO AKOMOLAFE on Slowing Down in Urgent Times /155 — FOR THE WILD.

[9] Ibidem.

[10] The Volgermeerpolder has a special – tainted – history. This former swamp or ‘wasteland’ was mined for peat from the early 1900s, after which it was put to use as a landfill where huge amounts of chemical waste were illegally dumped. After this came to light in the 1980s, the contaminated area was covered with a thick plastic film. Since 2006 the Volgermeerpolder has been undergoing a transformation where sawa’s (flooded fields surrounded by narrow dikes) are created to redevelop a peat landscape within these sawa’s on top of the plastic film. Paradoxically, the waste and pollution has turned the area into a swamp that can no longer be treated as wasteland in a Lockean sense and as exchangeable and tradable. In addition, the area has also become a basis for community-based activism, seeking to raise awareness for the history of the Volgeermeerpolder and the safety of local (future) residents.

Two Launch events for BETWEEN THE STANDING AND THE INCLINED

SAVE THE DATE 

20 January 2024, 3-5 pm at Casco Art Institute, Utrecht

21 February 2024, 7-9 pm at Framer Framed, Amsterdam. Registration link will follow.


Coming up on 20th of January 2024 and on the 21st of February are the two launch events of Kunstlicht Vol. 44, N. 4: BETWEEN THE STANDING AND THE INCLINED: STRUCTURES SUPPORTING CHANGE. Each event will feature different contributors from the issue.

What is the inclined? Why support structures? And how can these help us speak about change—(because yes, we still want many things around us to be different)?

Support is generally intended as something that holds up or serves as a foundation, provides a basis for the existence or subsistence of someone or something, keeps from yielding, and gives comfort. In this issue, we have used support to speak of all that sustains and thus shapes an art practice, what allows someone to stand as an artist and art professional today in the absence of or despite certain systems, in the cracks of objective material constraints, turning them into opportunities for collective actions and self-empowerment.

Guest-editors of this issue: Maja Bekan and Angela Serino, with contributions by Manuela Zammit and Alina Lupu, Patricia H. McMeans, Eleonore Pano-Zavaroni and Kathrin Wolkowicz, Multiple Choice, Irena Borić, Mari Kalabegashvili, Gunndís Ýr Finnbogadóttir, Yasmine Ostendorf-Rodriguez, Toni Kritzer.


The Casco launch will have presentations by Toni Kritzer and Patricia H. McMeans.

The Framer Framed launch will feature Manuela Zammit and Alina Lupu, Multiple Choice and Kathrin Wolkowicz.


Image from the issue: Maja Bekan and Angela Serino, “Between the Standing and the Inclined”, Visual Dialogue, 2023.

Vol. 44, No. 4: Between the Standing and the Inclined: Structures Supporting Change

Editorial Note
Lisa Marie Sneijder

Introduction
Angela Serino And Maja Bekan

Institutional Critique Is Not Enough, We Need to Target the Infrastructure
Manuela Zammit and Alina Lupu

A Radical Friendship of Difference
Patricia Healy Mcmeans

One Who Eats Bread with Another: A Conversation on Companionship
Eléonore Pano-Zavaroni and Kathrin Wolkowicz

Visual Contribution: Hooray Everyone!
Dina From Egypt

Who Is Going to Hold the Baby?
Irena Borić

Visual Contribution: If You Catch My Drift
Mari Kalabegashvili

Unstable Ground
Gunndís Ýr Finnbogadóttir

Gala’s Golden Triangle; Trust, Diversity and Flexibility
Yasmine Ostendorf-Rodríguez

Landscape Methodologies
Toni Kritzer

Nosetalgia online event for World Taste & Smell Day

Join us for an online event organised by Kunstlicht dedicated to celebrating the World Taste & Smell Day. This event will feature contributors from the Nosetalgia issue, including artists, perfumers, and scholars, engaging in captivating discussions about the intersection of smell and nostalgia, and how olfaction bridges the gap between memories and emotions. 

When: Thursday, September 14, 2023, 6:00 PM -7:30 PM CEST, 12:00 -1:30 PM (EST)

Register through the link here.

“The interdisciplinary contributions to the Kunstlicht Nosetalgia issue reinforced the cultural importance of our sense of smell and how it fuels our daily life, interactions and memories. We hope that this event helps start new conversations around our sense of smell and how it enriches our lives as well as draws new audiences.”Sofia Collette Ehrich


World Taste & Smell Day, observed annually on September 14th, serves as a global platform to honour and appreciate the essential senses of taste and smell. Established during the pandemic, this day underscores the importance of taste and smell and extends support to individuals navigating taste and smell impairments, as well as innovators, creators, and scientists.

Millions across the globe contend with taste and smell impairments. The COVID-19 pandemic drew attention to these challenges. While smell or taste loss linked to the virus has largely subsided, over 27 million individuals worldwide continue to grapple with chemosensory loss. Additionally, approximately 5% of the global population already experience smell dysfunctions due to various causes such as brain injuries, diseases, drug reactions, chemical exposure, and congenital anosmia.


For more information about World Taste & Smell Day, visit www.tasteandsmell.world. Contact Stephanie Feuer at stephanie@WTSDA.org. For more information about the event, contact: Sofia Collette Ehrich sofiaehrich@g.ucla.edu

CLOSED | Call for Papers | Reverberant Ecologies: On the Relational Impact of Sonic Practices, Kunstlicht vol. 45, no. 1

Guest editor: Manuela Zammit
Deadline: 31 August 2023
Published: February 2024

 

“From the continuous flow and punctuations of the audible, a range of capacities and potentialities may be found. In particular, the shifting flows of vibrancy and reverberance that often shape our interactions with the world and with others…”

Brandon LaBelle, Sonic Agency:  Sound and Emergent Forms of Resistance.

We are thrilled to announce a call for papers for the upcoming issue of Kunstlicht dedicated to the theme of reverberant ecologies. We are looking forward to explore the interconnectedness and interdependence of ecological systems through the affordances of sound and sonic practices.  

In the face of a rapidly unfolding climate catastrophe and widening social and economic inequalities, we find ourselves in urgent need of alternative ways of relating to ourselves, other humans, non-humans, and the material world at large. Western ocularcentric systems of knowledge (including artistic ones) have for a long time relied too much on sight as the privileged sense through which to engage with the world. In their quest for enacting ways of relating otherwise, contemporary artists have been tuning into the world’s vibrational energy. 

Often informed by methods and theories from sound studies, eco-acoustics, and acoustemology, among other fields, artists have been working with the fluid materiality of sound – or what Salomé Voegelin has termed as “sound’s invisible formlessness” – to understand how sonic waves actively produce material reality, and to access dimensions of reality that continuously elude vision. Sound artist and theorist Brandon LaBelle has observed that, “As forceful movements – of rhythmic and resonant intensities, of vibrational and volumetric interruptions – sound works to unsettle and exceed arenas of visibility by relating us to the unseen, the non-represented or the not-yet-apparent…” In other words, becoming more attuned to the sonic dimension of our material reality,  is one way to rethink specific assumptions about aspects of material reality that rely on sight, such as culturally-constructed delineations of material entities. Artistic engagement with sound and its affordances has indeed been shifting the focus from practices of representation to practices of mediation, and from practices of looking to those of (deep) listening and attunement. 

Installation view of Adaptation of an Instrument, Dora Budor, 2016.

For instance, Dora Budor’s Adaptation of an Instrument (2016) is a dynamic environment where the audience’s moving bodies within the art space animate the amphibian rain scene from the 1999 film Magnolia that is installed in the ceiling. In this work and various others, Budor employs vibrational frequency, including the volume of the audience’s voice, as an affective force that induces a performative (re)action in the work. Here, the traditional subject-object relation is subverted by establishing an atmospheric relation between the audience and the artwork, where the air functions as a transformative space that turns sound into light or movement. 

Still from, Acoustic Ocean, Ursula Biemann, 2018, video installation, 18’.

In Acoustic Ocean (2018), Ursula Biemann sets out to explore the sonic ecology of marine life. Equipped with all sorts of hydrophones, parabolic microphones, and recording devices, she amplifies her sensing abilities and tries to detect underwater acoustic forms of expression on the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway. What can the sounds and infrasounds of marine life tell us about environmental health, natural rhythms, and our future on planet Earth that observable phenomena cannot? How does listening – to both that which is audible and that which sounds beyond the human sensorial range – possibly change our relationship with other sounding beings and so-called silent subjects?

In turn, Mikhail Karikis’ Children of Unquiet (2013-14) explores the potentialities opened up by sound-making referred to by LaBelle, by orchestrating a children’s aural and physical take-over of a deserted former workers’ village situated in the Devil’s Valley in Tuscany. As the children laugh, play, and read out loud amid their surroundings, their sonic intervention is both an individual and communal form of expression that challenges a failed narrative of industrial modernism and evokes other possible, and perhaps more emancipatory futures.

Still from Children of Unquiet, Mikhail Karikis, 2013-14.

Because sound is a fluid material and unfolds in the space between entities across various scales, reverberation links them into an entangled and situated existence. Reverberation points to the liveliness and eventness of all beings; to a corporeality that exceeds the sounding body, and persists across time and space. This emphasises the notion that earthly life is a matter of dynamic processes of co-becoming and material interchange. As we intently and unintentionally vibrate with and through other beings, our collective reverberation sonically and symbolically confounds the traditional Western subject-object relation by alerting us to the ways in which we are simultaneously agent and acted upon. Reverberation reveals the desired and the troublesome, the directed and the diffused, and the unexpected and unknown ways in which everything is spatiotemporally and intimately bound. Reverberation is therefore not only a physical phenomenon that describes the persistent quality of sound in space, but also a valuable conceptual tool for thinking about the long-lasting impact of activated materialities.

Artist and self-proclaimed ‘incarnated agent of healing’ Tabita Rezaire has poetically affirmed that “sound is the creative force behind our manifested reality. Thus from the cosmic primal sound, all material form – as in matter – was birthed and still keeps birthing. Everything has a vibratory frequency, even if inaudible (…) The human pursuit is then to find that sound and resound in that sound, so as to vibrate in unison with the vibratory frequency of infinity.” Rezaire wrote these words in the context of the primarily human endeavour of decolonial healing, but they could just as well apply to all animate and inanimate beings. Vibration, then, is a process of becoming in the biological, social, and cultural sense. 

In this issue of Kunstlicht, we invite you to think with us about reverberation in an expanded manner in order to explore the relationality of sound and sonic practices, especially (but certainly not limited to) those within the contemporary visual arts. We find ourselves questioning: what does it mean to state that ecologies are inherently reverberant things? And that reverberant bodies are affective bodies? How can we conceive of reverberation as a creative and transformative force? What are the possible ethical, political, aesthetic, and epistemological implications of being more attentive to the ways in which bodies extend themselves towards each other and become entangled through their vibrational energy? And how could being more receptive to other bodies’ reverberance help us address shared longings, navigate the ecological crisis, and form new “vibratory models of alliance” against social injustice? 

We invite scholars, artists, listeners, musicians, sound-makers, and practitioners from various disciplinary backgrounds and from all stages in their academic, creative or professional practice to think with us about these questions and submit a proposal for essays, interviews, poems and other poetic and experimental texts, prose, scores, playlists, and visual or aural works that vibe with the theme of reverberant ecologies.


Proposals (200-300 words) with attached résumés and related image material can be sent to redactie@tijdschriftkunstlicht.nl by no later than August 31, 2023. Selected contributors will be notified shortly thereafter and invited to write a 2,500/3,000-word essay (excluding (foot)notes), or to submit an artistic contribution.

Please note: Contributors who publish in Kunstlicht will receive three complimentary copies. Kunstlicht is a volunteer-run academic journal and is unable to provide an author’s honorarium. Three years following publication, essay contributions will be uploaded to the freely accessible online archive.


Manuela Zammit is a contemporary art historian, editor, and critic based between The Netherlands and Malta. She has recently graduated with a Research Master in Critical Studies in Art & Culture from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her thesis titled “Posthuman Corporealities: Encounters Within and Without the Self” focuses on contemporary artistic engagements with feminist (re)theorisations of the body and subjectivity. While her research interests are broad and ever-changing, her ongoing inquiry is centred around expanded notions of embodiment and relationality in contemporary art practices, particularly within the contexts of ecology and new media. She previously completed a MFA in Contemporary Curating at Manchester Metropolitan University and is a regular contributor to the Dutch contemporary art magazine Metropolis M. She is also part of Kunstlicht’s editorial board.

VOL. 44 NO. 2/3, 2023, Nosetalgia

Editorial Note
Lisa Marie Sneijder

Introduction to Nosetalgia
Sofia Collette Ehrich and Amarens Eggeraat

A Year of Fear of Losing You
Lucille Lefrang

Visual Contribution: Angel Fresh (version 2, 2023)
Lara Lindsay-Parker

Dead rats, paper and hot dusty air: Finding the lost smells of the V&D
Amarens Eggeraat

Suffocating in the Street
Lo Yuen Ming

Nosetalgia: The Temporary Museum of Smelly Toys
Sofia Collette Ehrich

Covid-19 Scented Candle Stories: Smell as a Pathway to Imaginary Spaces of Memory, Nostalgia, and Aspiration
Dimitra Trigka

Visual Contribution: Breathing with David
Florence Marceau-Lafleur

In Search for Common Scents
Pitchaya Ngamcharoen

The Smell of Change: Futurist Cooking and Anti-Nostalgia
Dagmar Büchert