Histories of Ecology is the first of a series of seminars that anticipates MASP’s program devoted to the theme throughout 2025. The event is organized by MASP and the Lenbachhaus Museum, based in Munich, Germany. The program enhances the mission of MASP, a diverse, inclusive, and plural museum, in establishing critical and creative dialogues between past and present through visual arts. The notion of histories—unlike History—is more open, multivocal, unfinished, and not totalizing, encompassing not only historical accounts but also personal stories, tales, and fictional narratives. With the participation of theorists, curators, artists, activists, and researchers from different areas and perspectives, the two-day seminar aims to foster debate and research on ecology issues linked with visual culture and the human and natural sciences, as well as curatorial and artistic practices.
Check out the full program.
Adriano Pedrosa, Artistic Director, MASP; André Mesquita, Curator, MASP; David Ribeiro, Curatorial Assistant, MASP; Isabella Rjeille, Curator, MASP; María Inés Rodríguez, Adjunct Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, MASP; and Stephanie Weber, Curator, Lenbachhaus.
The seminar will be broadcast online and free of charge through the MASP profile on YouTube, with simultaneous translation into LIBRAS, Portuguese, English, and German.
To receive a participation certificate, it is necessary to register through a link that will be provided during the seminar. The certificates will only be sent to the registered email of those who attend the two days of the seminar.
November 9, 2022
11 AM–11:10 AM
Adriano Pedrosa, Artistic Director, MASP
Matthias Mühling, Director, Lenbachhaus
11:10 AM–1 PM
The boundaries between organic and synthetic knowledge
Guided by orality and traditional knowledge, Nego Bispo will present some conceptions that structure his epistemology and that seek to offer other ways of understanding the world around us.
Filmmaking against the Anthro-ecological Image
To produce cinematic work in/through “North Australia” for an international audience is to be complicit in a racial eco-geographic repetition that has played a profoundly impactful role in setting up the model of human/nature of Enlightenment reason and the global color line of labor. Yet, in the context of repeating crises of capitalism as climate and ecological collapse, it was the Indigenous experience of entanglement with settler agriculture and extractivism which reconfigured planetarity for legibility beyond and within existent materialist cine-politics. If the filmmaker cannot fully escape the colonial infrastructures of their own artistic autonomy, then in the context of major Indigenous resurgences and refusals of extractivism in the South and settler colonies, non-Indigenous cultural work and cultural labor that does otherwise explicitly attends to such infrastructure—including cultural industry infrastructures—of ongoing colonization.
Aesthetics, Necropolitics, and Environmental Struggle
In this presentation, Kurtz will lay out concerns over the poverty of language regarding environmental activism, which tends to focus on biopolitics, framed by a romantic aesthetic, while ignoring necropolitics (the organization of death). While easy to build consensus around the idea that the primary cause of accelerated environmental degeneration (an aestheticized phrase in itself) is human activity—or more simply said, humans themselves—, developing an idea of what to do about the “human problem” is far more difficult—precisely because there is no language to talk about this problem in a manner that does not sound absolutely monstrous. Implied in so many environmental solutions are the deaths of millions, if not billions, of people. Whether we like it or not, the value of human life and the value of the environment are in extreme conflict. Any attempt to resolve this contradiction will require an explicit acknowledgement of its massive necropolitical dimension, followed by the determination of a strategic policy that addresses the necropolitical dilemma. The question must be asked: are humans capable of such a task?
Mediation: Stephanie Weber, Curator, Lenbachhaus
2:30 PM–4:30 PM
There have been many ways to understand ecology since the inception of the term at the end of the 19th century. The use of ecology as a heuristic device has produced a very rich field of interpretative approaches not just in biology, but for businesses and firms, institutions, laws and many other highly relational domains. Ecology has also helped to understand the role of diversity in evolution and innovation, which is the reason behind the cultural struggle to consider sex, gender and care strategies as key devices for adaptation and finally, to build sustainability. Transformative change, an emerging buzzword in environmental and social studies is becoming part of a shared vocabulary with transgender studies and queer ecologies, perhaps a surprising result of the human growing awareness as shapers of the world, a role which may also need to accept new identities and ways of being.
The fossil aesthetic nation: industrial imaginaries, American colonialism, and Spanish modernity
This presentation will complement the narrative of Andreas Malm, for whom there is a direct relationship between the new forms of labor exploitation in factories and industries and the increasing atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2), which triggered the dynamics that cause climate change up to this day. I highlight the importance that the fossil imaginaries of industrial modernity had in this process: in my view, fossil culture is inseparable from the fossil economy. This will be done based on the Spanish context, with the aim of highlighting how these imaginaries are understandable only in the long term of colonial modernity, as well as in relation to the social tensions that happened in the history of Spain in the American and peninsular territories. For this, I take as a point of discussion the project of a monument to Columbus, created by the Basque engineer Alberto Palacio for the World’s Columbian Exposition, held in 1893, which reflected in images the idea of an “aesthetic fossil nation.”
We Are the Forest
Indigenous peoples believe they are part of the forest. “We are the forest” is a phrase Txai Surui has heard from Indigenous people of different ethnicities, including hers. The cosmology and the way of life of the Indigenous communities have made us be considered the forest’s best guardians, mainly because it escapes from capitalist logic and looks at the forest not just as a money sign. The environment and Indigenous peoples are linked themes, and the view of these communities is increasingly important to overcome the climate and humanitarian crises that the world is experiencing. However, in the history of ecology and the environment, this was not always the case. How can we value ancestral knowledge to save the future? How to listen to the forest?
Mediation: Daniela Rodrigues, Curatorial Assistant, MASP
November 10, 2022
11 AM–1 PM
Earth Democracy: Protecting our Common Future in times of extinction
We face an existential crisis as humanity. Indigenous people have been uprooted, displaced, and exterminated over 500 years of colonialism. The colonization of the land and people transformed Terra Madre, the Living Earth, into Terra Nullius, the empty land, inert raw material, and private property. This transformation and colonization continue, threatening the extinction of diverse species and diverse cultures. We are not separate from the Earth, we are a strand in the web of life, we are members of one Earth Family. Earth Democracy is based on Living Economies, Living Democracies, and Living Cultures woven through their diversity into the web of life. Each life form supports and sustains all others in mutuality and cooperation and harmony. Our society and economy should reflect this. In Earth Democracy, the economy is a subset of ecology based on the laws of Mother Earth. Earth Democracy creates the potential for a deeper interconnectedness between humans and other beings. It allows us to recognize that on an interconnected planet, the extinction emergency is one indivisible Extinction. Protecting other cultures and other species is protecting our common future.
Ana Vaz’s American Night
In the installation É Noite na América [It’s Nighttime in America], Ana Vaz follows some animals in the Brasília Zoo with her video camera. Looking at them as individuals, unique in themselves, the artist reveals their stories of captivity and rescue, sharing their fascinating and terrifying lives. This work, at the same time a celebration and memento mori of the Cerrado’s wildlife, will be the starting point for a series of analyses on the potential of artistic and cinematographic creation in the sharing and creation of narratives about the past, present, and—above all—future of our changing world.
Mandira Quilombo and Extractive Reserve, an example of sustainability
Chico Mandira will talk about the formation of his community, located between the Vale do Ribeira region and the south coast of São Paulo state, and how they managed to adapt to the circumstances of a strict environmental policy and innovate through extractivist work and oyster management in the formation of an Extractive Reserve. The work of Chico and the people from Mandira has been guaranteeing income, preserving the environment, and making their community acknowledged nationally and internationally for combining social, racial, economic, and environmental approaches.
Mediation: David Ribeiro, Curatorial Assistant, MASP
2:30 PM–4:30 PM
Ecological Erotics of Water
It was swimming in the Greek waters off the coast of Milos that Stefanie Hessler first considered her relationship with the ocean to be erotic. It was poet and classicist Anne Carson who helped her find words to put to the feeling of bodily and psychic longing toward the ocean. She describes Eros as an issue of boundaries: Eros makes me want to dissolve the boundaries between herself and others, and at the same time, it hinges on these divides. But as water is pushing against her body, in the ocean, her edges blur. Thinking with queer and decolonial ecofeminists, in this talk, she asks if our current environmental crisis and its social intersections are entrenched in erotophobia—in fear of wanting to be close to nature, of acknowledging that we are of nature. Through the work of artists Katerina Teaiwa, Anne Duk Hee Jordan, and others in whose practice the intersection of nature, sexuality, and gender is increasingly pressing to the fore, she will propose an ecological erotica.
Stories of temperatures: is decolonizing the climate warming up justice?
A single history of ecology is reckless as it does not reach the multiple human-non-human relationships built on our planet. More recently, in times of “modernity” and “science,” the alliance of colonialism with the capitalist system made it difficult to “retell” the history of the culture/nature binomial as well as, in substantial terms, the physical, biological, and artificial support of what we conventionally call “life.” There seems to be no room for postponing the end of the world. In a world where climate change prevails in global negotiations, shapes enterprises, and opens discursive spaces for “good” and “evil,” themes such as climate justice, carbon colonialism, and environmental racism stress our fields of vision, establishing chasms in the very definition of “Law” and “Justice.” The decolonization proposals, within the scope of these issues, trace virtuous paths and displace epistemologies while serving as a refined process of “greenwashing,” in and out of an anthropological view of rights. In the argument of this speech, there is the urgency, in a world in a situation of climatic emergency, to decentralize the “temperatures” and to critically face the phenomenon of the decolonization of “warming.”
Before It's Too Late
Judy Chicago will trace the development of environmental and ecological concerns in her work dating back to the 1960s. Chicago is an artist and she plans to present images across my career that deal with issues of environment, ecology, climate justice, and animal rights.
Mediation: Isabella Rjeille, Curator, MASP
Brigitte Baptiste is a biologist graduate of Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (Bogotá) and has a master’s degree in Tropical Preservation and Development from the University of Florida. She holds an honorary doctorate in Environmental Management from UNIPAZ and in Law from the University of Regina. She was the director of the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute and is currently the Dean of Universidad Ean. She is specialized in environmental and biodiversity issues and is a leader in the field of gender diversity. She has also been a reference in building bridges between politics, academia, and science and was chosen as one of the 25 world experts of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), between 2016 and 2019.
Chico Mandira is the leader of the Mandira Quilombo, located in Cananéia, São Paulo. Together with his uncle and searching for alternative forms of income, he started working on the creation and fattening of oysters in the mangrove, a fact that restored self-esteem and perspectives on improving the quilombo members’ lives, in addition to having won an award at the World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002 (Rio+10), in Johannesburg.
Filipa Ramos, Ph.D., is a writer and curator whose research focuses on how culture addresses ecology. She is the Director of the Contemporary Art Department of the city of Porto. She is the Curator of Art Basel Film and founded the online artists’ cinema Vdrome. She is a Lecturer at the Master Programme of Institute Art Gender Nature Academy of Arts and Design, Basel.
Human and socio-environmental rights lawyer and Law Professor in São Paulo. He is currently an advisor at the Conectas Direitos Humanos NGO and a doctoral student in Philosophy and General Theory of Law at the University of São Paulo. He holds a master’s degree in Law and Development from Fundação Getulio Vargas and a degree in Law from the University of São Paulo. He takes part in national and international research networks with a focus on human rights, climate justice, and post-colonial and decolonial studies.
Postdoctoral researcher at the Ramón y Cajal Scholarship Program (2018), at the Institute of History of the Superior Council for Scientific Research, where he is the principal researcher in the projects: Fossil aesthetics: a political ecology of art history, visual culture, and the cultural imaginaries of modernity and Energetic humanities: energy and sociocultural imaginaries between the industrial revolution and the ecosocial crisis. He was coordinator of the research line Cultural Ecologies and Political Imagination at the Independent Studies Program of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (2017–2018 and 2019–2020 editions) and is the author of books such as Estética fósil: Imaginarios de la energía y crisis ecosocial (Arcadia, 2020).
Judy Chicago is an artist and author of fifteen books. Her career spans almost six decades, during which time she has produced a prodigious body of art that has been exhibited all over the world. In the 1970s, she pioneered feminist art and feminist art education in a series of programs in southern California. She is best known for her monumental The Dinner Party, executed between 1974–1979, now permanently housed at the Brooklyn Museum. Her work is in numerous collections and her ongoing influence continues to be acknowledged worldwide, most recently through a much-celebrated career retrospective that opened in August 2021 at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.
Antônio Bispo dos Santos is a writer, quilombola leader, farmer, formed by master craftsmen, resident of the Saco-Curtume Quilombo (São João do Piauí) in Brazil. He is the author of articles, poems, and the books Quilombos, modos e significados (2007); and Colonização, quilombos: modos e significados (2015). A political activist of great relevance in the quilombola social movement and in land rights movements, he is a member of the State Coordination of Quilombola Communities of Piauí (CECOQ/PI) and of the National Coordination for the Articulation of Rural Black Quilombola Communities (CONAQ).
Rachel O’Reilly is an artist/writer/curator and Ph.D. candidate at Goldsmith’s Centre for Research Architecture whose work engages infrastructure, planetarity, and political non-alignments under late liberalism via language, law, and the moving image. She teaches “At the Limits of the Writerly” at the DAI, is a Fellow in Ecology at Sandburg Institute, and writes on art-politics under settler colonialism with Danny Butt and on non-aligned movement legacies with Jelena Vesic. Her artwork has been presented at KW Berlin, ICA London, Van Abbemuseum, E-flux, Tate Liverpool, Qalandiya International, and HKW Berlin. Curatorial collaborations include Moving Images of Speculation JvE, Ex-Embassy.com, Planetary Records, Contour Biennale, and Feminist Takes. The final film from their The Gas Imaginary (2013–21) series is available online at www.infractionsdocumentary.net.
Stefanie Hessler is a curator, writer, and editor focusing on ecologies and their various social intersections. She is the director of the international non-profit institution Swiss Institute in New York. Before that, she was the director of Kunsthall Trondheim in Norway, where she co-led the research-based exhibition Sex Ecologies and edited the accompanying compendium on queer ecologies, sexuality, and care in more-than-human worlds (published with The Seed Box and MIT Press, 2021). Other recent curatorial projects include the 17th Momenta Biennale titled Sensing Nature in Tiohtià:ke/Mooniyaang/Montreal; Rising Tides/Down to Earth at Gropius Bau in Berlin (2020), and Joan Jonas: Moving off the Land II at Ocean Space in Venice (2019). Hessler’s single-authored book Prospecting Ocean was published by MIT Press and TBA21–Academy in 2019, and she has edited numerous volumes, including Tidalectics: Imagining an Oceanic Worldview through Art and Science (MIT Press, 2018).
Kurtz is Professor Emeritus and a founding member of the Critical Art Ensemble. CAE is an award-winning collective of artists of various specializations—including digital imaging and web design, wetware, film/video, photography, text art, book art, installation, and performance—dedicated to exploring the intersections between art, technology, political activism, and critical theory. For more than three decades, CAE has produced and exhibited art around the world that examines questions surrounding information and communication technology, biotechnologies, and ecological and environmental struggle.
Walelasoetxeige Suruí (Txai Suruí) is a young activist from the Paiter Suruí people who have founded and coordinates the Indigenous Youth movement of Rondônia state. She was the only Brazilian to speak at the opening of COP26 (2021). She is the Coordinator of the Ethno-environmental Defense Association — Kanindé and Deputy Counselor at the State Council for the Rights of Children and Adolescents in Rondônia. An important voice for Indigenous climate activism, she is a volunteer at Engajamundo and an advisor to WWF-Brazil and the UN Global Compact. Txai is also a Law student and columnist for the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper.
Vandana Shiva is a Physicist and did her Ph.D. from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. She later shifted to interdisciplinary research in science, technology, and environmental policy, which she carried out at the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Management, in Bangalore. In 1982, she founded an independent institute, the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology in Dehradun. In 1991, she founded Navdanya, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seeds, the promotion of organic farming, and fair trade. In 2004, she started Bija Vidyapeeth, an international college for sustainable living in Doon Valley in collaboration with Schumacher College, UK. She has received honorary doctorates and many awards.