1948 Unbound: Art Explore the Unleashing of Technical Present

© Torsten Blume und Christian Lueger. 

International researchers and artists will be meeting from 30/11 to 2/12 for an experimental conference in Berlin at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in order to explore the meaning and implications of the “Technosphere”. The thesis: Man-made technology now shapes the nature of our planet.

What characterizes the technosphere? How do genetic engineering and digital infrastructures change our society? What events and transformations have led to the new relationships between man and machine? How do they look today? How will they look in the future? What does it mean to compare technical infrastructures with natural organisms on planet Earth? Over forty scientists, theorists, practitioners, and artists will be looking for the answers to these and further questions during this HKW event by employing a unique transdisciplinary approach that opens up new, imaginative spaces for thought.

The participants include researchers such as computer and cognitive scientist Seth Bullock, legal scholar Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, sociologist Elena Esposito, genetic researcher Alexander Tarakhovsky, media and cultural scientist Marie-Luise Angerer, chemist and philosopher Jens Soentgen, historian of science Sophia Roosth, and media and design theorist Benjamin Bratton. The art scene will be represented by, amongst others, artist and activist Morehshin Allahyari, artist and designer Patricia Reed, the artist group knowbotiq, and artist and author Gerald Nestler.

The five-year Technosphere 2015-19 project builds thematically on the HKW’s Anthropocene project, further exploring the paradigm of a man-made age and its consequences for the sciences, culture, politics, and everyday life, only now with a special focus on technology. Man forms nature. This is the core of the Anthropocene hypothesis. The three-day event “1948 Unbound” covers the ground from the historically decisive leap in the development of our planet as an increasingly technological operation space into the present; a present shaped by digitalization and fields such as machine learning, while even exploring potential scenarios for the year 2048.

In this survey, the start of the “Great Acceleration” marks the beginning of the Anthropocene around 1948—as the inauguration of the atomic, digital, and petrochemical ages. The smallest components— molecules, genes, units of information—become manipulable and predictable during this period, sparking a cascade-like dynamic of technological and cultural liberation. On the pile of debris left by two World Wars, techno-political organizations and dreams for new universalisms flourish: Cybernetics, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the invention of the transistor, Stalin’s Great Plan for the transformation of nature.

The format of the experimental conference “1948 Unbound” running from 30/11 – 2/12/2017, connects theoretical discussions with artistic works, performative formats and research with experimental installations. Proceeding from five fundamental components of our present age—which effectively stem from scientific fields such as information theory, genetic engineering, petrochemistry, game theory, and finance—participants will examine the path dependencies which, since 1948, have empowered as much as they have disempowered humanity as it goes on to develop future scenarios for the world of tomorrow.

Concept from Katrin Klingan, Christoph Rosol, Nick Houde and Janek Müller in cooperation with Gerald Nestler (Switches), Alexander Klose and Benjamin Steininger (Hydrocarbons), Victoria Ivanova and Patricia Reed (Tokens) and Sascha Pohflepp (Chance).

Thur. 03/11 – Sat. 02/12 Afternoon ticket (3-7 pm) €6/€4
Evening ticket (7-11 pm) €6/€4
Day ticket Fri. 1/12, Sat. 2/12 €10/€6
Three-day pass €20/€12


Thursday 30/11
7-11 pm: Switches | Information Theory, Computation
Switches is dedicated to the prominence of binary information technology. What began in 1948 with electronic circuits is today a digital sphere that penetrates every corner of the Earth. Diagnostic and speculative contributions composed of theory, art, and synthesis oscillate in rapid succession around explorations of the bit as a control unit and pulse generator for newly coordinated relationships between space and time, evolution and (the loss of) control.

Discursive installation

Friday 1/12
3-6:30 pm: Seeds | Genetic Engineering, Agricultural Technology
Seeds discusses the manipulability of heredity, life, and environments. A chain of intensive talks examine the practices and ideologies of the accelerated coincidences of mutation and modification since 1948. Additionally, a performance in the form of micro-processions conjures up historical and current moments of the agrarian-industrial technosphere.

Talks, presentations, performance

7:30 – 10:30 pm: Hydrocarbons | Petrochemistry
The technical recombination of hydrocarbon molecules as well as the principle of catalysis—the control and acceleration of chemical reactions, —laid the foundations for petrochemistry which rose to become a dominant global industry around 1948. Hydrocarbons discusses petrochemical licentiousness, by combining sequences from the film The Wages of Fear (1953), oil sound tracks, and diverse research material to form a new cultural genre “Pétro Noir“.

Film multi-channel installation, talks, presentations

Saturday 2/12
3-6 pm: Tokens | (Crypto) Currency Systems, Standards, Statehood
Tokens addresses the theme of the real power universal circulation systems such as currencies and material and virtual technical standards have on social structures. Theoretical and artistic contributions within a graphic-discursive scenery contour the rationality of an eternally circulating present.

Presentations, talks, performance

7:30 – 10:30 pm: Chance | Random Numbers, Simulations, Game Theory
Random numbers are the fundamental ingredient for the mathematical modeling and simulation of processes and systems. They enable us to make predictions about the nature of the world and its future history. Chance is an experiment in which contingency itself becomes a technology.

Visual-performative experiment

Thursday 30/11 - Saturday 2/12 
Extending the Dialogue about the Technosphere.
Video installation from the collective continent.

Further information:

1948 Unbound is a project of Technosphere (2015-19) in the context of 100 Years of Now, which is supported by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media due to a ruling of the German Bundestag. Technosphere (2015-19) collaborates with the publishing platform and online journal continent. Knowbotiq’s performance is supported by Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council.

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