Life Forms Art, Discourse, Performance

Temporary  Title, Xavier Le Roy - Photo Peter Craig.

Life takes on a variety of forms depending on how it is understood. The shape of the planet is a constant negotiation between earth processes, human culture and the technologies that they produce. In a four-part conversation during Life Forms, historian of science Sophia Roosth explores how different approaches to understanding life affect the forms in which it manifests itself.

In HKW’s auditorium, emptied of its standard seating and stage, the choreographers Xavier Le Roy and Scarlet Yu create a constantly changing environment in the midst of which Sophia Roosth engages in conversations with further participants.

Xavier Le Roy, a doctor of molecular biology, became known in the mid-1990s for performances that open up common images and movements of the body, that put habits of seeing and perception at stake. He has last worked with HKW for the opening of The Anthropocene Project (2013), where his performance of the human, animal and machinic dimensions of transformations the Anthropocene engenders, demonstrated solely through and with his body – was a great success. His contribution to Life Forms is a collaboration between himself, Scarlet Yu and a team of performers based around the work Temporary Title, 2015.

As part of the work, performers will transform the space of the event through shaping physical relations and collaborations between each other and their surroundings, thereby questioning the dividing lines between human and non-human, object and subject, transformation, transition, and modification. Over the course of Life Forms, the performers will create a landscape that constantly takes on new forms: space where perception may be faster than actions, a situation where time can maybe wait.

Within this environment, four conversations will open up different perspectives on the notion of “life forms” in theory and practice. These conversations will be led by Sophia Roosth, who holds the Frederick S. Danziger Associate Professorship in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard. In her book Synthetic: How Life Got Made, she asks what happens to “life” as a conceptual category at the moment when experiment and fabrication converge. During the HKW event 1948 Unbound in 2017, Roosth spoke about how cybernetics and information theory have transformed the biological sciences.

On the opening night, Sophia Roosth explores why metaphysical – or idealized – concepts of vitality are often crucial for the understanding of what counts as life both in scientific and social contexts. In this conversation with anthropologist Elizabeth A. Povinelli, they get to the bottom of notions of inclusion and exclusion using current notions of governance. How are they regulated by our understanding of life, the living and the dead?

In the second part, philosopher Maria Chehonadskih revives Russian philosopher Alexander Bogdanov’s ideas, which grasp collective labor and the activity that brings them into focus. Literary scholar Melody Jue examines various media as analytic tools and as parts of the morphological evolution of life forms. Sophia Roosth addresses induction as an epistemic method for analyzing the evolution of living beings through interaction with their environment.

On the last day, historian of science Luis Campos joins Roosth as they look at experimental constructions in the life sciences and the narratives that shape our understanding of the origins of life. Thereafter, author Hu Fang will use Chinese gardens to conceptualize the notion of the landscape as a space of non-intended possibilities.

He refers to processes of becoming that focus on form formation and on how humans position themselves in the world. Sophia Roosth will reflect on the rationality of the yet unformed from a history of science perspective.

Choreography with Alexandre Achour, Jorge Alencar, Saša Asentić, Christian Bourigault, Sherwood Chen, Christine De Smedt, João dos Santos Martins, Ben Evans, Zeina Hanna, Alice Heyward, Becky Hilton, Hélène Iratchet, Xavier Le Roy, Neto Machado, Sabine Macher, Julia Rodriguez, Salka Ardal Rosengren, Scarlet Yu

With additional contributions by Lisa Baraitser, Louis Chude-Sokei, Maya Indira Ganesh, Wesley Goatley, Yuk Hui, Noël Yeh Martín, Luciana Parisi, Sascha Pohflepp, Kaushik Sunder Rajan, Marina Rosenfeld, Jenna Sutela, Bronislaw Szerszynsnki, Gary Tomlinson, John Tresch

Concept and implementation: Katrin Klingan, Nick Houde, Janek Müller, Johanna Schindler, Christoph Rosol in collaboration with Bernard Geoghegan

Life Forms is the last event of the Technosphere research project, which has been dealing with the dilemma of the increasing interconnections of human culture, natural environments and global technologies since 2015.

The online publication Technosphere Magazine issues project-related thematic dossiers that now encompass 130 essays, academic and artistic articles, and tie them together into new narratives about the Technosphere. The final publication, Technosphäre, will appear on April 17, 2019, as part of the HKW book series 100 Years of Now Library.

Part of The New Alphabet (2019–2021), funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media based on a ruling by the German Bundestag. Technosphere (2015–2019) collaborates with the publishing platform continent. toward experimental communication of project outputs.

Life Forms
Art, discourse, performance
April 25–27, 2019
Haus der Kulturen der Welt
John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10, 10557 Berlin

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