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Online Symposium "Contemporary Debates on the Ecological Crisis"

Lectures and symposia January 18, 2021 11:00 am – 05:00 pm
  • Monday January 18, 2021 11 am–6.15 pm
  • After your registration at, the link will be sent to you.
  • In English
  • A cooperation of the Department of Fine Arts and the Postgraduate Programme in Curating (ZHdK) with the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst
  • Curated by Gözde Filinta, researcher & curator, Istanbul & Zurich

The Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst collaborates with the Department of Fine Arts and the Postgraduate Programme in Curating at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) to host the online symposium Contemporary Debates on the Ecological Crisis, which seeks to chart transdisciplinary approaches to cutting-edge debates around the gathering ecological storm. The symposium is held in conjunction with the exhibition Potential Worlds 2: Eco-Fictions at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst.

The two-part exhibition probes the relationship between humanity and nature, inquiring into the potential “new” worlds that might spring up in “human-made ruins” and into visions of novel forms and ways of life on earth. The symposium brings together scholars and artists working in ecology and drawing on neighboring fields such as ecoaesthetics, ecopolitics, coexistence in ecosystems, and the decolonization of nature. The online symposium offers the participants and the public an opportunity to discover productive approaches to ecological concerns and emerging questions and to discuss how to reposition humanity in these altered circumstances.


  • 11–11.10 am
    Reception & Introduction

  • 11.10–11.40 am
    Distilled Life with(in) the Anthropocene
    Dr. Gabriella Calchi Novati in conversation with Gözde Filinta, researcher and curator, Istanbul & Zurich

    Dr. Gabriella Calchi Novati is a cultural philosopher, critical theorist, and psychoanalyst based in Zurich. She works at the intersections of performance studies, biopolitics, psychoanalytic theory, and Anthropocene studies. Her essays on performance philosophy, activism, politics, and the arts have been published in peer-reviewed journals and numerous edited collections. She is a visiting professor in Trinity College Dublin, a member of The Anthropocene Atlas of Geneva (TAAG) Advisory Research Group, and a member of the organizing and scientific committee of Terror on Tour, an international and interdisciplinary network of academics, artists and activists.

    Calchi Novati will talk about life experienced in the post-mortem, and how to shift our perception from still to distilled by becoming present.

  • 11.50 am–12.20 pm
    Earth Beings and the Neoliberal State of Nature
    Prof. Dr. Federico Luisetti in conversation with Dr. Elena Rosauro, coordinator of the Latin American Center (University of Zurich), postdoctoral researcher, and co-curator at la_cápsula, Zurich

    Prof. Dr. Federico Luisetti is Associate Professor of Italian Culture and Society at the University of St. Gallen. He is currently writing a monograph on “earth beings” and planetary nature. Among his publications are The Anomie of the Earth: Philosophy, Politics, and Autonomy in Europe and the Americas (edited with J. Pickles and W. Kaiser, 2015).

    For the symposium, Luisetti’s lecture will suggest that we pay attention to “earth beings”, non-humans that challenge epistemic prejudices and the principles of the neoliberal state of nature.

  • 12.20–1 pm
    Open Forum I: Discussion of the contributions with the audience

  • 1–2 pm
    Lunch Break

  • 2–2.30 pm
    Technologies of Care
    Dr. Yvonne Volkart in conversation with Dorothee Richter, Director of the Postgraduate Programme in Curating (ZHdK) and Professor in Contemporary Curating, University of Reading

    Dr. Yvonne Volkart teaches art and media theory at the Zurich University of the Arts and the Academy of Art and Design (FHNW), Basel, where she has led the Swiss National Science Foundation research project Ecodata–Ecomedia–Ecoaesthetics. She co-curated the exhibition and book projectEco-Visionaries. Art, Architecture and New Media After the Anthropocene (2018). Her most recent publication is “Aesthetic Strategies in the Wasteocene”, in Hava Aldouby (ed.): Shifting Interfaces. Presence and Relationality in New Media Arts of the Early 21st Century, Leuven University Press. Her concerns lie in the modes of how aesthetics, ecology, technology, and feminism come together and bring us in relation to the world.

    Volkart will draw on the research of Ecodata–Ecomedia–Ecoaesthetics, which involves artists among others working with environmental media, to show that the transversal potential of an artistic project lies in the creation of an aesthetic event which provides unexpected relations with our more-than-human co-beings and thus affects us to care for them.

  • 2.40–3.10 pm
    Indigenous Epistemologies. Towards a Decolonial Idea of Nature
    Dr. Jose Cáceres in conversation with Dr. Elena Rosauro, coordinator of the Latin American Center (University of Zurich), postdoctoral researcher, and co-curator at la_cápsula, Zurich

    Jose Cáceres is a historian and independent curator engaged with decolonial practice and critical pedagogy. His research and curatorial work deals with collective praxis and a necessary transformative urgency, which he explores in the intersection between nature, history, and decoloniality. He currently holds a senior teaching and research position at the University of Zurich, where he investigates indigenous thinking about the past and history. Working towards a transcultural idea of history from a Latin American perspective, he teaches postcolonial studies and Latin American history.

    Cáceres’s talk for the symposium aims to present the fundamental aspects of Mapuche and Andean indigenous epistemologies and to show how contemporary art has transformed these epistemologies into a decolonial critique of our understanding of nature.

  • 3.10–3.50 pm
    Open Forum II: Discussion of the contributions with the audience

  • 3.50–4.20 pm
    Afternoon Break

  • 4.20–4.50 pm
    The High Art of Rewilding
    Dr. Marcus Hall in conversation with Gözde Filinta, researcher and curator, Istanbul & Zurich

    Dr. Marcus Hall teaches Environmental Humanities courses in a science-based environmental studies program at the University of Zurich. Holding a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from the University of Wisconsin, Hall is a historian of science and environment and recently served as Vice-President of the European Society for Environmental History. His research focuses on ecological restoration, biological invasion, and disease ecology.

    For the symposium, Hall will talk about his recent study of rewilding nature, finding ways to restore wild nature followed by efforts to restore humanized nature. His research is inspired by Earth Art projects from the 1960s and 70s.

  • 5–5.30 pm
    Artist’s Talk
    Dr. Pinar Yoldas in conversation with Heike Munder, director and co-curator of the exhibition, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich

    Dr. Pinar Yoldas’s (b. Denizli, Turkey, 1979) work limns fantastic narratives for scenarios of a post-human future. In her video installation The Kitty AI: Artificial Intelligence for Governance (2016), it is the year 2039, and an artificial intelligence in the guise of an animated cat has seized world power because humanity has proven “incapable,” forcing a different species to step in as the planet’s intelligent life form. In Ecosystem of Excess (2014), Yoldas picks up on the ecological crisis represented by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to imagine utopian marine creatures that have entered into a symbiotic relationship with the plastic particles in their environment and evolved the ability to integrate them into their bodies for productive purposes.

  • 5.30–6.10 pm
    Open Forum III: Discussion of the contributions with the audience

  • 6.10 pm
    Closing words

The symposium is curated by Gözde Filinta. Filinta is a researcher, curator, and writer based between Zurich and Istanbul. She completed her MA in Art History at Istanbul University with a dissertation on animal figures in contemporary art, and a MAS program in Curating at ZHdK in Zurich with research about the posthuman arrival in curating, exploring ways to bring forward the posthuman discourse into curatorial practices to dislodge the Anthropocentric paradigm in arts. Her research interests include animal studies, posthuman discourses, ecological debates and ecocriticism, interspecies relationships, and nonhuman agency in arts. She is currently working on several projects: Parasites at Work, a research project with School of Commons, Zurich; TUTORIAL, an international off space network project in Leipzig and online funded by Stiftung KunstFonds and Stadt Leipzig; and Wolfwisdom Society, an online reading club.

Respondent: Ronald Kolb, Co-Head of Postgraduate Programme in Curating (ZHdK)

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