2016 October 22 / 17:00 - 2016 October 22
Round Table
Propulsion: On Changing Futures

After last year’s first Round Table Humans Make Nature about ideas of landscape in the Anthropocene, we invited Claudia Slanar to conceive the Round Table 2016 at the Department of Site-Specific Art. In close collaboration with Ralo Mayer she put together a programme addressing past and possible new futures.

Full program as .pdf

November 2015: Four decades after The Limits to Growth, US president Barack Obama signs a law permitting American citizens and companies to exploit the virtually unlimited resources of asteroids.
August 2016: Scientists announce the discovery of Proxima b, an Earth-like exoplanet orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, 4.2 light-years from us. Liquid water may be present on its surface, and one day, robotic probes may be sent there at one-fifth the speed of light.

Meanwhile, on Earth we are facing economic, ecological, and social transformations whose intricacies and consequences are hard to grasp. Their media-hyped representations invoke emergency scenarios, impeding nuanced analysis, catalyzing neoliberal economic measures (Naomi Klein’s “disaster capitalism”), and obscuring radical alternatives to a system at the point of its own dissolution.
Outer space was a pivotal point of reference throughout the twentieth century;
today, it has again come into focus due to recent scientific, technological, and economic developments. Current discourses of discovery, expansion, and resource exploitation bear a striking resemblance to terrestrial ideologies of past centuries and raise many transdisciplinary issues: How can we investigate the future cultural heritage of space without repeating colonial patterns of conquest? What do designs for space settlements and the architecture of Earth have in common? Does the Anthropocene imply human interventions not only in the geology of Earth but also on other planets? Who owns celestial bodies, and what responsibilities arise from our interactions with extraterrestrial places, objects, and materials even in the absence of alien life?
We are interested in outer space as a narrative trope with a rich history of spawning future scenarios beyond Earth. How can we think about the future today while we are in the midst of a crisis of “futurity” as a linear, progressive, Western concept? In the arts, the filmic essay allows for speculation as well as for ambivalent images and postrepresentative approaches. Multilayered, transdisciplinary artistic practices also offer an openness within an altered gravitational field where not only the complexities of our present can be addressed but also a “potential past futurity” beyond simplifications.

Alice Gorman
Haunted Houses at Hypervelocity: Orbital Futures

Douglas Murphy
Giant Envelopes and the Total Interior

Vera Tollmann
​Picturing the Universe: On Scale, Calculation, and Composites

Saskia Vermeylen
The “Invasion” of Chaos Theory and Science Fiction in Space Law


All lectures and the concluding round table on YouTube:


THURSDAY, 20.10.16
Students’ WorkshopRalo Mayer, Claudia Slanar
WelcomePaul Petritsch
IntroductionClaudia Slanar
Thematic Screening

FRIDAY, 21.10.16
Welcome - Gerald Bast
Statement: "E.T.E.–Extra-Terrestrial Ecologies, the Undergrowth" - Ralo Mayer
Giant Envelopes and the Total Interior - Douglas Murphy
Haunted Houses at Hypervelocity: Orbital Futures - Alice Gorman
Presentation of the Round Table 2015 publication: Humans Make Nature - Gabriele Mackert, Michael Wagreich

SATURDAY, 22.10.16
Picturing the Universe: On Scale, Calculation, and Composites - Vera Tollmann
The “Invasion” of Chaos Theory and Science Fiction in Space Law - Saskia Vermeylen
Round Table - Concluding panel with participants

Image: Natalia Gurova