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Planetary Records: Performing Justice Between Art and Law

Trace Environments: Sovereignty, toxicity and the littoral

010 / 4 July 2017


Trace Environments: Sovereignty, toxicity and the littoral

Panel discussion with Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Susan Schuppli, Susanne M. Winterling, introduced and moderated by Natasha Ginwala

Saturday, March 11, 11:15-13:30




The Littoral


If the law that defines the littoral (the in-between zone between land and sea) was ever appropriate to its materiality, it does not correspond to it now. From where artist Beatriz Santiago Muñoz lives, this zone has changed physically, materially but also symbolically and its scope expands and contracts in the artist's psyche. Sci-fi and the strangeness of plant-life help us to imagine a future law, malleable in the extreme, able to riff and improvise. The littoral may be a place but also perhaps a time, an image and an idea. 


Beatriz Santiago Muñoz's projects grapple with the slippery distinctions between ethnography, fiction, and documentary film and examine the symbolic and material histories of the communities she observes with her camera. Her work was recently presented at major solo exhibitions at New Museum, New York; Pérez Art Museum, Miami (both 2016); CAPC musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux (2015); and Gasworks, London (2013), among others.




The Law of the Littoral


In response to the recognition of Indigenous ownership to intertidal waters in the High Court case, Blue Mud Bay (2008), an interim agreement was reached between the federal government and Indigenous owners that allowed non-Indigenous fishers a specific mode of access to the intertide-they could float on it but not disembark from it. This talk explores how, in trying to circumvent Indigenous coastal sovereignty, the late liberal government exposed itself to the law of the littoral.


Elizabeth A. Povinelli is professor of anthropology and gender studies at Columbia University. Povinelli's work has focused on developing a critical theory of late liberalism that would support an anthropology of the otherwise. She is the author of Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism (2011), The Empire of Love: Toward a Theory of Intimacy, Genealogy, and Carnality (2006) and The Cunning of Recognition (2002), among others. Her recent book Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism (2016) examines current conditions of late liberalism by offering a bold retheorization of power from the perspective of Indigenous Australian maneuvers against the settler state.




Trace Evidence


Within environmental justice work, establishing the incontrovertible relationship between cause and effect has proven a difficult legal challenge. The spatial dispersion of contaminates and temporal latency of their material and biological effects, which may take years, even decades to emerge, has allowed global climate-change actors and states to operate with virtual impunity. But the nuclear isn't like other complex, non-linear events. Despite its radical and covert nature, the unique signature and behaviour of radioactive isotopes allows its lethal traces to be tracked directly back to their source, re-connecting, in effect, the evidential links that planetary phenomena has seemingly torn apart.


Susan Schuppli is an artist and researcher based in London whose work examines material evidence from war, conflict and environmental disasters. Current work explores the ways in which toxic ecologies from nuclear accidents and oil spills to the dark snow of the arctic are producing an 'extreme image' archive of material wrongs. She is author of the forthcoming book, Material Witness (2017), and is Senior Lecturer and Director of the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths.




The east wind and the bond we share with the tissue of the shellfish-strings, nodes and skin politics in the age of soft-war


A cyborg teams up with a microorganism perspective: recent global developments have created new species of algae whose bloom is toxic and trigger popular media presence called the red tide. The phenomena of bioluminescence, as such, can be connected to the planetary system for navigation, spiritual and emotional power. In expressing a form of 'poetical ethics' that builds upon her installation for Contour Biennale, Winterling reflects on monitoring systems to anticipate climate hazards and focalize the many symptoms of systemic violence arising from ecocide.


Susanne M. Winterling works across a range of media to explore the sentient economy, digital cultures and the social life of materials across our built environment. Winterling's recent practice reflects upon political as well as aesthetic solidarity among human and animal species in today's challenging geopolitical context. She also remains focused on historical feminist practices and the commons. Winterling is a professor of Contemporary Art at the Academy of Fine Art in Oslo and a Professor of Sculpture at HfG Offenbach. Winterling recently opened solo exhibitions​​ ​at HOK Oslo; Kunstverein Freiburg,(both 2017); Barbara Weiss Galerie, Berlin (2016);The Cologne Room, Los Angeles (2015).