Things matter. They matter for the role they play in everyday life, but also for the material and immaterial traces they leave behind. Understood as material, inanimate objects, they have their own life cycles, and they gain or lose value and significance depending on different time periods and cultural contexts.
Things tell stories. They narrate stories of loss and belonging, past and present, reality and fiction. Things can reveal positions of power and moments of resistance. Often, they might involve hierarchies, imply forms of exclusion and serve as witnesses of events and actions.
Things are never just things. They might be human-made or found in the living environment. Some are designed and manufactured, while others might be aggregates, formations or even living organisms. All, however, are made of matter and earth’s resources and return to the planet’s body.
Things have agency. Smart things can hear and speak, monitor moves and capture emotions. Non-human personhood is addressed nowadays in relation to the changes that artificial intelligence brings but it is also a recurrent issue concerning the personhood and the rights of ‘nature’, its ecosystems and entities.
But then what is – and what is not – a thing? What does a world of things signify today, and for whom?
The talks programme of EMAF 2022 explores what it means to live with and take care of things while having in mind different temporalities, ontologies and worldviews. It examines the role of art, design and technology in creating, appropriating or calling off things in order to establish or restore substantial relationships to the environment and the planet. Talks specifically discuss the challenges and possibilities of designing for multiple worlds, of working and living with smart infrastructures, of acknowledging the agency of the living environment, and of respecting the circle of matter. Reflecting upon the connectedness of the living with the nonliving, theorists and practitioners invited by ΕMAF 2022 will discuss the meanings, benefits and costs of things in relation to both human and more-than-human worlds.
Participants: Ahmed Ansari, Ursula Biemann, Caetano, Forest Curriculum, Alessandro Delfanti, Valentina Karga, Jenny Kennedy, Adriana Knouf, Nina Paim, Rosario Talevi