Sheltering places: Sensing Nature and intimacy without proximity

On July 14, at 12 ET / 18 CEST The New Centre aired the sixth episode of their public program Sheltering Places, titled, Sensing Nature: Intimacy Without Proximity with Eben Kirksey* and their Board Member Julieta Aranda**, moderated by myself. The topic of discussion was human/non-human relationships (more info about the topic and guests below).

Humans’ relationship with non-humans and Nature is becoming increasingly mediated by digital apparatuses. From their use in farming and weather forecasting, to recognising plants or summits via apps, we shield ourselves and develop intimacy without proximity (Jake Metcalf, Environmental Philosophy 5, no 2, 2008). While avoiding proximity with humans is often safer for non-humans, this growing mediation nonetheless changes the relationship between the two actors. These technologies come with clear political consequences, and so far, they only seem to drive us towards worse techno-capitalist horizons. This conversation tackles the possibility of intervening in these processes from the fields of art and humanities. Can these technologies help to recreate refuge and develop a more egalitarian relationship between non-humans and Nature? Or will the electronic wasteland and their inherent biases only leave us doomed?

*Eben Kirksey is an anthropologist, writer, and storyteller. He is a politically savvy activist who occasionally engages in artistic experiments. Eben attended the University of Oxford as a British Marshall Scholar and earned his Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Often on the road, he lives between Australia and the United States. In academic settings, Eben is perhaps best known for his work on multispecies ethnography—a field that uses innovative approaches to study human interactions with animals, microbes, fungi, and plants. His teaching repertoire includes popular lecture courses like “Environment, Development, and Sustainability”, as well as advanced seminars on “Human Nature”. His interdisciplinary offerings include “Environmental Art”, “Medical Anthropology”, as well as “Science and Society.”

**Julieta Aranda is an artist born in Mexico City, who currently lives and works between Berlin and New York. Central to Julieta’s multidimensional practice is her involvement with circulation mechanisms; her interest in science-fiction, space travel, zones of friction; and her interest in the possibilities for the production of political subjectivities by way of all of the above. As a co-director of e-flux together with Anton Vidokle, Julieta has developed the projects Time/Bank, Pawnshop, and e-flux video rental, all of which started in the e-flux storefront in New York, and have travelled to many venues worldwide. Since 2008, Julieta Aranda has been the editor of e-flux journal, together with Anton Vidokle and Brian Kwan Wood.