Overview over the two folds

Digital Ecologies 2018-2019, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: an international exhibition project in two folds

Digital Ecologies is composed of two folds of an international group exhibition project and takes place across two venues, the Center for Contemporary Art ‘Ancient Bath’ and the former tobacco warehouse SKLAD in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The first fold, an exhibition project under the title, Operaismo Naturale: Ecology of the Event, takes place from 27 July to 5 September 2018, with talks, interventions and performances on 28 and 29 July and on 5 September; and the second, an expanded exhibition project building on the first exhibition and its context, from 4 May to 30 June 2019, with an accompanying symposium on 5/6 May 2019.

Digital Ecologies brings on display art works that engage with ecological domains and constitute a constellation of eco-art, of emancipatory art practices and committed aesthetic inventions. They have ethical implications in the age of meta-data and the political economy of valorization of information under post-internet conditions, and in the troubling times of rapid and unpredictable climate change associated with global warming. The exhibition project is a platform to display, but also a laboratory for joint research to invent new concepts, affects and percepts – a space of experiments on how to turn knowledge into practice, and practice into knowledge, with its own temporality.

In a technologically driven world, in which Data becomes disturbingly indistinguishable from sensation and affectual affinities, almost like fragments of the flow of Nature, the conditions of cognitive and immaterial labor demand that the relation to Nature and the Natural be rethought. The project hits the intensive road to ponder how under these new circumstances, ecological resistance may enact existential territories that constitute new relations with Nature in which to ground multiplicities, taking into account the flexibilization of labor vs social plasticity. It breaks open the synthetic dialectics by the power of an affirmative milieu, by the creativity of unknown quantities, fragments and digits located beyond the cognitive horizon and the phenomenal growth in the speed of computer-aided subjectivity.

The project does not aim to contemplate, communicate or reflect the topic of Nature. All of these would apply a kind of mastery. Instead, it embraces speculative realism to struggle for the real. “We must make use of fictions and abstractions […] to get to a plane where we go from real being to real being and advance through the construction of concepts,”* in this case, concepts of eco-realism. Rather, it displays a constructivist approach and returns to the working conditions of composition to ground some urgent questions, urge us to assume our responsibility and open up a new field of virtuality with its potentialities to construct new concepts of brain and nature that do not work in opposition.

The ethico-aesthetic aegis of Digital Ecologies partially draws on the three ecologies of Félix Guattari – social ecology, mental ecology and environmental ecology – and their ethico-political articulations in the molecular domains of sensibility, intelligence and desire and then on to molar dimensions. “Now more than ever Nature cannot be separated from culture,” writes Guattari. This has turned into a truism, but we need to “kick the habits” and return this obvious truth to its emergency here and now, and re-introduce transversality, which still has to be learned as a practice of ecological awareness, of de-colonizing thought, re-inventing gestures of solidarity in response to environmental variations. Guattari’s ecologies are governed by a different logic from that of ordinary communication, viz., the logic of intensities and engagement in irreversible durations. Digital Ecologies occupies this logic of an evolutive process and its object-oriented endeavors “to forge incorporeal objects” as the focal points of new subjectivities, as they are catalysts of existential change.

The exhibition project spans two folds, one critical, the other speculative, back and forth, leaving a continuity of time between them to become a discontinuity of our collective living multiplicities in-between the two, to cast a bridge, an elastic spinal column between them with its own sensible temporality. The time between the two folds of Digital Ecologies matters. It is the time to negotiate between the two and consider the work that has to be done in everyday life. As the title of the first fold, Operaismo Naturale, suggests, it is time for operations. It is time for urgent actions, i.e., the work and no work of inventions that are independent from productivity. Operaismo Naturale forges a body of collective and personal artistic research to activate compositional changes between human labor and natural habitats and their biodiversity.

Text: Dimitrina Sevova

* Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994 (1991)), p. 207.