Life Support System
20 April–20 May 2022
Aksioma | Project Space, Ljubljana
It is common to describe our relationships with society, the world, and the biosphere with metaphors from economics, which has specific understandings of value. With regard to the biosphere, today’s prevailing economics conventions are unable to recognize intrinsic value to the ecosystems on which all life depends. In cultures overdetermined by concepts from economics, we are left without adequate discursive instruments to socially or politically address the importance of the work of the biosphere.
The Life Support System experiment consists of 1 square meter of wheat, cultivated artificially in a closed environment. All inputs such as water, light, heat, and nutrients are measured, monitored and displayed for the public. This one square meter unit of Life Support System is capable of furnishing 1 day’s worth of necessary caloric nutrition for one human adult every 4 months. To feed a single human adult all year would require approximately 100 such units running concurrently. This procedure makes palpable the orders of magnitude, of material and energy flows, that are required to reproduce human nutritional requirements in closed or artificial environments, in contrast to outdoor agriculture on arable land. This indoor farm experiment is a counter-example which points to the vastness of the ecosystem contributions involved in conventional agriculture, that defy conventional economic reductionism.
By attempting to grow, in a closed environment, a staple food like wheat, which has historically provided the greatest proportion of necessary caloric intake for humans in Europe, this experiment provides a sense of scale of ecosystem contributions that are poorly acknowledged under the current economic conventions. The empirical “true-cost estimates” obtained through this indoor experiment are about 200€ per kilogram of wheat, an extravagant cost compared to the 15 cent per kilogram current market price. Though Hydroponics can be used for certain plants, for necessary caloric nutrition there is as yet no economically justifiable replacement for conventional agriculture embedded radically and immanently in the biosphere.
This experimental farm foregrounds the incalculable ecosystem services demands of conventional agriculture which we expect to access for free. On the other hand, closed environments must artificially reproduce these services at high social, energy and ecosystem costs which are mostly not accounted for. From a much broader perspective, this art experiment provides a speculative reference for a reckoning of the undervalued and over-exploited “work of the biosphere.” Ecosystem processes provide the primary value at the core of each of our daily economic interactions within society!
20 April 2022 at 7 PM
What ideological, social and biophysical factors precipitate the current environmental crises? What agency is available for transformative practices and imaginaries to redefine how we satisfy our energy and material requirements and avert large scale ecosystemic breakdown?
Post Growth invites us to challenge the dominant narratives about growth and progress, and explore the radical implications of various artistic prototypes, like an economic model based on energy emitted by the Sun. This speculative research provides perspectives for a shift away from the overexploitation of fossil fuels on which the reproduction of our societies mainly depends today. Post Growth re-envisions the social metabolism through an understanding of the energy it requires. It aims to reconsider the critical dimension of living and material activities of the biosphere, drawing on ecofeminism, indigenous knowledge, environmental accounting and historical materialism.
Post Growth is an invitation to a collective and practical examination of our shared future, examining the notion of growth, in its many facets and implications, and testing the limits of technology, of politics and of our imaginations.
Post Growth Toolkit (The Game)
20 April 2022, 2 PM–5 PM
DISNOVATION.ORG is a research collective set up in Paris in 2012, whose core members include Maria Roszkowska (PL), Nicolas Maigret (FR), and Baruch Gottlieb (CA). They work at the interface between contemporary art, research and hacking, and compose tailor-made teams for each investigation together with academics, activists, engineers, and designers. More specifically their recent artistic provocations seek to empower Post Growth imaginaries and practises by challenging the widespread faith that ‘economic growth’ and ‘technological fixes’ will solve the ecosystemic disruptions they produced in the first place. They recently co-edited A Bestiary of the Anthropocene with Nicolas Nova, an atlas of anthropic hybrid creatures, and The Pirate Book, an anthology on media piracy.
Their works have been exhibited, performed, published and reviewed worldwide, including at the Centre Pompidou (Paris), transmediale (Berlin), the Museum of Art and Design (New York), Palais de Tokyo (Paris), FILE (Sao Paulo), ZKM (Karlsruhe), Strelka Institute (Moscow), ISEA (Hong Kong), Elektra (Montreal), China Museum of Digital Arts (Beijing), and the Chaos Computer Congress (Hamburg). Their work has been featured in Forbes, Vice, Wired, Motherboard, Libération, Die Zeit, Arte TV, Next Nature, Hyperallergic, Le Temps, Neural.it, Digicult, Gizmodo, Seattle Weekly, torrentfreak.com, and Filmmaker Magazine among others.
Production of the exhibition:
Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, 2022
Part of the series:
Tactics & Practice
the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and the Municipality of Ljubljana
The Life Support System project was produced by iMAL (BE) in coproduction with la Biennale Chroniques (FR)