The World Without Us. Narratives on the age of non-human actors

The World Without Us
Narratives on the age of non-human actors

27 June–27 August 2017
Vžigalica Gallery | Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana

Curated by
Inke Arns

Morehshin Allahyari & Daniel Rourke, Timo Arnall, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Ignas Krunglevicius, Mark Leckey, Nicolas Maigret & Maria Roszkowska, Eva & Franco Mattes, Yuri Pattison, Sascha Pohflepp, Suzanne Treister, Addie Wagenknecht, Pinar Yoldas

In the framework of State Machines

The exhibition asks what a world without us would be like. But rather than conjuring up a post-disaster scenario, it describes such a world as the result of a gradual development whose origins can be traced back to our day and age. Taking its cues from science-fiction literature and the philosophical school of Speculative Realism, the exhibition largely relies on the principle of extrapolation.

The tools for the creation of a “world without us” are at hand. The first driverless cars are driving on our streets, news articles are compiled by algorithms, and translations are done by machines. Already in 2009 a third of all shares in the EU and the US were traded by algorithms. We can only speculate on the current proportion.

In a “world without us” humans will be replaced by machines, artificial intelligences will be optimized by other AIs and algorithms will be programmed by other self-learning algorithms. In this way, a radically different, post-anthropocentric world could emerge in which non-human life forms could eventually prove better able to adapt than man himself. Benjamin Bratton said of such a world in 2014: “Worse than being seen as the enemy (by AI) is not being seen at all.”

The increasing influence of non-human actors in our everyday life has not only been explored by several recent blockbusters, including Her (2013), and in TV series such as Black Mirror (2011) and Real Humans (2012), but also in contemporary (media) art. Loosely inspired by Timothy Morton’s book Ecology Without Nature, the artists in this exhibition explore the possibility of an ecology after man – an age of the post-Anthropocene, in which other “life” forms, such as algorithms, artificial intelligence, artificially created nanoparticles, genetically modified micro-organisms and seemingly monstrous plants, have taken control. This new era, which has already begun, albeit imperceptibly, is the age of non-human actors.

The World Without Us was originally produced and presented by HMKV in Dortmund, Germany in 2016. For the 2017 Ljubljana version a selection of the Dortmund show was made and some works of the exhibition alien matter (curated by Inke Arns for the transmediale festival, HKW, 2017) were added to The World Without Us.The exhibition will move to Rijeka (Mali Salom / MMSU) at the end of the summer as a part of the project State Machines – Art, Work, and Identity in an Age of Planetary-Scale Computation.

The exhibition overview: HERE


Inke Arns
From alien matter to The World Without Us
TUE, 27 June 2017 at 7 pm
City Museum of Ljubljana

In this talk Inke Arns speaks about two exhibitions she recently curated: The World Without Us (HMKV Dortmund, 2016/17) and alien matter (transmediale festival, HKW Berlin, 2017). Alien matter refers to man-made, and at the same time, radically different, potentially intelligent matter. It is the outcome of a naturalization of technological artifacts. Environments shaped by technology result in new relationships between man and machine. Technological objects, previously defined merely as objects of utility, have become autonomous agents. Their capacity to learn and network throws into question the previously clear and dominant division between active subject and passive object. Within the alien matter exhibition 30 artists presented works about shifts within such power structures, raising questions about the state of our current environment and whether it has already passed a tipping point and is in the process of becoming “alien matter”. Content-wise, the works clustered around four thematic focal points: artificial intelligence, plastics, infrastructure, and the Internet of Things – subcategories that are deemed to merge into the nascent great machine and thereby, in the words of Günther Anders, are “future obsolete”.


Anne Bergner

Inke Arns, PhD, artistic director of Hartware MedienKunstVerein (HMKV) in Dortmund since 2005. She has worked internationally as an independent curator and theorist specializing in media art, net cultures, and Eastern Europe since 1993. After living in Paris (1982-1986) she studied Russian literature, Eastern European studies, political science, and art history in Berlin and Amsterdam (1988– 1996) and in 2004 obtained her PhD from the Humboldt University in Berlin with a thesis focusing on a paradigmatic shift in the way artists reflected the historical avant-garde and the notion of utopia in visual and media art projects of the 1980s and 1990s in (ex-)Yugoslavia and Russia. She curated exhibitions at Bauhaus (Dessau), n.b.k. (Berlin), Moderna galerija (Ljubljana), Künstlerhaus Bethanien (Berlin), Karl Ernst Osthaus Museum (Hagen), Museum of Contemporary Art (Belgrade), HMKV (Dortmund), Centre for Contemporary Arts – CCA (Glasgow), KW Institute for Contemporary Art (Berlin), Videotage (Hong Kong), Museum of Contemporary Art Vojvodina (Novi Sad), Centre for Contemporary Art Zamek Ujazdowski (Warsaw), Centre for Contemporary Art “Znaki Czasu” (Toruń), Contemporary Art Centre CAC (Vilnius), Muzeum Sztuki (Łodz), La Panacée (Montpellier), Jeu de Paume (Paris), Autocenter (Berlin), Kunstpalais (Erlangen), Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), Kunsthal Charlottenborg (Copenhagen). She has curated numerous exhibitions at home and abroad, a.o. History Will Repeat Itself (2007), Arctic Perspective (2010), The Oil Show (2011), Sounds Like Silence (John Cage – 4’33’’ – Silence today / 1912 – 1952 – 2012) (2012), His Master’s Voice: On Voice and Language (2013), World of Matter (2014), „Now I Can Help Myself“ – The 100 best online video tutorials (2014), Evil Clowns (2014), Hito Steyerl: Factory of the Sun (2016), Whistleblowers & Vigilantes (2016), The World Without Us (2016), alien matter (2017), and The Brutalism Appreciation Society (2017). Author of numerous articles on media art and net culture, and editor of exhibition catalogues. Books include Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) – an analysis of their artistic strategies in the context of the 1980s in Yugoslavia (2002), Net Cultures (2002), Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear! The Avant-Garde in the Rear-View Mirror (2004).


The World Without Us. Narratives on the Age of Non-Human Agents
Exhibition catalogue

Publisher: Revolver Publishing by VVV
ISBN: 978-3-95763-393-4


Adam Harvey
Computer Vision, Surveillance, and Camouflage
TUE, 20 June 2017 at 7 pm
City Art Gallery, Ljubljana

This talk explores new ways of appearing and disappearing in a machine readable world including strategies for blocking face detection and thermal imaging, and tools for advanced visual-metadata analysis.

Adam Harvey
Privacy Gift Shop
21 June–21 July 2017
Aksioma | Project Space, Ljubljana

Maja Smrekar
Requiem for the Future

Hybrid performance
5, 7, 8 July 2017 at 9 pm
Ljubljana Puppet Theatre, Ljubljana


Authors: Morehshin Allahyari & Daniel Rourke, Timo Arnall, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Ignas Krunglevicius, Mark Leckey, Nicolas Maigret & Maria Roszkowska, Eva & Franco Mattes, Yuri Pattison, Sascha Pohflepp, Suzanne Treister, Addie Wagenknecht, Pinar Yoldas

Curated by: Inke Arns (HMKV)

Head of production: Janez Janša
Producers: Marcela Okretič, Jani Pirnat
Executive producer: Sonja Grdina
Public relations: Alja Žorž, Janja Buzečan

Produced by:
HMKV (Hartware MedienKunstVerein)
and Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana

Museum & Galleries of Ljubljana and Drugo more, Rijeka

Thanks to: Annely Juda Fine Art, London; bitforms gallery, New York; Cabinet, London; Carroll / Fletcher Gallery, London; Helga Maria Klosterfelde Edition, Berlin; Rodeo, London.

The World Without Us in Ljubljana and Rijeka is realised in the framework of the project State Machines, a joint project by Aksioma (SI), Drugo more (HR), Furtherfield (UK), the Institute of Network Cultures (NL) and NeMe (CY).

Supported by:
the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and the Municipality of Ljubljana

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

The World Without Us in Dortmund (HMKV) was funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation.

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