Masterclass by Graham Harman: The Anthropocene Today

Wednesday 25 February

10:30 - 17:30

BAK Utrecht

This masterclass is organised by Sonic Acts in partnership with BAK and Dark Ecology. Part of Changing Weathers, funded with support from the European Commission This workshop will focus on what the Anthropocene means for ontology as well as for politics. Speculative Realist philosophy is known to seek the world as it is apart from human access. Given that the Anthropocene is, by definition, a geological era created by human activity, it might seem impossible to ask about the Anthropocene apart from interference by humans. Yet the fact that humans triggered the Anthropocene does not mean that the features of the Anthropocene are transparent to human knowledge. This ambiguity in the human relation to the Anthropocene (we created it, yet do not understand it) is the basic puzzle of Anthopocene ontology. As for the politics of the Anthropocene, we will take our bearings from Bruno Latour’s 2013 Gifford Lectures in Edinburgh, on the topic of Gaia. In my 2014 book Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Political, I claimed that the basic Left/Right distinction in modern politics is actually less important than a more fundamental Truth/Power distinction. Latour begins his career as an absolute Hobbesian, leaving room for no political “truth” that would transcend the power struggles of dueling actors. Towards mid-career, Latour corrects this initial access by granting scientists and moralists the job of looking out for realities that have not yet been included in the political sphere. The outcome of this turn was an apparent settling on Dewey and Lippmann as Latour’s political philosophers of choice, due to their notion of political publics as being defined on a case-by-case basis by specific issues or objects rather than a pre-given public. In the 2013 Gifford Lectures, however, Latour drifts back in a Hobbesian direction by turning to power politician Carl Schmitt as his model: declaring Schmittian warfare against climate change skeptics. Is the politics of the Anthropocene really best served in this way? I will argue the contrary. Graham Harman (US) is Distinguished University Professor at the American University in Cairo, where he has worked since 2000. He is chief exponent of object-oriented philosophy and a founding member of the Speculative Realism movement. He has written eleven books, most recently Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy (2012), Bells and Whistles: More Speculative Realism (2013), and Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Political (2014). Harman is the editor of the Speculative Realism book series published by Edinburgh University Press, and (with Bruno Latour) co-editor of the New Metaphysics book series of Open Humanities Press. The masterclass will include a guided tour by the curators through the exhibition in BAK.

To participate

This masterclass is aimed at artists, curators, critics, philosophers and cultural practitioners. Please send a biography and a short motivation outlining why you would like to particpate in a specific masterclass/workshop to: masterclass[@]sonicacts[.]com. Deadline for application is Friday 13 February 2015. Attending multiple classes is possible. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered. A detailed schedule and more information about how to prepare for the workshop will be sent to participants.


There is a fee of € 35,00 to participate in this masterclass. Catering will be provided. Participants will receive reduced admission to the festival (professional accreditation for € 75,00).

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