Session 5

Thursday, June 3

15:00–16:00 (Helsinki, EEST, UTC +3), Congress Room 1

Chair: Dror Pimentel

Virpi Kaukio (Finland):

Artists for Mires and the Question of Climate Change

An opera singer sings in the bird watch tower, another singer presents a lament for mire. Some takes beautiful photographs of endangered wetlands, other photographs people who want to show their relationship to their beloved environment. Some celebrates newly restore peatland by respectful speeches and performances. Nowadays, artistic activities related to mire environments are various. However, the interests towards mires as specific but underestimated type of nature, is common to them.

My aim here is talk about how these artists see their roles as an influencer or an active agent to environmental issues. My study is a part of the humanistic environmental research project, which explores new, unconventional uses of nature that are changing the cultural heritage of mires. Our research group have interviewed artists referred above and several others about their works related to mires. In this presentation, I will examine artistic relationships to question of climate change and other environmental crises based on those interviews.

Eco-anxiety is one of the motives for artists to act in mire context. Human relationship to mires, swamps, peatlands and wetlands has always been complex. The mires have resisted human efforts to cultivate or make them useful other ways. That has not stopped people to try it by draining or more profoundly putting peat bogs to use as energy resource. Recently it has been recognized that not only forests, but also mires have importance as carbon sink. Human acts towards mires have at the same time local and global impacts to nature. Many artists have recognized humans’ responsible towards nature, and they have wanted to participate themselves to social debate and decision making instead of leaving it to politicians or economists.

However, artistic ways to act for the mires varies widely. Some, for example, has taken aesthetics as their tools to show the value of mire of its own. Who would dare to destroy such a beauty and uniqueness, they might ask. Some more drastic work of mire art combines art to activism in the version artivism, which attempts to push political agendas by the means of art. Also, the nature of work of art is in transition due to these different working methods and agendas. Sometimes there is no other piece of art than act itself.

Marita Isaksson (University of Gothenburg, Sweden, Denmark):

Environment, AI and Humanities Predation

The earth is slowly dying due to the behavior of humans. Scientists and environmental activists tireless keep on fighting to get politicians and citizens to understand the urgency and that the battle to save nature and the earth is soon lost. At the same time other scientists make progress in areas far from the oxygen needing human, other species and earth, namely technology and artificial intelligence. The aesthetic of the non-flesh software, humanoids and technological gadgets is a lingering companion in almost every area of life.

Advancements in artificial intelligence can help humans act on the climate changes and environmental disaster lurking around the corner. Used as a tool in our hands software can help us foresee and take action before environmental catastrophes hit, calculate pollution or tidal waves, etc. Will the progress of technological development make the environment heal, or will it replace the earths natural habitat with artificial copies, such as a humanoid possibly could replace a human in terms as social companion, caretaker, lover, sex partner?

The later has been envisioned, imagining and creatively presented by authors, artists and filmmakers. The majority of them visualizing a more or less doomsday scenarios. Few, if any, has put forward the idea of an artificial intelligence as savior.

In policy documents presented by the technological industry, politicians and international collaborations it is clearly stated that the artificial intelligence, or robot, should not harm humans, but rather be their servants (very similar to Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics”). No policymaker has taken into account of an artificial intelligence saving earth and the environment – the basis for human life.

Where does this leave human aesthetic and the basic needs humans have of air to breath, water to drink and soil to grow food? Will the progress of artificial intelligence as a tool in the hands of human make as even more dangerous predators on what is essential to human survival by exchanging natures aesthetic with technological aesthetics?