World of Matter | 2013

Collaborative Art and Media Project 2011-2014

Humans have exhausted virtually all known resource deposits on the planet with heightening efforts geared toward locating yet undiscovered and untapped reserves. Large-scale mining is penetrating ever deeper layers, multinational land grabs are advancing to remote corners, and the race is on for the neocolonial division of the seabed. In the last sixty years, more natural resources have been raided by humans than in all previous centuries together. The frantic rhythm of ‘progress’ has spurred images of crisis and doom while firing up the competitive rush for new frontiers. 

With growing consciousness about global environmental limits, there is urgent need for new discourses and modes of representation that may shift resource-related debates from a market driven domain to open platforms for engaged and decentralized public discourse. First and foremost, the assumption that everything we encounter is a resource for human consumption must be challenged, as this anthropogenic vision has led directly to countless environmental and social disasters. The very term “resource” is a technocapitalist human-centric concept that World of Matter seeks to highlight and disrupt. Instead, the term "ecologies" acknowledges a compositionist state of existence that historically constitutes non-hierarchical interactions between multiplicities of life, matter, and technology.

Initiated by an interdisciplinary group of artists and scholars, World of Matter is an international research, exhibition, and online media project that investigates natural resources (fossil, mineral, maritime, land) and the complex ecologies of which they are a part. By connecting visual documents of illicit gold mining in the Amazon basin with video files about Egyptian land use politics or Indian cotton farmers, it aims to activate a variety of possible readings about global flows and histories between these sites. Ultimately, World of Matter seeks to develop innovative and ethical approaches to the handling of resources, while at the same time challenging the very assumption that the planet’s materials are inevitably a resource for human consumption. (read more)

The project was initiated by Uwe H. Martin and Ursula Biemann.


Multimedia Platform

The online platform is the backbone of the collaborative project, providing an open access archive that connects different files, actors, territories and ideas. It is the result of extensive field research and media production in many sites of heightened natural and material significance such as the extractivist Amazon basin, the Indian cotton farmers, the water ecologies of the Nile, the fisheries in the Dutch polders, the mining culture in the Brazilian Minas Gerais or the rush for arable land in Ethiopia. The platform is conceived in such a way as to stimulate a variety of possible readings about the global connectivity among these sites.
web development: David Beerman DECODE, Hamburg; graphic design: labor b, Dortmund
The online platform is funded by the Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK and George Foundation.

Concept Group 

Mabe Bethonico, Belo Horizonte (BR), artist-researcher
Ursula Biemann, Zurich (CH), artist, videoessayist and curator (see Egyptian Chemistry and Deep Weather)
Uwe H. Martin, Hamburg (DE), photo journalist, interactive multimedia publisher
Helge Mooshammer & Peter Mörtenböck, Vienna & London (AU, UK) research architects and cultural theorists
Emily E. Scott, Zurich (CH), art historian, cultural geographer and artist
Pablo Tavares, Campinas (BR), architect and autonomous media practitioner
Lonnie van Brummelen & Siebren de Haan, Amsterdam (NL), artists

Research and production phase January 2011 - December 2013


Hartware Media Art HMKV in Dortmund (DE), February 28 - June, 2014

James Gallery, Graduate Center New York (US), September 10 - November 1, 2014

Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery, Concordia U, Montreal (CN) February 20 - April, 2015

Art Center College of Design, Pasadena (US) January - May 2016

Paço das Artes, Sao Paulo (BR) June - August 2016

Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm (SE), December 2016

Nash Gallery, UMN, Minneapolis, September - December 2017


Conferences and Workshops

Public Kick Off Meeting of Supply Lines at Gasworks London, April, 2011
Provisoe - three-day public conference at the Museum of Art Pampulha, Belo Horizonte (BR), April 2012
Book Launch of Provisoe, compiling WoM conference in Belo Horizonte at Maldives Pavillion, Venice Biennale, May 31 2013
Argos Center for Art and Media, Brussels, 2-day conference and WoM web launch, October 18 + 19,  2013
Radical Materialism, CUNY Graduate Center, New York, September 9 + 10, 2014
Concordia University, Montreal, February 10 + 21, 2014


Research Roundtable Meetings - Project Development

The project structure is based in a collaborative process which is advanced through roundtable meetings which last 4 days and can generate semi-public laboratories and exhibitions of the research phase.

1st meeting: Gasworks London, April 21 – 24, 2011
with students from the MA program of Goldsmiths College London (UK)

2nd meeting: Zurich University for the Arts ZHdK, Institute for Theory, December 15 – 18, 2011
with students from the MA of Art and Media, ZHdK (CH)

3rd meeting: MAP, Museu de Arte da Pampulha, Belo Horizonte, April 2012
visual conference with SL participants and students from the Fine Arts department
of State University of Minas Gerais UFMG, Belo Horizonte (BR)

4th meeting: Hartware MedienKunst Verein, Dortmund, October 12-14, 2012

5th meeting: Argos, Brussels, October 15-18, 2013
Launch of website, public conference and research meeting to conceptualize the exhibition


World of Matter is a collaboration with:
Institute for Theory (ith), University of the Arts, Zurich (CH)
Visual Department at Goldsmiths College, London (UK)
Fine Arts Department at State University of Minas Gerais (BR)
Hardware Media Art Dortmund, (DE), curator Inke Arns
Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm (SE), curator Maria Lind
Argos, Brussels (BE)
James Gallery, Graduate Center, New York (US), curator Katherine Carl
Leonard & Bina Ellen Gallery, Montreal, curator Michèle Theriault
Concordia University, Montreal, Krista Lynes
Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, Jane McFadden, chair for humanities and science
College of Design, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Ozayr Saloojee 

World of Matter (continued)

Since 2010, a group of nine has come together for a series of week-long research meetings to develop a common ground for the project. One of the first declared tasks was to expand the notion of natural resources ­– or “commodities” as traders call them – from hitherto geophysical and economic-industrial contexts toward the aesthetic-philosophical arena. Yet we are aware that if we solely attempt to “culturalise” the discourse on the ecologies of natural resources by multiplying images or forging new terminologies, we fail to address a deeper problem. If we are to speak about a more-than-human world, it will not suffice to build a socio-cultural vocabulary through a human-centric discourse that views the Earth primarily as a provision, object of scientific research, or sphere of human perceptions, experience, and control. To de-centre such anthropocentric perspectives, a more critical shift in thinking is needed. Beyond a traditional notion of raw materials as resource and system of supply lines for humans, the project directs a deeper attention to the situated materialities of stuff like gold, rice, oil, fish, land or water and the intricate multispecies entanglements within which they emerge.

This considers a planetary perspective on a world that matters.