Elemental Media

This is a multi-day conference (March 9-10).

Fire, earth, air, water – the typological order of the elements, dating back to Ancient Greece, has shaped the experience of human life worlds. The natural elements meet the basic needs of sustainability yet, as recent events demonstrate, might suddenly act against these needs in the form of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, and storms. While some of these disasters are clear evidence of climate change, the human footprint left on the earth remains contested on the political stage – the voice of ecological movements stifled by debates. This silencing calls for new ways of mediating the elements in the public sphere. While concepts for this endeavor have been offered by recent scholarship such as Bruno Latour’s description of “a new climatic regime” (Facing Gaia, 2017), the call for the attunement to the elements is also a part of the German philosophical and literary tradition, e.g. from Friedrich Nietzsche to Martin Heidegger, as well as from Medieval Mysticism to Romanticism and beyond.

Reflections about the mediation of natural elements require us to investigate the interrelations between media and environment on the level of materiality. Coining the term “geology of media,” Jussi Parikka focuses on the geological materials of technology (“The Anthropobscene”, 2013). John Durham Peters refers to elements in a more metaphorical way considering media as “environments […] that anchor our existence and make what we are doing possible.” (The Marvelous Clouds, 2015). While elemental metaphors such as flows, clouds, or firewalls have contributed to our understanding of how media work, they also indicate how media oftentimes dissipate into the background of experience. Emphasizing the materiality of media practices we attempt to render visible the elemental conditions and qualities of media environments as well as of mediated natural environments.

Co-sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities.

** Location: Dwinelle 370, except for the Awakening Performance on March 10th: Dwinelle B4.

** The reader for the workshops is attached here: Elemental Media Reader

** Contact info: berkeleygermanconference@gmail.com.

Day 1: March 9, 2018

9:30-10:00 Breakfast/Registration

10:00-10:15 Opening Remarks

10:15-11:15 Workshop

Jacob Gaboury (UC Berkeley): Reading Sybille Krämer “So What Does ‘Transmission’ Mean?” (2015).

11:30-12:45 Im/material Epistemologies

Camila YaDeau (UC Berkeley): Towards a Heideggerian Ethics: Earth and the Critique of Voluntarism

Pedro Javier Rolón (UC Berkeley) and Berenike Schierenberg (FU Berlin): Lehrträume: Elements of Mediation in Two Baroque Phantasies

12:45-2:15   LUNCH BREAK

2:15-3:15 Atmospheres

Caufield Schnug (Harvard University): Pressure, Compression: Atmospheric Media Operations and Pneumatic Visual Culture

Nikolas Lund (California State University, East Bay): Hearing Being: Phenomenology of Sound in Sloterdijk’s ​Spheres​ Project

3:30-4:50 Keynote

Margareta Ingrid Christian (University of Chicago): Aesthetic Ecologies: The Air within and without Artworks

5:00-7:00 Opening Reception

Day 2: March 10, 2018

10:00-11:00 Workshop

Andrea Westermann (GHI-West): Reading Astrida Neimanis “Queer Times and Chemical Weapons, Suspended in the Gotland Deeps” (forthcoming).

11:15-12:15 Aquatic Literature

Donna Honarpisheh (UC Berkeley): The Sea as Atemporal Archive: Reading Qui se souvient de la mer

Caroline Durlacher (UC Berkeley): “wie ein Wassertröpfchen in einer Wolke”: Subject, Object and Affect in Robert Musil’s Late Works

12:15-1:45   LUNCH BREAK

1:45-3:15 Poetics of the Earth

Elia Vargas (UC Santa Cruz): Oil Creek: Leaky Hydrocarbons and the Poetics of the Early Oil Industry

Tobias René Wilczek (University of Toronto): Elementary Media: The Mineralogical Dimension of Philology

Kassi Burnett (Ohio State University):  Time, Place, and the Elements in Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän

3:45-4:45 Awakening Performance + Talk

Carolina Berger (University of São Paulo): Principle of the Poetics Presence Modality: From Performativity to the Formation of the Embodied Mind in Intermedia Ritual Performances


5:15-6:00 Roundtable Discussion

Margareta Ingrid Christian (University of Chicago), Jacob Gaboury (UC Berkeley),

Alexander Honold (Universität Basel), Andrea Westermann (GHI-West)