st_age is an online platform for new commissions initiated by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) as a response to the Covid-19 crisis. It is a provocation to artists, institutions, practitioners, and activists to engage with the many issues that the pandemic has made even more visible in the precarious current moment.
st_age podcast | Corals: Nature, Symbiosis, and Restoration
In this podcast and thanks to Markus Reymann, director of TBA21–Academy, we dive deeper into the dramatic situation of the coral reefs to better understand Claudia Comte’s work. Marine biologists Denise Henry and David Gruber talk about corals: their importance in the ecosystem, their symbiotic relationships, and their ability to sense oncoming disasters. The notions of shape and time, and the importance of restoration—like the reef rehabilitation work developed by the Alligator Head Foundation in Port Antonio, Jamaica—become key to understanding this aquatic life-form.
st_age podcast | Articulate Matter
The conversation begins by unpacking the idea of the Anthropocene with ecosystem scientist professor Yadvinder Malhi who talks about why a deep time perspective helps us understand how truly volatile the planet is. He also discusses the need for evidence-based science that’s inclusive of indigenous knowledge, which offers more sustainable ways of relating to the environment.
Even while the scientific establishment grapples with what is already known about changing ecosystems to enact policy and systemic change, there are parts of India where narratives and data remain suppressed and ignored by mainstream media.
Public health researcher Shweta Narayan speaks about this disparity in media coverage between the Global North and South, as well as between rural and urban areas within India, as a manifestation of environmental racism. In India, lower caste and indigenous (Adivasi) bodies bear the brunt of toxicity in their environment, while their land and labor fuels petrocapitalism’s extractive rampant greed.
Journalist and poet Jacinta Kerketta, who grew up near the Saranda Forest in Jharkhand, Asia’s largest Sal forest, which is now being destroyed by mining, talks of the disproportionate impact of pollution on India’s oppressed and marginalized Adivasi and Dalit communities. She talks of how addressing systemic inequality and engaging with the Adivasi worldview, that looks at the environment holistically to recognize just how interconnected we are, can help us weather our own climate emergencies.
Contributors: Jacinta Kerketta, Shweta Narayan and Yadvinder Malhi
Conducted by Aruna Chandrasekhar
st_age podcast | Speculations for an Elsewhere: Terror, Control, and Borders
What would happen if we engaged in a speculative exploration of queer futurities—an “elsewhere” that would rupture the continuity and pervasiveness of neoliberalism and narratives of terror? Ghiwa Sayegh, together with Nacira Guénif and Hanna Al-Taher, evoke the possibility of different geographies, weaving in history, myth, and personal stories, so they can explore various transnational links. Contexts that are part of a continuum of control and surveillance, such as in France, do not operate in isolation from each other. When control becomes the context, infrastructures can be recognized as modes of coercion and hegemony. In this podcast speakers therefore think through borders and commodities that, unlike people, can move, in spite of a regime of passports as anti-travel documents. Ultimately, they question citizenship, and by extension nation-states, as tools of coercion instead of carriers of rights.
Contributors: Nacira Guénif & Hanna Al-Taher
Conducted by Ghiwa Sayegh
st_age podcast | Preventing Delayed Deaths from War...
Preventing Delayed Deaths from War: Issues of Unexploded Ordnance in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia
This episode, inspired by the short film “The Sounds of Canons Familiar Like Sad Refrains” by artist Tuan Andrew Nguyen, addresses the problems posed by unexploded ordnance and landmines left in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia after the end of the Vietnam War, as well as the ongoing humanitarian efforts and clearance operations that try to make this land safe for its people. This conversation is hosted by curator Nhung Walsh, who is joined by Chuck Searcy from Project RENEW and Pham Thi Hoang Ha from PeaceTrees Vietnam.
It is hard to mention any Hollywood movies or documentaries about the Vietnam War without thinking of airstrikes and bombardments, and the iconic footage in which we see the destruction of forests, rivers, lands, and the humans inhabiting them. War itself is catastrophic, but nearly five decades after the war ended, hundreds of thousands of people, including children, still continue to lose their lives or are injured by the bombs and mines that have been left behind. In “Nothing Never Dies,” Pulitzer-prize winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen says that “we must also tell the war stories that made ghosts and made us ghosts.” Unexploded ordnances are more than war ghosts, they are the most destructive and direct extension of a war that is still taking lives in time of peace.
Contributors: Chuck Searcy and Ha Pham
Conducted by Nhung Walsh
st_age podcast | Pouring Libation: Lessons from the Water on Mothering, Ceremony, and Surrendering
What healing power does the ocean hold for us? How can we learn to be in the right relationship with the earth, ourselves, and non-human companion species by engaging with the ocean? If we imagined the ocean as a divine ecology, how would that transform how we approach it? What if the ocean could teach us how to survive climate catastrophe and the violence of white supremacy? This fluid and dynamic conversation brings together four Black women artists, activists, scholars, and spirit workers to discuss Courtney Desiree Morris’s experimental film project, Sopera de Yemaya. The film explores the esthetic, spiritual, and political dimensions of Black motherhood by staging an encounter with the many roads of Yemaya, the orisha (Yoruba deity) who governs the top layer of the ocean. Morris joins playwright Sharon Bridgforth and Ayana Omilade Flewellen, a marine archaeologist, in a free-flowing conversation facilitated by Ashara Ekundayo about the wisdom of the ocean, queering motherhood, how Orisha might save the world, and the possibilities that emerge when we surrender to the ocean and the water that lives inside us.
Contributors: Sharon Bridgforth, Ayana Flewellen
Conducted by Ashara Ekundayo
st_age podcast| Thinking Through Crisis: Heritage, Mediation, and Translation
This podcast episode invites us to think through and with crisis and how this engenders a series of reconsiderations and adjustments. Inspired by the questions driving Omar Mismar’s work, particularly his Studies in Mosaics Series, Syria, we ask what is the importance and significance of cultural heritage in moments of total collapse, and what becomes of representation and witnessing in these particular contexts? These issues are explored from the vantage point of Lebanon, where the perpetual crises and violences that have plagued this nation since its inception are today being experienced viscerally amid a crippling economic crisis and in the aftermath of the world’s largest non-nuclear explosion. Turning first to architect Yasmine Dagher, we learn more about the work of the Beirut Heritage Initiative, an organization that safeguards urban heritage in the wake of the Beirut Blast. Next we reflect generally on how the relationship between images and violence has been traditionally conceived and how developments in technology have added new dimensions to these considerations. Finally, we engage with Lina Mounzer to think about how translation can serve as a framework or metaphor for the ethical mediation of violence.
Contributors: Yasmine Dagher, Beirut Heritage Initiative, and Lina Mounzer, journalist and translator
Conducted by Zeina Tarraf