Ingeborg Reichle talks about how the loss of biodiversity is discussed in contemporary art at the University of Vienna

On January 15, Ingeborg Reichle will participate in a conference on Biodiversity and the Cultural Landscape at the University of Vienna, organised by the student-initiated platform Contemporary Matters. In her talk Endangered Species: On the Loss of Biodiversity in Contemporary Art she will explore how contemporary artists contribute to raise awareness about the human-induced extinction crisis and the rapid loss of biodiversity we face. Overfishing, pollution, acidification, and rising temperatures due to climate change are factors that have been putting stress on our ecosystems for decades and pose a serious threat today. As a consequence more and more artist are getting involved to forge ahead to the forefront of nature conversation or create scenarios for the future, based on current scientific findings and predicted consequences – for example – the irreversible consequences of the waste regimes of our affluent societies.

The conference aims at reflecting on the loss of biodiversity, which has increased to an alarming degree. It also led to the formation of interstate organizations such as IPBES focusing on conserving the variety of species. However, since Earth has undergone at least five mass extinctions, why should we act now? And even if we do, we need to ask: how should we act? In the realm of today’s sciences, the arts and humanities are usually not privileged to any sort of authority or credible source of knowledge when it comes to biodiversity. Yet, this separation of the arts and sciences only emerged in the late-nineteenth century with the rise of new technological advancements, precipitating an epistemic shift in knowledge production. After the exposure of the conceptions of nature and biology as social constructs developed across generations, there is an urge to renegotiate these terms and update them for the 21st century. In order to do so, Contemporary Matters is turning toward contemporary cultural and activist practices that steadily make biodiversity a subject of discussion. Merging approaches from life sciences and cultural studies through the deconstruction of the binary opposition Nature/Culture equals embracing the complex and large-scale hybridity of biodiversity. For this symposium Contemporary Matters invites researchers, scholars, artists, activists, and politicians to come together on a public forum at the University of Vienna and discuss new approaches for human and non-human co-existence.

Contemporary Matters is a student-initiated platform launched in 2018 raising critical awareness on the role of “the contemporary” in the increasingly transdisciplinary field of art history. Contemporary Matters believes that biodiversity constitutes a multifaceted challenge on a global scale. The endangerment thereof impacts all classes, groups, professions and nations, thus highlighting the entanglement of human and non-human agents in our contemporary world and the necessity to put these various affected actors in conversation with each other. In fact, by facilitating an exchange between rather uncustomary combinations of perspectives on the subject of biodiversity, we can perform (bio-)diversity in the very structure of the conference.

With contributions by Ingeborg Reichle (University of Applied Arts) | Extinction Rebellion Austria | Roswitha Schuller (University of Applied Arts) | Tahani Nadim & Sybille Neumeyer (Humboldt University Berlin) | Maria Huhmarniemi (University of Lapland) | Alice Vadrot (University of Vienna) | Yulia Kopr (University of Vienna) | Brishty Alam (University of Applied Arts)

Wednesday, 15 January 2020, 10 am to 8 pm
Aula am Campus der Universität Wien
Spitalgasse 2-4, Hof 1.11
1090 Vienna