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ON AIR: with Aerocene, symposium at Palais de Tokyo

Calling for an inter-species right to mobility, a new interplanetary ecology of practice which could reconnect with elemental sources of energy and strata coming from the sun and other planets, breaking the boundaries of the sublunary, join the Aerocene community for a symposium of Nomadic Talks at Palais de Tokyo, a series of conversations introduced by Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel and Tomás Saraceno. Moderated by Sasha Engelmann. With: Primavera de Filippi, Samuel Hertz, Karine Léger, Stavros Katsanevas, Derek McCormack, Tomás Saraceno, Nick Shapiro, Débora Swistun, Marie Thébaud-Sorger, Jol Thomson and Heinz Wismann. These talks have been curated by Sasha Engelmann.

The conversations will be enhanced with an additional program of workshops and flights.

>> Program

3.20 PM – Villa Inflamable
Débora Swistun, Nick Shapiro and Karine Léger

The Aerocene Symposium begins with a conversation between anthropologist Débora Swistun and researcher / scientist Nick Shapiro concerning the relations between Aerocene, activism, environment and community initiatives in Villa Inflammable, Buenos Aires. Through the efforts of Aerocene Community questions have emerged around community-based science and the measurement of exposure; the underlying infrastructures perpetuating the condition of Inflammable; and the role of Aerocene in the context of the complex history of environmental justice struggles of the Matanza-Riachuelo  River. Débora and Nick will be joined in the discussion by Karine Léger, the managing director of AirParif, an organization responsible for monitoring the air quality in Paris and surrounding areas.

4.15 PM – Aerocene Governance and Constitution
Primavera de Filippi and Tomás Saraceno

Are there resources or opportunities in blockchain platforms, token-based economies and new digital currencies for growing and sustaining the Aerocene community?  How can the Aerocene community decentralize its infrastructure while maintaining a code of values and ethics? These questions will be considered by artist Tomás Saraceno and legal scholar Primavera De Filippi in a conversation on Aerocene governance.

5.10 PM Aero-Acoustics: an Interlude
Sam Hertz with Participants of Aero-Acoustics Workshop

Facilitated by composer/researcher Samuel Hertz and researcher Sasha Engelmann, the “Aero-Acoustics” workshop has invited to exploratory listening, sounding, moving and questioning related to the sonic materiality of air. Taking place on the grounds of the Palais de Tokyo – along with external site-based experiments and derivations – Aero-coustics participants will engage in various ways of knowing, listening, and being-with sonic atmospheres, here performed to the symposium participants.

5.45 PM – Elemental Encounters
Marie Thébaud Sorger and Derek McCormack

In the 18th and 19th centuries, air became an ‘object’ for scientists and citizens alike.  From experiments with diaphragms and pneumatic chambers, to ventilators and the human respiratory system, citizen-experimenters produced new forms of knowledge on the complex physics and chemistry of the air.  What was once deemed ‘vacuous’ or ‘empty’ was rendered an elemental ‘matter of concern’. This conversation between historian of science Marie Thébaud-Sorger and human geographer Derek McCormack will take an elemental approach to the air, asking how an elemental mode of thinking and practicing can attune us to air’s forces, complexities, vorticities and affects.

6.40 PM – Behind the Sun
Stavros Katsanevas and Heinz Wismann,
moderated by Jol Thomson

Cosmic dust and cosmic rays, magnetic particles, meteor fragments, radioactive elements and electromagnetic frequencies: the air is full of traces, materials and phenomena of cosmological origin and scope.  The Aerocene engages with these phenomena at the limit and beyond human perceptual awareness. At the same time Aerocene proposes different modes of engaging with air’s cosmic forces through the propagation of sonic vibrations, tuning to the trajectory of a solar eclipse, and floating with infrared radiation. Astrophysicist Stavros Katsanevas, Director of the European Gravitational Observatory, will discuss these and other im/perceptible matters of air with philosopher and hermeneuticist Heinz Wismann.  The conversation will be moderated by artist and researcher Jol Thomson.

7.20 PM – Closing Remarks
Sasha Engelmann with Tomas Saraceno and Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel

Alvin Lucier

Alvin Lucier, a pioneer of experimental music, imagines two new pieces inspired by conversations with Tomás Saraceno about inter-species communication with spiders, and sending signals to the Moon, using the “Moon Bounce” radio-communications technique. During this performance, Alvin Lucier will have a dialogue with a spider/web. Then, Alvin Lucier’s heartbeat will be picked up by a special sensor, routed through the silk strings of a Qin —an ancient Chinese stringed instrument—and transmitted to the Moon. It takes approximately two-and-a-half seconds for each heartbeat to bounce back to Earth, depending on the irregularities on the surface of the Moon. These reverberating sounds echo a cosmic jam session.


Primavera de Filippi is a Permanent Researcher at the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris, a Faculty Associate at the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and a Visiting Fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute. She is a member of the Global Future Council on Blockchain Technologies at the World Economic Forum, and co-founder of the Internet Governance Forum’s dynamic coalitions on Blockchain Technology (COALA). Her fields of interest focus on legal challenges raised by decentralized technologies, their potential to design new governance models and participatory decision-making, and the concept of governance-by-design. Her book Blockchain and the Law was published in 2018 by Harvard University Press (co-authored with Aaron Wright).

Sasha Engelmann is Lecturer in GeoHumanities in the department of Geography at Royal Holloway University of London, where she also directs the GeoHumanities Creative Commissions program.  She collaborates with artists and creative practitioners to explore questions of environmental sensing and politics.  Since completing her doctoral research as a creative ethnographer in collaboration with Studio Tomás Saraceno, she has become an active member of the Aerocene community.  She is preparing a book manuscript provisionally titled Elemental Lures, and is curating and moderating the Aerocene Symposium at the Palais de Tokyo.

Samuel Hertz is a Berlin-based composer, researcher, and sound artist working at the intersection of Earth-based sound, sonic sensualities, and climate change. Often crossing genres, his previous work has taken the form of through-composed music, multi-media electronics performances, large-scale speaker installations, IMAX and standalone films, performative installations, and more. As the 2017-18 recipient of the DARE Prize for Radical Intedisciplinarity, his recent performances and research concerns affective congruencies between humans sense perception, sound below the level of human hearing, a geologic timescales. His solo work has recently been seen in venues such as the Macerata Opera Festival (IT), National Science + Media Museum (UK), The Tetley (UK), and Opera North (UK), and his collaborations with contemporary performance companies has been seen at ImPulsTanz (AT), Charleroi Danses/La Raffinerie (BE), Sophiensaele (DE), and ICI/CCN (FR) among many others.

Karine Léger is managing director at Airparif. Airparif is an independent organization that has been monitoring air pollution for 40 years, informing stakeholders and assisting authorities when designing air quality action plans. Karine has both a technical and a management background, linked with environmental issues (Executive master in management, Advanced Msc. in environmental management and engineering, Eng. in agriculture, BSc in Biology). She has been involved in air pollution issues for 18 years as she started to work at Airparif in 2001, at various position: study engineer, head of the communication and international department and head of the communication and digital department. She is also part of the forecaster team in charge of the daily bulletin and of pollution episode management. She develops and contributes to the management and development of different international projects and MoU, mainly with Airparif’s counterparts abroad: in Beijing, Tehran, Hanoi, Buenos Aires… dealing with the same challenge of improving the air quality their citizens breathe.

Stavros Katsanevas et physicien de la physique des particules et des astroparticules, né à Athènes en 1953, professeur à l’Université Paris Diderot, est directeur de l’Observatoire Européen de Gravitation à Pise, hébergeant l’antenne des ondes gravitationnelles Virgo. Il fut également directeur du Laboratoire d’AstroParticules et Cosmologie de Paris Diderot, directeur adjoint de l’Institut National de Physique Nucléaire et de Physique des Particules (IN2P3) du CNRS et président du Consortium Européen de Physique des AstroParticules. Il a publié sur la Chromodynamique Quantique, la recherche du Higgs et de la matière noire, la physique du neutrino ainsi que quelques textes pour des expositions artistiques.Il est membre du conseil d’orientation du programme “Composer les savoirs» de la Fondation Daniel and Nina Carasso et coordinateur d’un projet entre Art et Science autour de la Gravitation.

Derek McCormack is Professor of Cultural Geography in the School of Geography and Environment at the University of Oxford. He has longstanding research interests in the relation between bodies, affect, and spaces. In more work he has examined the relations between atmospheres and the elemental, with a particular focus on the balloon as an experimental device. He is the author of Refrains for Moving Bodies: Experience and Experiment in Affective Spaces (2013) and Atmospheric Things: On the Allure of Elemental Envelopment (2018), both published by Duke University.

 Tomás Saraceno’s oeuvre could be seen as an ongoing research, informed by the worlds of art, architecture, natural sciences and engineering; his floating sculptures and interactive installations propose and explore new, sustainable ways of inhabiting and sensing the environment. He has initiated many collaborations with renowned scientific institutions, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Centre Nationale des Études Spatiales and the Max Planck Institute. Saraceno also achieved the world record of the first and longest certified fully-solar flight, lifting a dozen of people in White Sands desert with D-O AEC sculpture without a drop of fuel, without solar panels or batteries, and without any artificially produced gases. His work has been exhibited internationally.

Nick Shapiro is a fellow at the University of Toronto’s Technoscience Research Unit and at Public Lab. His research leverages interdisciplinary collaborations to interrogate the limits and possibilities of environmental change. He initiated and co-founded the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) and will join the faculty of UCLA’s Institute of Society and Genetics in 2019.

Débora Swistun is an Argentine anthropologist. She has specialized in the right to the city and environmental justice, technological risks and co-production of public policies in Europe, North Africa, East Asia and Latin America. Her book Flammable: Environmental suffering in an Argentine Shantytown (2009) reveals and analyzes the life experience of her hometown next to the petrochemical compound of Dock Sud (Buenos Aires) and has received four international awards. Interested in the potential of scientific complementarity with other forms of knowledge to address problems of the Anthropocene she teaches Environmental Humanities (UNDAV/UNSAM) and participates in community, private and governmental level initiatives on issues of human displacement, disaster prevention and low impact living.

Marie Thébaud-Sorger is a Permanent Researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) based at the Maison Française d’Oxford. After completing a doctoral degree on the reception of lighter-than-air machines in French and European societies, she published L’Aérostation au temps des Lumières (PUR, 2009). In Une Histoire des ballons: Invention, culture matérielle et imaginaire, 1783-1909 (Du Patrimoine, 2010) she explored the culture of flight over a long historical period. She also co-edited (with Nathalie Roseau) De l’invention à la massification: histoire d’une culture modern (MétisPresses, 2013). Her current research deals with technical improvements, inventive practices and the public sphere in Eighteenth century Europe; she has been focusing especially on the political, social and scientific management of gases, heat and ‘noxious / foul air’.

Jol Thomson is an artist, writer, and sound designer. Both his written and audio-visual work challenge the limits and boundaries of spacetimematter(s). Hecollaborates very closely with some of the worlds leading neutrino and dark matter observatories. ‘Exotic’ physics, posthumanism, and general ecology – or the environmental and philosophical implications of ‘landscape-laboratories’ in the age of the Anthropocene – are the focus of his practice-led PhD at the University of Westminster, London. Recent exhibitions include Blind Faith: Between the Cognitive and the Visceral in Contemporary Art, Haus Der Kunst, Munich and Open Codes: Living in Digital Worlds at ZKM, Karlsruhe. In 2017 Jol was a fellow of Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart and resident artist in the Bosch corporations Campus for Research and Advanced Engineering. In 2016 he won the MERU Art*Science Award for his work G24|0vßß

Heinz Wismann is a French-German philologist and philosopher.  Hellenist, Wismann worked with Jean Bollack (see for example Heraclite or the Separation, Ed de Minuit) at the School of Lille. His works on Democritus and ancient atomism had a great international impact. Director of Studies Emeritus at EHESS, Center Georg Simmel, his research focuses on hermeneutics and the history of the German scholarly tradition. He directed the collection “Passages” in tribute to the writer Walter Benjamin, at Editions du Cerf from 1986 to 2007; a collection that largely contributed to the introduction of German thought in France. European spirit, builder of peace between peoples, he has thought a lot about languages (see for example Thinking Between Languages, Ed Champs et Essais) and what comes beyond languages; as well as European traditions and cultures, in order to maintain between them their difficult cohesion, while preserving their differences as well as their singularities, despite their contradictions.

Alvin Lucier is an American composer of experimental music and sound installations that explore acoustic phenomena and auditory perception. A long-time music professor at Wesleyan University, Lucier was a member of the influential Sonic Arts Union, which included Robert Ashley, David Behrman, and Gordon Mumma. Much of his work is influenced by science and explores the physical properties of sound itself: resonance of spaces, phase interference between closely tuned pitches, and the transmission of sound through physical media. Alvin Lucier has pioneered many areas of music composition and performance, including the notation of performers’ physical gestures, the use of brain waves in live performance, the generation of visual imagery by sound in vibrating media and the evocation of room acoustics for musical purposes. His recent works include a series of sound installations and works for solo instruments, chamber ensembles and orchestra in which, by means of close tunings with pure tones, sound waves are caused to spin through space.