The HYBRID MATTERs Symposium (24-25 November in Helsinki) will address core ideas and findings of the HYBRID MATTERs programme.

Panel I In the Aftermath

In the Aftermath

“Like all generations before, we live in the aftermath” (Jackson 2014).

For long technological development has primarily been guided by ideas of progress, novelty, invention and development. What if we instead direct our attention towards processes of decay, erosion, breakdown and mouldering? What kind of practices and making does that invite for? What stories would we then be able to tell?

In this panel we will approach these questions through engaging with different material conditions, practices and lives that has emerged in the aftermath of visions of progress and development. The examples will be approached as potential new resources, as sites of care, innovation, drift, compost, repair, excavation and storytelling.   

Members of the panel are Þóra Pétursdóttir, Björn Wallsten, Kristina Lindström and Åsa Ståhl.

Þóra Pétursdóttir: Drift Matter
The project is called Archaeology of Drift Matter, and is focused on the phenomenon of  "the drift beach" - or, basically, on marine debris, its drift and accumulation along coastlines in the Arctic. In this region, the drift beach was for long an extremely valuable and important resource (of wood), and as such on par with e.g. salmon rivers, bird colonies, meadows and peat bogs. With changes in recent times, however, driftwood has become a more or less superfluous recourse and the drift beach moreover converted from resource to pollution.

The aim of the project is not to refute ecological threats caused by sea born debris, but rather to explore in what way this accumulating legacy of stranded things may challenge dominating conceptions and discourses of heritage and environmental programs. Drawing on theoretical frameworks from object-oriented-ontology, and rooted in archaeology’s methodology and sensitivity for things, their resilience and ruination, the project proposes that concern for how things (though discarded, lost or forgotten) continue their drift, gathering and bonding outside our jurisdiction and control may contribute to a less anthropocentric and more ecological heritage conception.

Björn Wallsten: Urk
Cities everywhere are in a constant state of alteration, maintenance and destruction of their urban fabric; processes of continuous transformation of materials are part of everyday urban life. Björn Wallsten explores matter displaced in such processes. In his recently defended PhD he investigated, more specifically, subsurface infrastructure systems, the smooth functioning of which is often taken for granted. In particular he focused on the no longer functioning cables and pipes that are continuously disconnected and left behind. These hibernating quantities form a metal deposit below the cityscape and are evidence of society’s persistently wasteful handling of mineral resources.

Wallsten terms this largely unknown realm of system rejects the “Urk World”. “Urk” is short for “urkopplad”, meaning “disconnected”, an abbreviation often found on old Swedish infrastructure maps denoting abandoned infrastructure parts. In the thesis he scrutinized how the Urk World emerged as an infrastructural phenomenon, its political relevance and how it could potentially be recycled with resulting environmental benefits due to its high concentrations of metals. Since the days of urban theorist Jane Jacobs, the term “urban mining” has been increasingly used in reference to her vision that cities would be the mines of the future. “The Urk World” was the world’s first doctoral thesis on this topic.

Kristina Lindström and Åsa Ståhl: Plastic Imaginaries
Plastics were brought into being with the promise of ridding humans from constraints posed by nature. However, recent findings trouble these visions of human mastery over nature and show that things simply do not always turn out as intended. For example, Corcoran et al (2014) have found a new kind of geological entity that they call plastiglomerates, which consist of plastics, basalt stone, corals and more. On a more hopeful note Yang et al (2015) has found that common mealworms can biodegrade Styrofoam.

Lindström and Ståhl have been working with these findings, that have caused curiosity, worries and hope, in public engagement events across the Nordic countries. They have then turned their ethnographic material into a speculative fiction set in a near-future where petrol is a scarce resource, the oil dependency is still high, but a new kind of resource is washing up on the shores: plastic debris. In Plastic Imaginaries - the ragpicker meets the composter they explore different ways of approaching living in the aftermath of previous plastic imaginaries.

NOV 2016
The HYBRID MATTERs Symposium (24-25 November in Helsinki) will address core ideas and findings of the HYBRID MATTERs programme.