GAM 07


Klaus K. Loenhart

Why Zero? It is visible to the naked eye: with increasing speed and intensity we are occupying and changing the living spaces and habitats that have been placed “at our disposal” on our planet. From this perspective, not only urban architectures or agglomerations are operating on the Earth’s surface, but our societies as such. Apparent within this observation is that landscape—not only as space, but as idea as well—is being besieged, reduced, and often marginalized in its multifaceted agency.

Yet in the same moment where the modern myth of unlimited growth and success exhibits visible ruptures, other vantage points on landscape and the environment emerge. On the path to an ecological shaping of the future, we are experiencing a time in which controversies between society and the environment are becoming visible and call for action—a cognitive path from “matter of fact to matter of concern.” As a result of its embattled environmental referentiality, landscape is emerging from the supposed background of this ecologization of our society. This moment in time, a turning point, requires our attentive focus: Zero describes the repositioning necessary to ascertain landscape’s future scope of action—a moment of looking “through the eye of the (modern) hurricane.”

With this in mind, GAM.07 locates and explores a special kind of zero point: anthropogenic influences are traceable to the most remote corners of our planet. For the first time in the course of human evolution it appears possible to assert that there is no such thing as nature as we once believed—only continuous landscape as an “evolutionary” product of our civilization: Zero Landscape.

From this understanding, environment and landscape become elevated to the rank of protagonists, for it is not only the city—forecast to be the predominant anthroposphere of the 21st century—that transforms the living spaces and habitats of this planet. Indications of future scopes of action for the protagonist “landscape” are not lastly becoming apparent in that “the dimensions of the tasks at hand have been fantastically amplified by the various ecological crises” and that a collective awareness is developing for “what it means to act.”[1]Now we are pursuing a scope of action in which climate change—in conjunction with the provision of food and natural resources—as well as the immense need for renewable energy will have a powerful influence on the configuration of future societies.

With the confluence and shared handling of ecological, social, and political circumstances, the agencies of landscape—its ecology and materiality—are clearly manifesting as formative players in the development of our culture.

Landscape always originates with a network of referentialities: explored within this publication—and with a focus on the spectrum of its agency—is the creative, generative potential of landscape as a site of simultaneous practices. The transdisciplinary character of this discourse on landscape is arranged in three sections, enabling the involved projects and texts to establish their references without being bound by categories.

After the predicted “end of nature,” it becomes obvious that not only the human being but ecology as well is a “political animal.” The question thus arises as to which extent landscape—its ecology and dynamics, and also the way we consciously approach these—may possibly become an integral part of our society-related ambitions and decisions. Possible practices and variations of ecology are therefore closely reviewed in the first GAM.07 section, Contested Ecologies. One of the related questions probes the extent to which cultural ecology can or should penetrate our societal practices, or whether the “ecologization” of society would follow more along the lines of a purely political, technocratic economy.

The projects and texts in the second section, Agency and Matter, demonstrate how our conception of landscape as a product of society is shifting to an acknowledgment of its active role in chains of activities that generate culture. Landscape in its materiality and as a complementary and autopoietic system constitutes the discursive basis for coevolution: a cultural amalgam of society and ecology. Thus, we direct our attention to a development in which the landscape surrounding us—both natural as well as tainted by human activity— itself becomes a generative place, a medium, and a discourse and is recognizable as an “active agent.”

Distortions of political, ecological, economic, and energetic landscapes are put up for discussion in the third section, Uneven Topographies. Common to all of these projects and texts is their discursive nature, so that they may be considered as probing explorations. This repositioning of how we view landscape is, after all, tied to the hope of contributing to the recognition of the “agency of landscape” and of promoting the development of ecologically inductive thought.

[1] Bruno Latour, “A Cautious Prometheus: A Few Steps Toward a Philosophy of Design (with Special Attention to Peter Sloterdijk),” http://www.brunolatour. fr/articles/2008.html, p. 3.