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Live Coverage: SPEAP/Bruno Latour’s Paris Climat 2015/Make it Work, May 29-31


Here is a bio on François Gemenne:

François Gemenne is a specialist of environmental geopolitics and lectures on these issues in various universities, including Sciences Po Paris and Sciences Po Grenoble, and the Free University of Brussels (Belgium). His research mostly deals with populations displaced by environmental changes and the policies of adaptation to climate change. He has conducted field studies in New Orleans (United States) after hurricane Katrina (2005), Tuvalu, China, Kyrgyzstan, the Maldives, Mauritius and Japan, after the Fukushima disaster (2011). Taken from:


We are all suffering from the English malady, as its been passed all over infecting us, colonising our bones and brains. Ask anyone why to have a car ? why to collaborate day in and day out of this madness, and they would not even know what are you trying to tell them. The Anglocene is the right term. We can’t dismiss the fact of the protestant puritan magic sacred adoration of work and constant production and growth. But also, as their southern enemies from Catholic Spain had done to Las Indias and its sophisticated inhabitants. The Anglocene tuck over and considered the corrupt latin south Europeans as inferior beings to be colonised and corrected. Of course in many ways they where right, but their solutions against the Latin order have clearly failed.


A quick thought on the theatrical model mobilized by Bruno Latour and his team for this event. Its dramaturgy is inspired by the scenography of UNO style planetary diplomacy, and this dramatization is supposed to short-circuit the traditional representation of nation-states: states are replaced by natural and technological entities, and speakers appear as agents of this diplomacy, quite literally diplomats.
This is not the place to discuss in detail how problematic the tension between dramatization and representation is in Latour’s work, but it’s worth bringing it up in this context since this tension is also one of the conceptual issues raised by the concept of Anthropocene, which disorganizes historical systems of production of conceptual divides and the role of representation in their naturalization. Theater here is mobilized as a stage where the type of dialogue forbidden or captured in actual global politics can happen. It can be staged, but only as a mere fiction or, as Latour proposes it, a simulation: theater as the dialectical nexus simulating the projection of its object in social space by simultaneously instituting its own extra-territoriality. That’s why, in Latour’s system, it seems that aesthetics cannot be thought outside its classical-trivial poietic role of “becoming sensitive,” in contrast to science whose role is to make explicit the implicit conditions of experience.
Hence, in this simulation, one ought to ask what kind of knowledge this mobilization of theater is supposed to construct, and if ultimately this mode of dramatization doesn’t produce more mystification than explanation.


Making things public is a good idea, making things explicit would be much better.


Delegations at work


Next up is Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, artist and filmmaker, with a presentation titled “Anticipation garden and cinema,” a selection of film clips/works interspersed with commentary. Here are some snapshots from the presentation.


Anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, who is taking the floor for a discussion with philosopher Vinciane Despret, is probably best known for his concepts of Amerindian Perspectivism and Multinaturalism, and for the characterization of his project as a permanent decolonization of thought. The conversation starts with general considerations on animality, and on the animal as something like a multistable figure situated at the hinge of several ontological designations. Similarly to French anthropologist Philippe Descola, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro thinks there is a structural inversion between the naturalist-modern ontology and the animist cosmography, so well that it becomes possible to read one through the lens of the other in the project of anthropology: Naturalism supposes the continuity of physicalities (Mononature) and produces discontinuities at the level of Culture (Multiculture), while Animism supposes the continuity of Culture or “soul” (Monoculture) and sees discontinuites in Nature (Multinature). As Roy Wagner puts it: European praxis “makes souls” against the backdrop of a given material continuum, indigenous praxis “make bodies” against the backdrop of a given sociocultural continuum. To make a reference to Joseph Conrad, this symmetry is what we could call the “heart of darkness” or the “dark precursor” of the discipline of anthropology, a heart of darkness that Viveiros de Castro, and more broadly ontology-affected anthropology (the recent so-called ontological turn of anthropology) is working at bringing “home” and making explicit. Here, the decolonization of thought is a movement of ontological re-predation.


If our popular anthropology sees the human as erected against an animal “bedrock” (itself occulted by the discrete entities produced by Culture), indigenous thought on the contrary concludes that animals (and more broadly, the non-human realm) are “ancient” humans who continue to be human despite the division of nature in discrete bodies. The game of a “perspectivist” anthropologic knowledge here would be to reveal these two images of the human to their co-constitution, or even to reveal these two representations to their multistability, in a constant reversal of their figure/background relationship. So well that perspectivism here projects the human/non-human divide inside each existing entity, like a constant perspectival oscillation.

For Viveiros de Castro, it seems that a true anthropology aims at producing an image of ourselves in which we don’t recognize ourselves, in virtue of the oscillation of the human/nonhuman divide within each entity.


“In Borneo, indigenous tribes believe that orang-utans (from “orang hutan” = person of the forest) do actually have the ability to speak, but choose not to in order to avoid being put to work.”


Day 2 has come to a close. We’ll be back with more in depth commentary on the contributions today. You can also follow this twitter feed of the negotiations -


And here’s a little sample of what is being aimed for over on the negotiations end of the stick: “The UNFCCC negotiations in the past have always been State to State. What is interesting today is the fact that you have a State arguing with a non-State entity, which has equal sovereignty and equal rights in the UNFCCC [framework] to debate, argue over resolution and interact. [Here at COP21 Make It Work] you have the possibility of new modes of political representation that we have not had in the past. The idea that the United States can be arguing with the Oceans is somehow unheard of. On the flip side of that, because we’ve been raised since birth in our societies in thinking like a State, the difficulty is that when you tell somebody you have to be the Ocean, it’s hard to step back and not think like a State.” - See more at:

And the YouTube channel of “Meet the Delegates”:


Day 3 is about to be underway and will kick off with the ratification of the agreement and speeches by the delegations once they come to an accord. Bruno Latour proceeds with a talk called “How to represent competing territories?” The collateral material linked in the introduction pinpoints Latour’s main pivot with this Theater of Negotiatons, that being “What happens to nation-states’s self-interest when their land is being morphed from beneath by other territorial connections?”

Bruno Latour on site of the simulation. Image credit: Philippe Quesne.


Actually here we are in the main theater and an accord has not been reached “a bit of a strange and problematic situation,” as Bruno Latour describes it. Latour opens the floor summarizing the Make it Work framework in the company of two former SPEAP participants and one guest, Jan Zalasiewicz, a British geologist who Latour has collaborated with before at “The Anthropocene Monument” at les Abattoirs FRAC Midi-Pyrénées in Toulouse in October 2014. They begin to speak about twelve views inside of the Anthropocene and the proliferation of non-human entities inside political negotiation and the agency they offer.

A history of plastics on earth


This is Anthropocene 101 (a bit of a yawner) - an ad hoc in the moment summary with simultaneous translation by SPEAP students and comments by Latour… now gaining traction…the speakers are re-addressing the term “the Anthropocene” and if it is necessary to produce another label for this era, which brings me to think about the role of political mobilisation over this constant dialogue around the re-naming of the Anthropocene?


Confirmation on Violaine Sautter’s, geologist, withdrawal from the program. A printout of the email found circulating around the theater.

“Hello, in order to prepare my presentation this morning before heading off to teach, I just read (maybe in the wrong way considering I have 75hrs of work at night for NASA combined with teaching during the day) the entirety of the 8 pages long Make It Work leaflet.
Notwithstanding the fact that this is the simulation of a mascarade to come, I realize this event is supported by AXA, RENAULT and NISSAN. I’m not running for these companies. Call me today. Thanks.
Violaine” (translated from the French)


From what we saw there, I think this says it all.


Some quick closing remarks. It was certainly impressive to see more than 200 students from all over the world gather to think about climate change on a large scale. Any initiative trying to map and model alternative ways to represent global politics should be welcome – kudos to SciencesPo, SPEAP, and Bruno Latour’s team for that effort. But the whole event left us with a rather clownish feeling, and I’m still struggling to grasp its point. The talks and discussions kept delaying the moment of actual simulation and, symptomatically, crystallized endlessly on the dramatization of the conditions and possibility of negotiation. Understanding the traction that can be exerted by human systems on natural systems requires one to think on questions of scale, as well as the relationship between spatiality, forms of politics, and processes of technological change. The strong emphasis on dramatization as well as the mobilization of the apparatus of the theatron (‘beholding place’) seemed inadequate choices as they clearly framed the event as a stage (or a space of rehearsal), while this relationship should be tasked in spaces of actual (concrete or conceptual) simulation, where the articulation of normative, technological, philosophical and political threads can be both traced back and re-engineered. The event did not produce a totally futile form of politics but, in its problematic tension between, on the one hand dramatization and representation, and on the other hand experience and experimentation, it surely projected politics in a questionable form of theater (or in rather bad artistic formalizations) in which politics was simply fetichicized and trivialized. Last thought: if, here, the problem lies partly in the mobilization of the theater as a tool of dramatization, then it’s time to abandon Latour’s characterization of aesthetics as a mere “becoming sensitive” (or “making things public”), or to complement it by actually engaging with the affective, perceptual and conceptual ramifications of aesthetics within the epistemic constructions we inherited from modernity – elements unfortunately left intact and unquestioned. Time to make them not only public, but explicit.


It might be worth noting that many SPEAP activities were not rendered visible in the simulation but perhaps intentionally concealed? Unfortunately we missed the opening ceremony which I understand was a combination of material assemblages created by Latour and team as well as SPEAP. However, I did get to see the closing ceremony which I took as a render of the opening (maybe as a conclusion?). I do know that the opening film, authored by artists Ana Vaz and Tristan Bera (both participants of SPEAP), was intended as a critique to the quintessential film sequences usually made by advertising agencies to “represent the world” and promote climate change awareness, such as this one:

Herewith a trilogy of images from their film (Vaz and Bera). I soon will send a Vimeo link to the closing ceremony so one can get a sense of the dramaturgy employed.


I would underline that states are not replaced by natural (the Sahara, Polar Regions, etc.) and technological entities (the Internet), but rather they are complemented by them - the task is how can non-humans be afforded agency in environmental discussions if/when they are put on the same level as nation-states.

Superconversations Day 20: Adam Kleinman responds to Mohammad Salemy, "Art After the Machines"

With you all the way. But perhaps if he had a better account of what exactly modeling is, i.e. how simulation can be made efficacious, that would go a long way to making it explicit as well as public?

EDIT: Just read all the way to the bottom, and it seems you’ve already made that point: it never reached the

As opposed to, for example, how Violaine Sautter puts it, “the simulation of a masquerade.”

PS I enjoyed your paragraph-long description of Viveiros de Castro’s thought.