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Tune In

Embedding in the post-Anthropocene

As we are preparing ourselves for the coming walk(s), we are keen about trying out different routes, times, places and ways of walking. Our previous walk was early in the morning, when we started to harvest some delicious plants next to the road around the Delftse Hout. It had started dry but soon it would start drizzling. We enjoyed our little expedition, where we tasted grasses, weeds, raindrops and nettle with our mouth and skin, and we felt tuned to our surrounding ecologies.

Sitting on grass, my fingers through the soil, my feet itching from the nettle I did not see, I sink in the world of connections… The weather changes, faster than ever. I wonder and question the heat and cold switching off like a light switch. Open – closed – cold – warm – cold again, a wakeup call from ancient lessons – the weather gods spell out the need for a new direction. 

Our living on this planet is a quest for embeddedness. Embeddedness suggests a certain acceptance of a situation. Embedding oneself creates an idea that there is no escape, there is no reversal – no possibility to move an opposite direction. With the naming of the post-Anthropocene it calls for the embedding of ourselves within this epoch – with the multispecies surroundings. As Colebrook suggests, the reversibility of a situation would only be a dream. And a dream occurs in the absence of action and possibilities; when there is a lack of ability to propose and construct other options – reducing the clinical unease. 

Let’s transfer our perspective from the reversible to re-making and resisting alternatives. While it seems we enjoy the dream state of a reversible option, yet, at the same time complexity generates an ever higher possibility of entropy – with consequences affecting our imagination. Only acknowledging the irreversibility of our actions gives a deeper layer of relatedness to our planet. When tuned in we could experience the environment as more than merely ‘things, matter, stuff or energy’ – leading to an understanding of changing processes which are created by us and at the same time create us (Colebrook 2014, 51).

I stand up, pick a plantago leaf, start squeezing and rubbing it on my feet. The itchiness disappears, only the little white dots on my red skin remain. I am still sitting on the grass as the weather changes. It changes me – my mood, my vision, my behavior – and my surroundings. It is all about this co-creation of the nettle remainder, making me aware of my present within this changing weather.

When we start to see the co-creation of our culture with our ecologies, we can start establishing different relations by using a different ‘means/end rationality’. How do we want to inhabit our planet? Which tools construct our habits and how do we take them at hand? Or, as Stengers indicates, how do we shape the game? 

‘If relevance, not authority or objectivity, had been the name of the game, the game would have meant adventure, not conquest. If we had seen this [the environmental crisis] before, we would never allow the extension of a practice which maybe means a possibility of disembodying. […] Redefining it in relation of the question it should answer. It would then include an intrinsic indifference or the prospective witness’

(Stengers 2014, 33:00)

The architectural practice creates habitats, and habits par excellence. The matter is not ‘self-organized’ and suggests the possibility to organize it differently, or as Colebrook (2017) suggests: ‘change would occur not just by the whim of fate, but emerge from making, building and transforming (p 18).’ Rehabilitating within the post-Anthropocene would suggest to frame climate changes not as disturbing the human life, but rather as an altering of ‘the very unit of “the human” (Colebrook 2014, 56).’ It would frame the continuation of human life without any further calculation or prediction of future events and start with building new concepts. 

So, while standing still with the plantago in my hand, the grass still tickling my feet while the wind is bringing them into motion, I breathe deeply the air of resistance. Attentively looking around, I breathe the air of re-making. I start liking it as there is this deep vibration and energy in it. The nettle is still itching a bit, but the encounter is part of me now… 

  • Colebrook, C. 2017. “Irreversibility.”
  • —. 2014. “The Sustainability of Concepts: Knowledge and Human Interests.” In Death of thePostHuman, Essays on extinciton, Vol. 1, by Claire Colebrook, 29-46. Michigan: Open Humanities Press.
  • Stengers, I. 2014. “Cosmopolitics, Learning to think with sciences, peoples and natures.” To See Where It Takes Us. London: St. Mary’s University.
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