Berlin's Ecosystems: Artificial rain forests and accidental gardens in the city
Lilli Kuschel and Vanina Saracino
Plants are radical systems. They sustain themselves by absorbing chemical compounds and light only, without relying on predating other living beings for nourishment, nor exploiting their biochemical work. Their fundamental independence (known in biology as autotrophy) is antithetical to the human ways of conceiving nutrition: A form of extraction based on industrial food (over)production that has ultimately reshaped the planet and the relationships among its inhabitants. In the "Plantationocene" (a term coined by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing in 2015), amidst the escalating climate crisis, plants provide a valuable framework for learning and adopting new ways of thinking and doing.
In recent years, our understanding of plant life and the vegetal world has been consistently reshaped, with the emergence of the pioneering field of plant neurobiology, led by Stefano Mancuso, arguing in favor of plant “intelligence,” “sentience” and “consciousness.” These studies have, on the one hand, caused a stir among the scientific community, polarizing opinions among biologists, and, on the other, sparked a newfound interest in the vegetal world among philosophers and artists, who have quickly recognized the importance of this new outlook on the vegetal work and its implications.
Even from the situated perspective of a big city like Berlin, plants can offer valuable insights and lessons through their ability to thrive in various environments. Here, they survive and even thrive in human-crafted rainforests under controlled conditions, but also in spontaneous and accidental gardens that emerge within the concrete wounds of a gentrified city under permanent construction. By studying the life of plants in the city, we can learn about their resilience, adaptability, and ability to find nourishment and resources in unexpected places.
Berlin's Ecosystems will provide an immersive experience through a curated series of visits to both human-crafted and spontaneous green spaces - artificial and accidental gardens. Participants will explore the different spaces and their specific flora by filming with digital cameras as a method of artistic research and inquiry. They will engage in group discussions, collective readings, and explore the diverse ways in which plants thrive in the metropolitan urban context. Invited guests from various interdisciplinary fields will introduce their work and help us to dive into the life of plants in the city, uncovering layers of vegetal intelligence in relation to the urban life of humans, and inviting us to rethink our relationship with nature and the vegetal world.
Participants are asked to bring one picture, text, film, or object that relates to the seminar and shows their particular interest in the topic for the introduction day.
Participants should bring a video camera (filming with a cellphone is also possible) or other recording equipment for the excursions.
The seminar will be conducted in English.
Registration is open until the 25th of April, with a limited number of 15 spots available.
Date: May 8th, 3–5 pm
Venue: UdK, room 129 (Medienhaus, Grunewaldstrasse 2–5)
Day 1: Designed urban nature (with Prof. Daniel Hromada)
Date: Tuesday, May 9th, 2:30 pm – 5 pm
Venue: Kleingartenanlage Dreieck Nord e.V (Berlin, Pankow)
Day 2: Accidental VS Artificial Garden
Date: Wednesday, May 10th, 10 am – 4 pm
Meetingpoint: 10 am / Ruine der Franziskaner Klosterkirche, Klosterstr. 73a, 10179 Berlin
Program: Tour Berlin plants tell stories of Berlin (2h), with Katrin Scheurich (in German and English) & Botanical Garden (Berlin) 1:30 pm – 4 pm
Day 3: Artificial rain forests in Brandenburg, Part I
Date: Thursday, May 11th, 11 am – 5 pm
Venue: Biosphere Potsdam
Day 4: Artificial rain forests in Brandenburg, Part II
Date: Friday, May 12th, 11 am – 6 pm
Venue: Tropical Island (Krausnick)