Limits to growth? These artists try to imagine it

Can something seem endearing and dystopian at the same time? Installation life support system shows that it is possible. The French art collective Disnovation.org grows exactly one square meter of wheat in several plastic containers. The work is installed in the dark space of the Utrecht Impakt art institution, completely independent of the outside ecosystem. Instead of rain, it receives water from a thousand-liter barrel. There is no sunlight, but there are UV lamps. There is no breath of wind (important for growth direction), but there are thin fans. Young plants flutter touchingly in the artificial breeze.

From life support system Disnovation wants to make it clear how great the economic value of a healthy ecosystem is. Wind, water and sunlight are normally given to you by nature, what if it is no longer in balance? The sun rises for free… in this artistic cost-benefit analysis it becomes clear how much it would cost if we had to let that sun rise ourselves. An earlier performance produced wheat costing €1,353 per kilo, an urgent issue now that the real price of wheat is rising sharply due to the Russian attack on Ukraine.

Installation life support system at the exhibition ‘Disnovation.org: After Growth’ at IMPAKT in Utrecht.
Photo Pieter Kers

Although it does not have a very explicit name, the individual exhibition after growth of Disnovation clearly affected by the report The limits of growth (1972), which the Club of Rome published exactly fifty years ago this year. The message at the time – unbridled growth is unsustainable – only seems more urgent in the age of climate change. In the exhibition, Disnovation deals with interesting concepts that can help understand the ecological crisis. the sun part for example, a currency is based on the amount of sunlight that falls on a particular area. the Power Slave Tokens represent the amount of energy required to facilitate a particular way of life: converting machine power and fuel into labor. An average European would use the energy of around four hundred to five hundred’energy slaves‘ consume. Shocking figures, fascinating concepts, but no concrete solutions yet. That happens a little more in interviews with all kinds of experts that can be seen on video in space.

Also read this week’s gallery tips: Black earth and a magical spray of lime

invest in the gecko

Artists who are busy in all kinds of ways to represent a “post-growth world” are also a common thread at the Eindhoven STRP art and technology festival. This year’s theme is the end of infinity, after two digital editions, the festival will take place in Eindhoven city center for the first time this week. The fifteen artworks, ten of which were created especially for STRP, can be found in two hotels and among shoppers in vacant commercial properties (shopping as we know it seems finite, after all).

Sevdaliza created ‘Raving Dahlia’a humanoid dealing with the unrealistically high expectations of women in modern society.
Photo Hanneke Wetzer

on The Environmental Bag you can speculate on lions, hyenas, dung beetles and geckos. The Cream on Chrome group applies the market metaphor to the ecosystem and created an addictive game, in a serious trading environment, where investments in one species produce effects in the other species. You choose the goal yourself: do you strive for ecological balance? Or are you trying to make as much money as possible from varieties?

James Bridle’s Server farm (test plot 001)quite an inimitable initiative to develop a plant-based computer: the project is still in its infancy, in one of the empty shops you can see some dried plants and listen to an interview about the project.

Sevdaliza’s robot.

The end of infinity does not only have an ecological meaning in STRP. It can also mean breaking a certain status quo. Pop star Sevdaliza developed the humanoid robot raving dahlia, a ‘perfect woman’, who has to deal with the unrealistically high expectations of women in modern society. The moving robot seductively performs on a stage in a large church hall, in a light and music show.

Scarcity is the issue. last grain of sand, an impressive virtual reality film from the Dutch collective Post Neon. In it you travel through a futuristic temple, which is built around ‘the last grain of sand’. Although it seems to be in abundance, we are heading towards a shortage of sand, which is an important raw material for computers, construction and glass. The virtual ride on a vibrating platform is accompanied by the latest lecture by British sand expert Michael Welland, aptly dubbed the ‘David Attenborough of sand’ by the collective. last grain of sand is a great example of how a VR movie can help make a good text even more engaging, but once again, the solution seems a long way off.

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