OREGON. Vibrant Matters in the Pacific Northwest

Seminarwoche (-)
Veranstalter: Professur Philip Ursprung
Ort: Oregon, USA

On its way to the Pacific, the Columbia River cuts through the volcanic Cascade Range and spans a large desert created by the mountain's rain shadow. Its basin, inhabited for more than 15,000 years, attracted fur traders and in the mid 19th century became the destination of the Oregon Trail, bringing Euro-American settlers to the West Coast. Ever since, mighty Douglas firs and Ponderosa pine trees travel downstream as raw material, first for goldrush California's building boom, then for global trade. Once the largest salmon producing river in the world, Columbia River's hydroelectric dams today produce low cost power for Oregon's four million inhabitants, its waters cool nuclear reactors and data centers. In Oregon's deserts, tumbleweed piles up next to radioactive waste, film sets for classic western and horror movies lie next to the remains of New Age mysticism, a silicon forest grows not far from fossil beds.
During the seminar week, we will wander along the Columbia River and past volcanoes, cross a desert and the Cascade Mountains, bathe in hot springs and make a bonfire at the Pacific Coast. We will meet artists, architects, film makers and activists. We will hear tales of production and resettlement, of successful engineering, lost habitats and natural restauration, of extraction and spirituality, of railways, fish ladders and dark fiber, of saw mills, fungi and dynamic meditation, of tribal history and globalization. Along the way, we will study and practice photography.

- The engineers who, as a way out of the Great Depression, turned the Columbia River into an Organic Machine, strongly believed in progress and prosperity achieved through the technological control of nature. Today, we cannot be so sure. To what extent are humans the architects and masters of their environments? Philosopher Jane Bennett challenges us to think of ourselves as embedded in Vibrant Matter and as entangled in active material assemblages. Landscapes and bodies then appear as composites of active forces. Agency is distributed. In Oregon, we'll look out for the active participation of nonhuman forces in events.

- If encounter means contamination, as ethnographer Anna Tsing said, every site and every person carries a history of contaminations; purity is not an option. What does this mean for the landscapes, ecosystems, and people we'll encounter in Oregon? What does this mean for our own role as travelers, architects and scholars?

- Does photography help us to better understand how history comes into being? What are the ways in which a camera allows us to approach the environments, buildings and situations we’ll encounter during our travel?

- Jane Bennett: Vibrant Matter. A Political Ecology of Things, North Carolina: Duke University Press 2010.
- Anna Tsing: The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the possibility of life in capitalist ruins, Princeton University Press 2015.
- Richard White: The Organic Machine. The Remaking of the Columbia River, Hill and Wang, New York 1995.
- We will provide a reader (which will also include excerpts from the books mentioned above)!

2000 CHF (incl. flight, accomodation, transport in Oregon, tickets, honoraria for experts/guides, reader, and most meals)

Lecturers: Dipl. Ing. Tim Klauser, MFA Tobias Wootton, Dr. Nina Zschocke
Academic Guests in Oregon: Prof. Dr. Emily E. Scott, Prof. Dr. Laila Seewang, Prof. Erin E. Moore, MFA Sue Arbuthnot and others.
Planning and organization: lic. phil. Sabine Sarwa, Dipl. Ing. Tim Klauser
Poster: Milena Buchwalder


Sabine Sarwa
Tim Klauser