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VISUAL ARTS Colloquium: Critical Zone: The Earth Below Our Feet | Vasanthi Mariadass

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This paper reflects on an international collaborative project “Critical Sciencing Zone,” along with works from the Kochi Muziris Biennale (2019), which responded to the flood and landslides in Karnataka and Kerala. The critical condition of the thin layer of the earth’s crust known scientifically as critical zone is of immense concern in this paper.

I am tracing the inclination for vertical movements and aspirations to reach the sky, that accelerate technology to the detriment of the Earth. Postmodern theories that specifically use elements from nature, will be useful to frame radical shifts in perspective, and hence re- think our relation to the earth. This paper will speculate through art works and fundamentally emphasize learning through cognitive, experiential and affective processes in order to acknowledge and recognize Nature. In short, my aim is to examine, interrogate, discover perspectives and manufacture other discourses.

“The Earth,” he said, “has a skin, and this skin has diseases. One of these diseases is called ‘Man’.”                                                                     

                                                                                                                                                                        Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Dr. Vasanthi Mariadass did her MA and Ph.D. in Film Studies and Critical Theory from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, US. She is a faculty, researcher, and dean for New Humanities and Design at Srishti Manipal Institute for Art Design and Technology, Bengaluru.  

Currently, she has an Erasmus exchange program with Aegean University in Greece (2021-2026). She has collaborated on a research project for six years (2013 – 2019) with Freiburg University, Offenburg University, and IISC. She has jointly conceptualized the research project “Critical Zone: The Earth Below our Feet.” (Published in Designing Sustainability for All. Vol 3. Edited by Marcelo Ambrosio Carlo Vezzoli. Published by Edizioni, POLI design. Milano Polytechnico, Italy.) In addition, the project output included online publications, “Fragments.” Mbody e.V.-Kunstlerische Forschung in Medien, Somatik, Tanz und Philosophie, Freiburg/Germany, and “Rhizome” Online Publication in Metaspace, 2018. 

Earlier, she has co-curated a retrospective and workshop on German Filmmaker Harun Farocki with Goethe Institute, Bangalore, and facilitated a film workshop with Farocki titled “Labour in One Shot.” Her research stay includes Humboldt University, Berlin, and Gothenburg University, Sweden. She was a Helena Rubenstein Fellow at the Whitney Independent Study Program, New York.

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