Tate Modern Conference

The Anthropocene Project

The Anthropocene Project

Museum of Evolution of Life Chandigarh, Indien, 2014Anthropocene Observatory: artist and photographer Armin Linke

© Armin Linke

Humanity is in the midst of a global crisis. Economic and technological developments of the last hundred years have made human beings into the strongest driving force of geological and ecological processes – with massive consequences not only for nature, but also for humankind itself. Beyond merely describing this phenomenon, the new conceptual framework offered by the Anthropocene thesis opens up an integrated perspective from which to grapple with this changed reality.

Taking the pioneering Anthropocene Project 2013–14 at HKW in Berlin as a starting point, historian Dipesh Chakrabarty, the artist collective The Otolith Group, the research organization Territorial Agency (John Palmesino and Ann-Sofi Rönnskog), geologist Jan Zalaseiwicz, photographer Armin Linke, curator Anselm Franke, and philosopher and HKW Director Bernd Scherer will present a range of artistic and theoretical approaches and concepts.

Listen to the recordings:

Running order




Welcome by Marko Daniel


Introduction by Bernd Scherer


Jan Zalasiewicz Defining the Anthropocene

Defining the Anthropocene is an extraordinary challenge.  In only centuries, humans have driven geological change without precedent in this planet’s 4.6 billion-year history. Understanding this change needs fusion of knowledge of ancient catastrophes and modern humans, within which we might consider the Tate itself - as a remarkable future technofossil.


Dipesh Chakrabarty The Human Condition in the Anthropocene

This lecture distinguishes between two uses of the expression ‘The Anthropocene’ as a contested name for current planetary environmental crises and as a rigorous concept, the idea of a new geological epoch that requires scientific ratification. It will ask why contemporary discussions of the Anthropocene caught in the tension produced by the necessity to see humans against very different scales of time: the history of European expansion and the consequent rise of global capitalism, and in the deeper context of geological time. It concludes with some thoughts on the human condition in the Anthropocene.


Discussion chaired by Bernd Scherer


Screening of Medium Earth, 2013, The Otolith Group


Lunch break


Introduction by Anselm Franke


The Otolith Group The Earthquake Sensitive as Planetary Subject

How to explore the millennial time of geology in relation to the infrastructural unconscious of contemporary urbanism? In The Otolith Group’s Medium Earth, tectonic forces express themselves in boulder outcrops and the fractures of cast concrete. What forms of life emerge in the animation of physical geographies undergoing continental pressures?


Territorial Agency with Armin Linke Anthropocene Observatory

This project combines film, photography, documentation, interviews, spatial and territorial analysis, to form an archive and a series of installations, exhibitions and workshops that trace the formation of the Anthropocene thesis. The Anthropocene Observatory documents in detail the practices and activities - often behind the scenes - of scientific institutions, international and local agencies and research organisations where the Anthropocene is unfolding in its many streams of influence.


Plenary discussion chaired by Anselm Franke


Closing remarks Bernd Scherer




Dipesh Chakrabarty is the Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and Law at the University of Chicago. He is the author of many articles and books including “The Climate of History: Four Theses,” Critical Inquiry (2009), The Calling of History: Sir Jadunath Sarkar and His Empire of Truth (2015, forthcoming), Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (2008;2000), Habitations of Modernity: Essays in the Wake of Subaltern Studies (2002), Rethinking Working-Class History: Bengal 1890-1940 (2000; 1989). He is a founding member of the editorial collective of Subaltern Studies, a founding editor of Postcolonial Studies, and is a Consulting Editor of Critical Inquiry. Chakrabarty is currently working on a book on climate change and on a collection of essays on history’s relationship to the present. Chakrabarty was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004 and Honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 2006. He was recently named the recipient of the 2014 Toynbee Prize for his contributions to global history.

Marko Daniel is Convenor, Public Programmes, Tate Modern.

Anselm Franke is Head of the Visual Arts department at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, where he was part of the curatorial team of the Anthropocene Project and organised exhibitions such as Animism in 2012, and together with Diedrich Diederichsen The Whole Earth in 2013, and Forensis together with Eyal Weizman in 2014. He also was chief curator of the Taipei Biennale 2012 and the Shanghai Biennale 2014.

Armin Linke is an artist working with film and photography, combining different mediums to blur the border between fiction and reality. He is working on an ongoing archive on human activity and the most varied natural and manmade landscapes. His multimedia installation about the contemporary Alpine landscape was awarded at the 9th Architecture Venice Biennale. He is professor at the HfG Karlsruhe.

Territorial Agency / John Palmesino and Ann-Sofi Rönnskog. Territorial Agency is an independent organisation based in London that innovatively promotes and works for sustainable territorial transformations. Its works combine contemporary architecture, urbanism, spatial analysis and extended stakeholder networks. John Palmesino and Ann-Sofi Rönnskog teach at the Architectural Association.

The Otolith Group is an award winning artist led collective and organisation founded by Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun in 2002 that integrates film and video making, artists writing, workshops, exhibition curation, publication and developing public platforms for the close readings of the image in the contemporary world. The Group’s work is formally engaged with research led projects exploring the legacies and potentialities of artists led proposals around the document and the essay film, the archive, the aural and sonic medium, speculative futures and science-fictions.

Bernd M. Scherer is Director of Haus der Kulturen der Welt since 2006. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the Universität des Saarlandes, Saarbrücken. Philosopher and author of several publications focusing on aesthetics and international cultural exchange, Scherer came to the HKW from the Goethe-Institut. Since January 2011, he teaches as Honorary Professor at the Institute for European Ethnology, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Jan Zalasiewicz is a Professor in Geology at the University of Leicester, who has published extensively in scientific journals, focusing on fossil ecosystems. He is the author of four books: The Planet in a PebbleThe Earth After Us and (with Mark Williams) The Goldilocks Planet and Ocean Worlds.

Tate Modern

Starr Cinema

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Date & Time

5 June 2015 at 11.15–18.00