Heartening the Biocentric Turn: A Review of the First International Colloquium Visuality and Power

FALL 2020

by Ana Fernández, Cohort ’17

and

Maria Patricia Tinajero, Cohort ’16

Presenting our papers at the First Colloquium of Visuality and Power: The Visual Turn in Socio-Environmental Struggles, Quito-Ecuador allowed us to deepen our ongoing conversations of plants, soil, indigenous knowledge, cholos, longos, and more topics that straddle the conceptual and practical North-South borderlines. We engaged in a rigorous exercise of translating from English to Spanish and between the world of plants and soil to the world of scholars, communicators, and artists.

Christian Leon, Chair of the MA program in Communications at Universidad Andina, acknowledged the importance and urgency for conceptualizing and practicing visualization for an ever-changing environment. During these four days of the event, the academic presentations opened dynamic dialogues on and about the need for a  biocentric turn. Leon wrote that this event’s goal was the “research of relations between visual processes and socio-environmental struggles for the defense of life on the planet.” It was remarkable to engage with other people from the Abya Yala, or the Americas in the Kuna language, addressing the environmental problems from creative and local perspectives to face environmental challenges that go from food security to the defense of eco-territories and cultural heritage.

Angélica Alomoto. Imaginarios de la Selva 2019. Photo Arte Actual Flacso
Angélica Alomoto. Imaginarios de la Selva 2019. Photo Arte Actual Flacso

The Colloquium participants shared and expanded decolonial methodologies to unfold the biocentric turn’s complexity by focusing on the use of images in the broader sense of the word. Images and art can address a sense of caress as the true “organ of philosophy,” in the words of the poet and philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling. Schelling’s words echoed in the myriads of voices of multiplicities and representations of interdisciplinary approaches at the Colloquium. The arts converge as part of the “reflection over the placement of images and gaze with respect to environmental justice, climate change, and the future of Planet Earth,” according to León. The different panels ranged from: Art, Ecology, and the Imaginaries of Nature;  Visuality, Activism, and Territorial Disputes; Artistic Repertoires of Interpellating Extractivism; to Audiovisual Practices for Protecting Life and Eco-Territories. Each panel had the opportunity to propose a new way to reframe how our relationship to the planet should unfold in this new millennium and what are the responsibilities and actions that lay ahead under this shift in attitude, actions, and activism in the biocentric turn.

Papakuna: Agroteatro cómico musical/ Colectivo Yama, Ecuador, 2020. Photo Maria Patricia Tinajero

This turn demands an ontological shift capable of incorporating heterogeneous knowing-learning approaches recognizing indigenous and nonhuman contributions “covered-over” as it is suggested by philosophers Enrique Dussel and Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui. We have started feeling or rather “heartening” in an indigenous manner, the continuum nature-culture.  It is in this context that our creative work and dissertation research at IDSVA is also addressing what anthropologist Eduardo Khon calls “ontological anthropology” or from the perspective of anthropologist  Eduardo Viveros de Castro, “multispecies perspectivism.”  Khon and Viveros de Castro, among others, are conceptualizing the shift between the human and non-human as central to understanding the alternate realities and other ways of beings existing in alliance with our own.

*Spanish translation available upon request.

Works Cited

Cacopardo, Ana. “Historias Debidas VIII: Silvia Rivera Cuscaquin .” Canal Encuentro, 18 Apr. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=1q6HfhZUGhc. Accessed 25 Oct. 2020.

Dussel, Enrique. The Invention of the Americas. Trans. Michael D. Barber. New York: Continuum, 1995.

Kohn, Eduardo.  How Forests Think: Anthropology Beyond the Human. University of California Press, 2013.

León, Christian. “Press Release.” Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, 2020, www.uasb.edu.ec/web/area-de-comunicacion/contenido?i-coloquio-internacional-visualidad-y-poder.

Viveros de Castro, Eduardo. Cannibal Metaphysics. Translated by Peter Skafish, Univocal Publishing