Lecture about the politics of the "collective":
A common world? Invoking, inhabiting, continuing a life-sustaining web
We present a series of images extracted from “The Forest Underneath” to introduce a specific site where the politics of the collective are defined by unique alliances. “The Forest Underneath” combines materials shot on location inside and around the Hambach Forest, in western Germany, into an observational film. It portrays the last remnant of an ecosystem that has occupied the Rhine plain since the end of the last ice age – and a site where corporate exploitation, environmental degradation and activism coexist. The forest, of which only ten per cent remains, is set to be cleared to mine by the energy company RWE, and currently borders the largest open-pit coal mine in Europe. The rural towns surrounding it are ghostly ruins: their former inhabitants have been relocated, and displaced refugees have temporarily succeeded them. The forest, however, is a site of contestation and resistance. It has been a political standpoint for environmentalists since 2012, when a heterogeneous group of activists took permanent residence in self-built ‘barrios’ and treehouses, behind barricades, to protect it from planned destruction.
The film depicts a common world not as something we come to recognise as if it had always been here and we had not noticed it. It rather approaches it as something we have learned to invoke through thoughtfulness and worry, but also as something that needs a strong sense of attachment and commitment to be inhabited. It thus involves “matters of concern” as proposed by Bruno Latour, and at the same time “matters of care” as advanced by feminist philosopher Mari?a Puig de la Bellacasa. Natural forces, species, technologies and materialities are entangled in the social, cultural and political life of contemporary cities and landscapes. How can we radically rethink our politics, our dealings with the ‘extended democracy’ of other species and things? How can we immerse ourselves, our bodies, in signals, in radically different, subjective worlds to let them interact and interfere with our worldview?