Critical Ecologies: Ten Thousand Things 萬物 encompasses a myriad of creative practices and discourses concerned with the ecological emergency facing today's world. Not only our environments, societies, and economies are affected by the global crisis, but also our imagination and perception—how we sense and make sense of our surroundings.

The Critical Ecologies theme group invites everyone to join a series of conversations seeking to bring together artists and scholars working across diverse fields. Through various lenses, including the aesthetic, experiential, historical and artistic, these conversations will explore how situated knowledge can provide useful tools and methods for working in and with our lifeworld.

Conversations with Ten Thousand Things 與萬物對談 serve as an ECO chamber, an open space in which we can engage with each other on today's pressing issues.
This event is intended as a kick-off, to initiate exchange before our 2021 activities get underway.

Critical Ecologies group members and invited guests:
Adam Bobbette (Cultural geographer | Sydney), Manray Hsu (Curator | Taipei), Margarida Mendes (Curator | Lisbon), Architecture for Refugees SCHWEIZ (Association for Inclusion of Refugees | Zurich), Sanchayan Ghosh (Artist | Kolkata & Santiniketan), and Jovana Dikovic (Social anthropologist | Zurich).

Everybody is invited to join, either in Zurich at Toni Areal or online via Zoom. Registration is required via email at,

Probebühne ZT1.D10, Toni Areal, Pfingstweidstrasse 96, 8005 Zürich


Friday, 18 September

08:30 – 08:45 (CET)


08:45 – 09:45 (CET)

Conversation with Adam Bobbette

09:50 – 10:50 (CET)

Conversation with Manray Hsu

11:10 – 12:10 (CET)

Conversation with Margarida Mendes

13:30 – 14:30 (CET)

Conversation with Michael Simon

Saturday, 19 September

10:00 – 11:00 (CET)

Conversation with Architecture for refugees SCHWEIZ

11:15 – 12:15 (CET)

Conversation with Sanchayan Ghosh

12:30 – 13:30 (CET)

Lecture by Jovana Dikovic

Programme Details

Conversation with Adam Bobbette

This talk will consider a series of issues related to how the future of nature is known. It will take as its starting point the volcanoes of Indonesia, highly unpredictable and volatile, and how they are made sense of by mystics and scientists. The talk will explore different cultures of anticipation, mysticism, volcano science, and the ways that Javanese mystics transformed modern Western scientific understanding of the earth. The presentation will show how our understanding of Earth’s evolution and its future owes more to Javanese volcanoes and mysticism than conventionally appreciated.

Adam Bobbette is a geographer with training in philosophy, cultural studies, architecture and landscape. His research relates to the intersections of people with vulnerable and volatile environments. Following a PhD from Cambridge, he is working on a book, “At Earth’s Edge: The Political Geology of Indonesia”, that focuses on the intersection of politics and geology through the lens of Indonesia’s volcanoes.

Conversation with Manray Hsu

This talk offers a look into the concepts of indigeneity as developed in three contemporary critical theories, especially in the areas where they conflict with each other but can compensate for each other to help understand what the role of the indigenous for our time. Ecologically, when a living organism is indigenous, it is native to a place and its presence originates from natural processes and not human once. Historically, the indigenous, to put it crudely, refers to the peoples who were dispossessed from their land during the modern period and are in the process of revitalizing their cultures and rights through identification. In response to this late twentieth century’s conception of indigeneity, there is recently emerging a philosophical conception of indigeneity that emphasizes the relationship of humans to non-humans and the cosmos. While these conceptions may be in conflict with each other, I will argue, using examples from Taiwanese indigenous contemporary art and from Taoism and broader existing religious traditions of animism that it is possible to work out a congruent concept of indigeneity for contemporary critical thinking on ecology.

Manray HSU is an independent curator and art critic based in Taipei. His recent exhibitions include “The Sky Is the Limit: 2000 Taipei Biennial" (with Jerome Sans, Taipei Fine Arts Museum); "Wayward Economy" (2004, Taipei); "Naked Life" (2006, MOCA Taipei); Liverpool Biennial in 2006 (with Gerardo Mosquera); 2008 Taipei Biennial (with Vasif Kortun); Forum Biennial of Taiwanese Contemporary Art in 2010 (Taipei Contemporary Art Centre); "The South: an Art of Asking and Listening" (2017, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts); "Autostrada Biennale: The Future of Borders" (2017, Prizren, Kosovo); “Herbal Urbanism: An artistic project on cosmopolitics” (2018, Hong Gah Museum, Taipei); “When Kacalisian culture meets the vertical city: Greater Sandimen Contemporary Art” (2019, Taiwan Aboriginal Culture Park, Pingtung); "Crossing the Tuniu Ditch - Reactivating Tribal Deities, the Name Rectification of Makatao" (2020, Assembly of Communities: MIX, MOCA Taipei); "Futurist Wave: Contemporary Art from Greater Sandimen" (2020, Pingtung Museum of Art).

Manray’s current interest of research is on contemporary art from Taiwanese indigenous peoples, and on inter-cultural dialogues on the anthropocene.

Conversation with Margarida Mendes

Exploring the overlap between cybernetics, ecology, experimental film, and critical pedagogy, her research and curatorial practice investigates the dynamic transformations of the environment and its impact on societal structures and cultural production. In this session Margarida will introduce various projects where she explores alternative modes of education and political resilience, through collaborative practices, programming, and activism.

Furthermore, she will debate current topics on oceanic literacy and environmental humanities, such as the imminence of deep sea mining, which threatens the under explored abyssal ecosystems.

Margarida Mendes curates across the world and was part of the curatorial team of the 11th Gwangju Biennale, 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, and 11th Liverpool Biennial. In 2019 she launched the exhibition series Plant Revolution! that questions the interspecies encounter while exploring different narratives of technological mediation and in 2016 she curated Matter Fictions, publishing a joint reader with Sternberg Press. She is consultant for environmental NGOs working on marine policy and deep sea mining and has directed several educational platforms, such as escuelita, an informal school at Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo - CA2M, Madrid (2017); The Barber Shop project space in Lisbon dedicated to transdisciplinar research (2009-16); and the ecological inquiry curatorial research platform The World In Which We Occur, (2014-18). She is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths University of London and a frequent collaborator of the online channel for exploratory video and documentary reporting Inhabitants.

Conversation with Michael Simon

This talk asks how contemporary theater is able react to the challenges posed by climate change. Michael Simon presents his newest ongoing project “New Green Land” as an example of sustainable theater. This project makes use of augmented reality to raise consciousness about various issue of the Mojave desert, California, that go beyond visible reality and are mostly hidden to the naked eye, and connects online audiences with the reality of the desert through the presence of two real “agents” on the site. The performance touches upon environmental and social issues, as well as real time tasks proposed by Native Americans, artists and biologists. Michael Simon invites with his presentation to reflect and discuss jointly the definition of theatrical performance on the internet in times of Covid 19 and its possible impact on future theater.

Michael Simon is a german designer and director for ballet, drama and opera. His designs have been seen all over the world from Australia to Canada and the US, from Japan to China and throughout Europe. He has worked for many years with the choreographers Jiri Kylian and William Forsythe. The titles of some of the works are Isabel's Dance, Impressing the Czar, Limb's Theorem , Kaguyahime, Stepping Stones, Whereabouts Unknown, Wings of Wax, Arcimboldo, One of a kind, Doux Messonges and Zugvögel. His working relationship as stage designer with Pierre Audi, director of the Amsterdam Opera started in 1990 with Monteverdi's "Il Ritorno d'Ulisse" in Patria and continued until 2011 with the production of the two Iphigenie operas by Gluck. Amongst other designs the most important were "Writing to Vermeer", directed by Peter Greenaway and Saskia Boddecke in the Amsterdam opera, "Wozzeck" at the Brussels opera, directed by David Freemann, Claudel's drama "Tête d'or" directed by Anne Delbee at Comédie Française, Paris, "Lear and "Hamlet" directed by Li Liuyi at the National Center for Performing Arts Beijing, "Peony Pavilion" and "Dunhuang, the light of heart" by choreographer Fei Bo for National Ballet of China, Beijing.

Conversation with Bence Komlósi from Architecture for refugees SCHWEIZ.

Take action! - #einfach machen

The complexity of changing the world. What are the problems in our societies? Who are the stakeholders? How can we initiate, design and realise projects to make our societies more inclusive, sustainable and collaborative? What are the 10 principles of an open city? The Architecture for Refugees SCHWEIZ association aims to bring newcomer refugees together with the local society to develop a new and common identity.

Bence Komlósi (*1982) is an architect-activist and co-founding member of the Architecture for Refugees NGO network. He develops and runs projects in Switzerland, Hungary, USA and internationally on architecture, refugee issues, democracy, inclusivity, sustainability, public spaces, privacy and community-development

The Architecture for Refugees SCHWEIZ association aims to improve the integration process of refugees, that’s why we prefer inclusion instead of integration. We aim to realise spaces where newcomers and Swiss citizens can get to know each other, interact and can create new friendships and relationships. Our motto is “shelter is not enough”. This means for us that solving the housing situation for refugees is not enough, we need spaces such as public spaces for neighbourhoods where refugees and locals can meet. Our aim is to realise a “space” of coming together.

Conversation with Sanchayan Ghosh

Pedagogy as Art Practice: Towards a Sustained Critical Multiplicity.

The presentation will be divided in two segments. The first segment will focus on the community based engagements in Visva Bharati University in Santiniketan in relation to the neighbouring landscape reflecting the pedagogic ideology of nobel laureate Rabindrantah Tagore, its founder since its initiation in 1921 and how Kala Bhavana , the institute of Fine Arts as an integral part of the university imagined modernism as an integrated practices of environment, life, material and ecology as a sustained practice of individual and the collective participation since 1919. Inspired by this pedagogic model the second part of the presentation will focus on some of my own initiatives exploring the possibility of pedagogy as art practice that can manifest itself as an interface between institutional and self-organized endeavors to generate new spaces of public sphere, of social and cultural dialogues between communities, locations, process and practices towards a critical collective of coexistence of multiple point of views.

Sanchayan Ghosh is a visual artist and pedagogue (b. 1970) Born in Kolkata. He lives and works in Santiniketan and Kolkata,West Bengal India, and is currently an Associate Professor, Department of Painting, Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan.

Sanchayan Ghosh has been practicing site-specific art as a workshop based collective community dialogue leading to numerous forms of public engagements over the last twenty years. His interest in process based collaborative making and sharing of art lead him to interact also with different performance forms from all over India. Moreover, through his regular engagement in pedagogy he has explored art practice as a critical engagement of individual and collective conversation where he has collaborated and participated in different interdisciplinary encounters exploring institutional space as an interface of the private and the public. He has also worked in different kinds of self organized initiatives in different parts of the world and explored transforming relationship of land, location, labour and practice.

He has been awarded Charles Wallace Fellowship,UK in 2003-04 and worked on “Merge Down and Resist” with 3 generations of Asian migrants on framing of identities in Bristol. He has also participated in Kochi Muziris Biennale and explored a community sound project “Incomplete Circles, Invisible Voices” in 2012. He has participated in Dacca Biennale in 2016 with a collective performative project Reading from the Gendered land with women students of Kala Bhavana, Visva Bharati and Charukala Anushad Dhaka Vishwa Vidyalaya. He has participated in the aneducation project Under The Mango Tree in Documenta14 and conducted a Circle Walk in 2017. He has been also associated with different pedagogy projects in Kala Bhavana, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan , National School of Drama(NSD), FICA( New Delhi) and Five Million Incidents of Max Mueller Bhavana, Kolkata. He also co-curated the second session of Under The Mango Tree in Santiniketan in 2020. Kochi- Muziris Students’ Biennale, Kochi 2018.

Ghosh’s collaborative sound project (work of art) ‘Short Wave’s Transit Tales’ is commissioned by Documenta14 (the German international exhibition project, under its Radio project and was transmitted in 8 countries of 4 continents). This piece has been shown in three exhibitions in Basel, Switzerland and Berlin and Weimar, Germany.

His selected solo exhibitions include Reversed Perspective:3 Conjunctures, 2014 and Sisyphus Effect, together with Experimenter, Kolkata, 2010.

Conversation with Jovana Dikovic

Moralizing the environment.

In this lecture, we will discuss when and how the environment became a moral subject. Through contrasting ethical positions of conventional farmers, environmentalists, policy developers and consumers, it will be shown how the hybrid character of agency and morality and their dynamic interplay (a) shape these actors' interpretation of the environment; (b) and these actors’ relationship toward the environment. Consequently, we will look at how the environmental interventionism, contrary to expected outcomes, too often causes too many contrasting effects. In the concluding part, instead of thinking about the environment in terms of the battlefield of values, powers, and networks, a methodological approach will be suggested that might better equip future research for detecting new cultural forms and more harmonized relationship toward the environment.

Jovana Dikovic is a social anthropologist currently running her postdoctoral research project at the Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies of the University of Zurich where she also teaches. In her career, she focused and studied rural Balkans. Her research and publications are mainly concerned with the understanding of change in rural areas, ethics of production and soil, institution building and cooperation. In her ongoing project “Farming under barricades: Study of cooperation in post-conflict Kosovo”, she analyses farming in the context of post-war institutional anguish and stabilisation of inter-ethnic relationships.