Entangled Milieus:

Co-Constituting a Shared Futurity

Conference
Year: 2022
Organizers: Armina Pilav, Marc Schoonderbeek, Heidi Sohn, Aleksandar Staničić, Socrates Stratis

The milieu emerges from an onto-epistemological entanglement where meaning and matter, or discursive and material practices, co-constitute the shared, living environments of human subjects and more-than-human entities alike. In these entanglements differentiation is the norm, and thus conflict and tensions are unavoidable, particularly in zones in which anthropocentric action accounts for radically asymmetrical environmental transformation. The striation of landscapes through the imposition of large-scale infrastructures; the devastation of ecosystems through resource extraction; rampant sprawl at the hand of real estate industries; the exhaustion of soil quality through agro-industrial monocultures; and the pollution and contamination of entire habitats are but a few examples of the detrimental actions over the environment typical of global neoliberal capitalist interests, and their blind advance toward the dead-end of ‘progress, growth and profit’. The growing awareness of the -often irreversible- impact of these actions upon the landscape triggers a host of responses and reactions, from environmental and social struggles and resistance, to incommensurable attempts to ameliorate the damage through a discourse set in techno-deterministic ‘solutionism’, a myopic managerial approach that time and again fails in its futile pursuit of so-called ‘least resistance paths’.

What this attitude occludes and ignores is the significance of politicized material territories, everyday resistances and minor practices through which another milieu is generated: one that emerges from the entanglement of discourse (meaning) and materiality (space-matter). This milieu unfolds through human interventions on the territory, and is co-constituted by material, spatial and political conditions that transform the meaning of the ground, the land, the soil, the earth on the one hand, and on the other, of other critical elementary components and substances constitutive of the environment such as air and water. What these conditions reveal is not only that the trans-scalar spatial implementation and the desire for geo-political capture and control have deep implicationsfor our understanding of the lived environments, of the middle, of the milieu. They also evidence the limits of their own instrumentalization:  where political potentiality wavers, other, undisciplined material-discursive practices emerge, perhaps offering alternatives to re-imagine shared futurities.

In this light, the conference broadens the scope of territorial considerations through an understanding of material-discursive engagements, entanglements and practices through which the milieu is constituted. It incorporates the instrumentalization of critical elementary ‘substance-spaces’ of soil, water and air and extends them into the investigation of the thick surfaces and critical zones of our living environment. To produce and generate futurity-oriented imaginaries that address rising and raising frictions, as well as conflicting and conflictual conditions, an undisciplined perspective, that is, an approach that takes distance from any sort of binarism, and/or (mono)disciplinary specificity is paramount.

Conflict Mediations
Conversation #1

The proposed conference #2, co-organized by TU Delft, University of Sheffield and University of Cyprus, and to be held in Cyprus in April/May 2022, would like to broaden the scope of territorial considerations by incorporating the instrumentalisation of the element- spaces of water and air into the investigation of the thick surfaces of our living environment. To introduce the forthcoming event, but also celebrate previous conference’s achievements, we will initiate a series of three conversations intended to unfold the relation to practices of intervening, disrupting, cancelling out, or countering the tainted and conflicted territories. The conversations will be based on the three components of the aforementioned FOOTPRINT issue, namely modes of operation, means of divulgence and agencies of protest, in combination with themes addressing conflict over water, air, and earths. The goal is to (1) introduce these themes in the context of Cyprus and (2) reflect and define the proper theme and relevancy of the next event.

Conflict Mediations: Air
Conversation #2

The second conversation in this series will be based on ‘modes of operation’ in relation to conflicts over the element-space of air. The goals are to introduce these themes in the context of Cyprus, and to reflect and define the proper theme and relevancy for the second conference.

Conflict Mediations
Conversation #3

The third conversation rests on notions of agency and protest in relation to conflicts that emerge over the element-space of

"ground". With the help of our guests, in this third and last conversation, we will deal with several ground conditions: from the ones recorded by architect Ahmad Beydoun during the war and its aftermaths on the borders of South Lebanon, to those emerging from the political practices of the "gilets jaunes" as discussed by the architectural theorist Lutz Robbers. Through their research in Lebanon and France, respectively, they will engage in conversation with our third guest: artist Eleni Mouzourou, and her recent video in which she depicts the twisting of a concept, namely how the "endemic" is turned into the "native". The video deals with the process of cultural and political appropriation of nature using the case of the Latzia oak tree and its construction as the "national tree" of Cyprus. The video will be screened during the online event. The entangled perspectives of our guests frame the previous conference theme ‘Mediating the Spatiality of Conflicts’ and thematically ground the elements of "water", "air", and "soil" in the upcoming conference Entangled Milieus: Co-Constituting a Shared Futurity, (Cyprus, October 22-30, 2022).