Es gibt keinen Planeten B, deswegen überlegen wir in diesem Workshop, wie aus Elektronik statt gefährlichem Schrott, nachhaltige, hilfreiche, neue Erfindungen werden könnten. Du bist dabei selbst Forscherin und Forscher! Gemeinsam malen wir uns aus, wie fair und nachhaltig hergestellte Technologien aussehen könnten. Vielleicht bestehen sie ganz aus Pflanzen? Oder Wachs? Eierschalen? Du erfindest mit uns aus selbst gebauten Lautsprechern und Sensoren interaktive Schaltkreise, die weder Umwelt noch Menschen schädigen können. Mit selbst gemachten elektronischen Bauteilen, z.B. aus Ton, Magneten, Eisenstaub und recycelten Materialien, die wir in der Gegend gefunden haben, bringst du Dinge zum Schwingen oder Surren. Wird diese ethische Hardware denn auch funktionieren? Deine Vorschläge werden wir ernst nehmen und mit dir und internationalen Expert*innen diskutieren, vielleicht einige Ideen tatsächlich weiterentwickeln.
Werde Citizen Scientist!
Nächster öffentlicher Workshop, 10. und 11.Juli 2023:
Weitere Workshops finden in Schulen statt, aber Du kannst dich auch für einen Workshop im Oktober im Technischen Museum Wien anmelden. Wenn du Dich auf unseren Newsletter setzen lässt, informieren wir Dich über Neuigkeiten:
The contrasting approaches of Brazil and Armenia towards gold mining reveal the complexities of environmental preservation and exploitation. While Brazil has recently intensified its efforts to crack down on illegal mining in the Amazon rainforest, Armenia has allowed the controversial Amulsar gold mine project to proceed, raising significant concerns about its environmental impact.
Brazil’s Crackdown on Illegal Mining
Brazil has intensified its crackdown on illegal gold mining in the Amazon rainforest by clearing illegal miners from the Yanomami territory and planning to remove miners from six more reserves this year. The government’s new environmental crimes division uses satellite imagery to locate and dismantle mining camps and has destroyed 250 mining camps and seized 1.2 kg of gold. The operation by Brazil’s environmental protection agency, Ibama, the indigenous affairs department, Funai, and special forces aims to halt illegal mining in the region, which poses a humanitarian crisis to the Yanomami people and causes environmental damage. The joint operation targets the flow of supplies rather than individual settlements. With an estimated 20,000 illegal miners dispersed throughout the dense jungle region, officials say it’s key to find alternative employment opportunities for the miners to prevent them from returning to the areas from which they have been expelled or invading new ones.
The crackdown on illegal mining sites in Brazil, while ostensibly progressive, unveils the deep-seated contradictions within the capitalist patriarchy and its exploitative nature towards both the working class and the environment. The artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector, which offers sustenance to millions of Brazilians, including a significant number of women, falls prey to this oppressive system. While legal mining operations exist, the working class, especially women, engaged in ASM are burdened with onerous regulations and seemingly insurmountable barriers to acquiring licenses and permits. As a result, many are forced to operate illegally, risking fines, arrest, and even violence from organized crime groups that control much of the illegal mining trade.
Furthermore, the environmental destruction wrought by legal mining operations, legitimized by the capitalist patriarchal system, mirrors the devastation caused by illegal activities. Large-scale mining perpetuates deforestation, water pollution, and soil degradation, among other environmental catastrophes. These ecological harms disproportionately affect women, who bear the brunt of resource scarcity, disrupted livelihoods, and increased domestic burdens.
This heightened repression of illegal mining may inadvertently centralize power and resources in the hands of the capitalist patriarchy, embodied by larger mining companies, further marginalizing the ASM working class, particularly women and other marginalized groups.
Armenia’s Amulsar Gold Mine Controversy
In contrast, the situation in Armenia highlights the dangers of prioritizing economic interests over environmental protection. On February 22, 2023, the Armenian government signed an agreement with Lydian International, allowing the mine’s exploitation, raising significant concerns about potential environmental, social and health risks, including water contamination, soil pollution, and damage to the area’s biodiversity. This, in turn, could have severe health consequences for the local population, including respiratory issues, waterborne diseases, and long-term illnesses caused by exposure to hazardous materials.
Critics fear that mining activities could exacerbate the risk of landslides and earthquakes in the seismically active area. Additionally, the proximity of the mine to Lake Sevan, the largest freshwater lake in the region, raises concerns about the potential contamination of this vital water source.
The use of cyanide in the gold extraction process poses significant health risks to local residents, as well as to the flora and fauna in the region. The long-term effects of cyanide exposure include damage to the nervous system, thyroid gland, and other vital organs.
Moreover, Jermuk, the town near the Amulsar Gold Mine, is well-known for its natural hot springs and health resorts, which attract tourists from across the country and beyond. Opponents of the mine argue that its development could tarnish the area’s reputation as a tourist destination, negatively impacting local businesses and the economy. The potential environmental and health risks associated with the mine could also deter visitors, further hindering the growth of the tourism sector in the region.
The project has also created divisions within the local community, with some supporting the mine due to potential economic benefits and job opportunities, while others vehemently oppose it due to the environmental and health risks. The mining project has also raised concerns about the cultural and historical heritage of the region, with fears that it could lead to the destruction of ancient sites, either directly through excavation or indirectly through pollution and habitat destruction.
The situation remains tense, with ongoing legal battles and public pressure for a comprehensive, transparent, and independent environmental impact assessment. The outcome of this struggle could have significant implications for the future of Armenia’s environment, public health, and subsistence.
The contrasting strategies employed by Brazil and Armenia in their respective gold mining industries signify the pressing necessity to tackle the deep-seated problems of environmental degradation and societal inequality. In light of the destructive effects of colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy on our natural environment and the human population, it is no longer acceptable to ignore the critical need for action. It is imperative that we take immediate measures to hold those in positions of power accountable and strive for a sustainable future that prioritizes the welfare of the planet and all living beings. Ensuring the preservation of our planet for future generations is our responsibility, and we must act urgently to achieve this goal.
Today, we began our investigation into the shrinkage rates of natural and industrial clay. Our objective is to use the information gathered from this study to create a PCB cast for ceramics. We will be comparing the shrinkage rates of the two types of clay to design a cast that can accommodate different types of clay.
Obtained samples of natural and industrial clay
Measured out equal portions of each type of clay
Allowed the clay to air dry overnight
Fired all samples in a domestic oven
Fired all samples in an industrial kiln
Measured shrinkage rates and compare
Next, we will be measuring the dimensions of the dried clay to determine the shrinkage rate. Excited to see the results!
The exhibition “Mud-Group#3: Who has land to make a fire?” by Patrícia J. Reis, Celine Struger and Kristin Weissenberger opened at Mz* Baltazar’s Laboratory, Vienna on March 10, 2023. It revolved around the group’s collaborative and artistic process, using ceramics as their primary medium for exploration. The group’s goal was to create a shared artistic process that encouraged reflection and discussion among the artists involved. Through this project, the artists aimed to shed light on the emancipation history of female artists and explore the relationship between ceramics, hacking and other fields of art.
The Mud-Group joint exhibition is a collaboration with the PEEK Feminist Hacking: Building Circuits as an Artistic Practice research project currently at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, by Stefanie Wuschitz, Taguhi Torosyan and Patrícia J. Reis. The project aims to establish feminist hacking as a strategy and method for emancipation in the field of art, science and technology.
Feminism and ceramics have a long and intertwined history, with many artists using ceramics as a means to explore feminist themes and ideas. Feminist ceramic art is a genre of artwork that arose in the 1970s as part of the larger feminist movement, which sought to expose the oppressive patriarchal structures that had dominated society for centuries. Feminist ceramic artists like Betty Woodman and Judy Chicago used their art as a tool for political and social critique, often exploring themes related to gender, power, and identity.
Ceramics have also been increasingly discussed as materials with agency within the discourse of new materialism. New materialism emphasizes the active role of materials in shaping and being shaped by social, cultural, and historical contexts. Ceramicists have long been aware of the agency of their materials, as the process of creating ceramics involves a dialogue between the artist and the material itself.
According to Jane Bennett, “vibrant matter” has its own agency and vitality, and is not merely a passive object to be acted upon by human agents. Ceramic materials, like other materials, have their own properties and capacities, and can exert influence on the artist’s process and the final outcome of the artwork. For instance, the way that clay responds to touch, the effects of heat on glazes, and the colors and textures of various clay bodies all contribute to the creative process and the final product.
The artists’ question “who has a land to make a fire?” suggested a positive desire to embrace traditional, low-tech methods of generating warmth, light, and fostering community through the use of fire. This inquiry also indicated a longing to break away from the often-detached and impersonal experience of contemporary, urban lifestyles, and to establish more direct, embodied connections with nature and others. By raising this question, the artists were demonstrating their radical intent to challenge conventional understandings of ownership, property, and resource access, while also exploring sustainable communal living and alternative models of resource use.
The Mud-Group’s artistic journey began with a series of initial meetings where the members explored their shared interests in ceramics, particularly its cultural and feminist background. The group recognized the importance of using traditional techniques and materials as a way to resist capitalist production methods and to highlight the importance of sustainable and ethical hardware.
As the group developed their artistic practice, they began to experiment with ancient ceramic production techniques in a workshop located in the forest. The group members were able to learn about and incorporate sustainable methods for producing ceramics, which furthered their commitment to anti-capitalist practices.
However, the Mud-Group’s radical attitude did not stop there. They continued their exploration of autonomy by hacking the city infrastructure and reclaiming a public space on the Donau Island in Vienna. Donau Island’s public barbecue spots in Vienna, established in the 1970s due to social-democratic reforms, are still in use today and attract visitors from all walks of life, including immigrants. While some upper middle class and privileged citizens view the spots as unsanitary and a nuisance, they serve as a vital social and cultural space for many immigrants, allowing them to maintain their cultural traditions and foster community building. These negative attitudes towards the public barbecue spots are indicative of a larger issue of class and cultural divisions in Austrian society. The upper middle class and privileged citizens may not understand the importance of the barbecue spots to immigrants, as they may not have experienced the same struggles and challenges as immigrant communities.
During this exercise, the group members questioned the idea of public space and ownership, and used their art to push boundaries and reclaim space for public use.
Hacking of urban infrastructure for autonomous living refers to the practice of using and repurposing existing urban infrastructure for self-sufficient and sustainable living. This practice has gained popularity in recent years as people seek alternative solutions to live off the grid and reduce their reliance on traditional forms of infrastructure, such as power grids and water supply systems. Ethical hardware and DIY approaches play a crucial role in this process, as they enable individuals to build and maintain their own sustainable systems. By hacking and repurposing existing infrastructure, individuals can create their own networks of sustainable resources, allowing for greater autonomy and resilience. This practice not only promotes self-sufficiency but also contributes to a more sustainable and ethical use of urban resources.
Artistic hacking is also becoming increasingly popular as a means of creating sustainable living solutions. By incorporating creative and artistic elements into the design and implementation of autonomous living systems, individuals and communities can create more engaging and aesthetically pleasing solutions that are also functional.
Through the exhibition, visitors were able to witness the Mud-Group’s artistic journey and their commitment to sustainable and ethical hardware, autonomy, and a DIY approach to ceramic production. The exhibition showcased the group’s artwork, including their ceramics produced using traditional techniques, as well as documentation of their public space reclamation project on the Danube Island.
This installation presented two unique pieces. Firstly, a water fountain made entirely out of ceramic pieces that were fired at the Danube Island, with ceramic plates holding cups collected from common spaces such as offices and artist ateliers. The cups, which serve as carriers of advertisements, have been intentionally covered with broken glass and melted onto the cups through the same firing process as the ceramic pieces. The second piece features a customized metal structure specifically built for barbecue place number 12, along with a hacked barbecue rod typically used for cooking chicken. This piece reenacts the firing process and adds to the overall experience of the installation.
The exhibition is on view till April 21, 2023.
Text by Taguhi Torosyan. Image credits: Flavio Palasciano
In the frames of Salon Of Open Secrets video interview series, we will speak with Prof. Seyram Avle, Assistant Professor of Global Digital Media at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who will be contributing to an interactive story on ethical hardware. Her research, which is funded by various institutions including the National Science Foundation (US), primarily focuses on digital technology cultures and innovation across parts of Africa, China, and the United States.
Our project involves feminist hacking experimentation with ethical hardware and electronics that are sourced through transparent supply chains and manufactured with fairness and sustainability in mind.
Workshops will be prepared to introduce younger individuals to issues arising from mass-produced electronics. Participants will act as players within an interactive story and be invited to delve deeper into our research while showcasing their creativity. Those who wish to become part of our project can assume the role of citizen scientists, receive an ethical hardware kit, experiment, tinker, speculate, test ideas, and discuss concepts with experts such as Prof. Seyram Avle.
Es ist ein offenes Geheimnis, dass die Hardware in unseren smarten Geräten nicht nur Kunststoff, sondern auch Konflikt-Materialien wie Wolfram, Zinn, Tantulum und Gold enthält. Technologie ist also nicht neutral. All diese Rohstoffe werden in Konfliktregionen abgebaut, danach unter gesundheitsschädlichen Arbeitsbedingungen zu elektrischen Schaltkreisen zusammengesetzt und letztendlich meist rasch auf kontaminierten Mülldeponien entsorgt. Diese Kontaminierung ist Ausdruck von den noch heute fortbestehenden kolonialen Beziehungen zu Boden.
Kunstbasierte Forschungsmethoden greifen auf künstlerische Praxis zurück, um sich komplexen Zusammenhängen annähern zu können. Indem wir unser künstlerisches Forschungsprojekt für Bürger:innen öffnen, wollen wir dieses Phänomen greifbar machen. Die Überschneidung von Kunst und Wissenschaft kann uns ermächtigen und ermutigen, neue Wege zu finden.
Dieses Citizen Science Projekt behandelt heikle Themen mit Hilfe eines bunten 2D-Spiels, in dem Spieler:innen alternative Technologien entdecken. Besucher:innen des Technischen Museums Wien (TMW) navigieren durch virtuelle Landschaften, in denen sie bestimmten Charakteren als Avataren begegnen. Diese Avatare repräsentieren Menschen aus der ganzen Welt, die an unserem Hauptforschungsprojekt mitarbeiten. Durch diese Form des interaktiven Geschichten-Erzählens werden junge Menschen eingeladen, selbst zu Erfinder:innen von grüner und fairer Hardware zu werden, sich untereinander zu vernetzen und ihre Ideen in der nächsten Phase des Projekts in konkrete Prototypen umzusetzen.
Mit dem Begriff Ethische Hardware wollen wir Technologien beschreiben, die der Umwelt nicht schaden, sondern regenerative Praktiken zum Wohle der Natur und der Menschen anwenden. Es gibt starke soziale Bewegungen unter Jugendlichen, weiblichen* und nicht-binären Kreativen, die ähnliche Werte teilen (Extinction Rebellion, Fridays For Future). Unser Citizen Science Projekt befasst sich mit fehlender Kommunikation zwischen Wissenschaft und Jugendbewegung. Wir möchten die Kreativität und die transformative Arbeit junger Bürger:innen, insbesondere derer, die Minderheiten angehören, besser verstehen, indem wir ihnen einen spielerischen Zugang zu unserer Forschung anbieten. Wir hoffen, dass die Visionen der CS unsere Vorstellung von Zukunftstechnologie erweitern werden, und dass den Teilnehmenden umgekehrt die Möglichkeit geboten wird, eine alternative Zukunft zu imaginieren. Auf diese Weise werden wir hoffentlich gemeinsam die notwendige Kraft sammeln, diese Krise zu bewältigen.
Unser Forschungsteam, bestehend aus den Kunstwissenschaftler:innen Dr. Stefanie Wuschitz und Dr. Patrícia J. Reis von der Akademie der bildenden Künste in Wien, wird mit den Besucher:innen des Technischen Museums Wien (TMW), unserem nationalen Forschungspartner, interagieren und die Forschungsergebnisse für den Einsatz in Klassenzimmern und außerschulischen Bildungseinrichtungen nutzbar machen.
Patricia J. Reis and Stefanie Wuschitz joined forces with Kristin Weißenberger to learn about sustainable and low-energy consumption ceramics, for creating tiles as PCBs and other speculative electronic components. Stefanie wanted to explore gold alternatives like Pyrit and gain skills in making clay boards. Patricia wanted to experiment with burning conductive materials in the same process as burning the ceramics, to be able to process the complete PCB made from ubiquitous materials and with low energy consumption by ourselves and on-site. To accomplish this we joined a workshop by artist and stone age expert Heinz Lackinger (https://www.heinzlackinger.at/). He taught us how to identify soil and specific earth in the ground, particularly in Burgenland, in the rural South East of Vienna, and create ceramics with them without using tools. This site contains prehistoric archaeological exacerbations by Romans, Celtics and older settlements who used the clay you can still find in this region, at the foot of Leitha mountains. Heinz discovered in decades of research how people in the stone ages created objects from adobe, loam, and loess only by adding water and exposing them to different temperatures in a wood fire. No tools, equipment or electricity was required, only adobe, water, fire and your fingers for shaping the mud. Having said that it could be defined as a technology, that uses all senses to select, prepare, manufacture and produce these objects. The smell, colour, humidity, temperature and shape as well as the age and consistency of clay play a significant role in identifying appropriate material. Heinz shared his expert knowledge on how to go about forming the objects and what materials shape the design, colour and general outcome of the final burned objects. To add dry cowpat to the fire add black colour to the ceramics. Coloured and black clay otherwise usually turns red when dry and stoved. Heinz explained the delicate balance of adding oxygen to the fire at the right moment or telling apart different temperature zones in the fire to avoid explosions in the clay. The two-day workshop was a meditative and sensuously enriching retreat that left us with two milestone insights. First, we can in fact create tiles that substitute common PCBs by using no or low-energy resources from ubiquitous materials. Second that we can stove conductive materials simultaneously with the clay to process circuits and make the connections durable. This helped us to move forward with proposing a consistent new artistic method of hardware production.
Building on the legacy of the feminist Salon Culture of the 1920s we invited the participants to rethink the women’s coffee table gathering as a circulation of energies and potentialities that we expose through the electric circuits. We try to build these electric circuits with ecologically sentient methods and materials, reflecting on the colonial histories and presents of mining, import, consumption, and appreciation of art and hardware.
Opening: 14. September 19:00 Kaffee Kränzchen & Performance Olivia Jaques and Anna Watzinger
Sa, 17. September 11:00 Guided visit through the exhibition
Fr, 28. October 18:30 Finissage and artist talk
With special thanks to the following artists who collaborated with Mz* Baltazar’s Lab for this exhibition: Catarina Reis Erika Farina Taguhi Torosyan
In our work, we address the legacy of gendered porcelain collecting and the different functions and meaning it created in women’s* lives. In the Western context and the Global South, collecting is typically justified based on aesthetic or academic curiosity. The need to collect however also has a deeper psychological and social reason. It is a form of play. It takes various expressions of fetishism, where object relations emphasize the personal and relational aspects and playful elements. Other more specific justifications for collecting include the thrill of the “hunt,” the preservation of history, aesthetic gratification, investment, and so forth. Therefore, gendered collecting is a specific example of how humans utilize items to fulfil needs and mediate between the self and the outside world in order to forge a sense of self. The tendency to collect is a characteristic of humans, although it is more pronounced in communities with a surplus of material wealth. The process of forming the western identity has been vital, and both art and culture serve as a way of categorizing and organizing human cultures and attributing value to them.
Porcelain, the most collectable form of ceramics, and its collections have had a social function at least from the second half of the 19th century. Women’s ceramic collecting can be regarded as a form of conspicuous consumption and social emulation, by which they imitated other women* located higher on the social ladder. The gathering and exhibition of ceramics within the confines of individual women’s lives was not only just a reproduction of patriarchal norms but also a chance for them to create meaning for themselves and others actively.
Porcelain was relegated from its practical purpose to an aesthetic one, valued for its tactile and visual features, and made ac- accessible for the creation of adorning visual displays. When such pottery was utilized, it was often for ceremonial events like hosting significant visitors. Like other works of art, they also take on extra symbolic importance as status symbols: they reflect the owner’s preferences. They are a platform for the display of taste and distinction as well as the application of specialized expertise. Since the capacity to enjoy them already constitutes a type of power crucial for women, they do not even need to be possessed. At first, women collectors were rare since they did not possess access to financial means, education, or freedom to pursue such activities. By the 1960s, the numbers had started growing. It was also a way of constructing social networks through the gift economy between family and friends.
Building on that legacy, we invite you to rethink the women’s coffee table gathering as a circulation of energies and potentialities that we expose through the electric circuit built with ecologically sentient methods and materials, reflecting on the colonial histories and presents of mining, import, consumption, and appreciation of art and hardware. Secrets will be shared, friendships established, and power reclaimed.