FoAM digest - Autumn 02019

Posted Dec. 10, 2019 by FoAM

Hello Earthlings,

...and welcome to another of FoAM's semi-seasonal digests, composed with beings, places and things we care about. We write as humans (mostly) in a beyond-human world, continuing to seek alternatives to the tenacious (yet crumbling) status quo, engaging with people, cultures and technologies across the fickle currents of time. 

As an entry point to our recent adventures and upcoming endeavours, this digest contains a density of links into our varied activities, events and publications. For those of you who prefer images, we've put together some photos from the past year (and last decade) that you might enjoy drifting through.

Living during the sixth mass extinction has emphasised for us the importance of engaging with the many, varied lifeforms we share the planet with. At FoAM our engagement takes on a range of shapes and guises. From observing crickets to collaborating with plants and composing with birds. We can assume the roles of gardening apes, tangible programmers, or speculative librarians, as we draw attention to the overlooked and unheard. Immersed in the dust and shadow of the Anthropocene,  in the deserts, swamps, or the indeterminate twilight over the Baltic Sea, we experiment with different approaches to landing, attunement and fieldwork. ...while echoes of the phrase "how the terms mind and matter are abstractions which in their concreteness are identical" weave their way through an emergent soundscape, some of which has recently condensed into translucent 12“ vinyl.

With our new game, we've been toying with insect societies and the limits of biology, in a hand illustrated world of the European paper wasp. The game will be released online and in the Eden Project early next year. From a more speculative angle, the "unsupervised field agents" continue to explore landscapes through machinic perception. The DeepSteward AI is currently in transit to the Wood Street Gallery in Pittsburgh, after recently becoming a member of a Dutch zoöp, a new kind of organisation hoping to strengthen the place of non-humans within human economies and societies.

As the second decade of the new millennium (Common Era) draws to a close, it feels like we're approaching (or maybe passed) a significant moment of "peak indifference". The problems have become obvious, but possibilities for effective action can seem overwhelming, contradictory or just too difficult. We need more concrete experiments with how things could be done otherwise and more prominence for those that show promise. We need "business as unusual". At FoAM these experiments can take many forms. They include infiltrating innovation hubs to discuss ways to balance taking risks and making risks, or collaborating with artists and cultural workers to RESHAPE organisational models of contemporary art practices.

The spirit of RADMIN (or radical administration) has been rewilding itself for the inception of the Feral MBA, "arming the participants with experimental skills and critical materials to consider and produce alternatives." Some of these alternatives have led us to delve into the Dark Arts, grey areas and other contingencies involved in interdependent, transdisciplinary practices. One of FoAM's most explicitly transdisciplinary initiatives, AccessLab recently joined forces with Extinction Rebellion, helping people concerned with climate change to cut though disinformation, to find sources of scientific information and learn how to judge the reliability of those sources. Next year AccessLab will be focusing specifically on Climate, Environment and Health.

As an act of resistance against both the nihilism and denialism of our times, we emphasise the importance of "surviving well together". We continue to develop and support initiatives that encourage (bio)diversity and open access to (re)sources. From launching a new version of the CrapApp for sustainable agriculture, to helping launch the Arka Kinari, a partially submerged home and performance venue on a reclaimed sailing ship. For those working in uncertain conditions while collectively exploring the potential benefits and dangers of the unknown we're experimenting with syncretic forms of institutional therapy

Our ongoing collaborations with disabled people and those with differing abilities continues to provide valuable insight and broader understanding of the human condition. Spending time with a community of people on the autism spectrum, during monthly forest walks and seasonal retreats, is a reminder that communication and creativity can come in many different guises. Sonic Kayaking with visually impaired participants has helped us develop soundscapes to navigate in the dark, while "paddles dipping and lifting from the water created a rhythm conducive to a meditation", according to one of the participants.

Some of us brave the currents on water, others explore the currents of time, and The Current in the widest sense of the word. Our temporal tendrils have extended back to Homo Texor and ancient Greece and connected them to weaving robots, investigating how particular technologies shape human relationships with the world. We continue to explore the art of futuring, in particular for artists and designers. The central focus is on testing and designing for futures as physical manifestations in the present. Our Futurist's Fieldguide remains unfinished, but still provides a valuable working resource as these practices become more widely used. And yet, we continue to wonder "how do you break the silence without becoming someone no-one listens to?" With a deceptively humourous take on (im)possible futures, we hosted a temporary Intergalactic Estate Agency in the Invisible Worlds residency programme (in Eden, on Earth). The IEA challenged Generation Alpha to find ways of communicating what they find valuable on our struggling planet, to anyone listening in the vast expanse of the universe.

And so, through the whirlwind of doing and being in the world, we've arrived near the end of another solar year, at the close of another decade. The shrinking daylight hours of the Northern Hemisphere encourage quiet, rest and reflection. Yet it's also a time to feast, to enjoy good company and banish the dark.

So, whichever time and with whatever company you find yourself in we send you our warmest wishes for a convivial Yuletide, Christmas, Saturnalia, Rōhatsu, Dōngzhì, Solstice and an inspiring year. Let it be the inception of a time when we learn to survive well, together.

Who are the "we" in this newsletter?

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