Seismography of Artistic Practices

This entry is part of rosa's Ecofeminist Dictionary from the project A Traversal Network of Feminist Servers (ATNOFS) and is based on two discussions I had with Reni Hofmüller and an email exchange with Nina Botthof of esc medien kunst labor1.

Esc medien kunst labor (esc mkl) proposed describing their work as a seismograph of artistic practises: it observes and records artistic processes, recognizes the creative potential of artists within the current technological and socio-political developments, and promotes this work, making it visible to a broader audience and documenting the outcome. In our conversations and also in past encounters, esc has always been active in bridging different worlds, making connections between generations, localities, and contexts, bringing a diversity of people together around shared topics of concern. This seismography is not one that alerts us to impending disaster but to the building up and fostering of momentum within artistic, activist, and feminist practices.

Reni Hofmüller, one of esc’s founders, spoke about how she uses resources as an entry point to discussions about technology, as a connecting element that ties labor, time, energy, sustainability, intersectionality, decoloniality, feminism, embodied and situated knowledge together. This means that, even in situations focusing on one specific struggle, we can't forget the others; these struggles are all linked. Reni explains how she tries to have a holistic approach to the things she does, and one way to do that is by connecting it all to resources: resources of her own time and energy, the energy it takes to bring her from Graz to Rotterdam, for instance, the financial resources, and the responsibility towards others that have poured their time and energy into making A Traversal Network of Feminist Servers (ATNOFS) happen. It's a way to understand our surroundings. In each constellation resources are a big question, infrastructure is a big question. This is really important in her work – contextualizing what is done and thinking it through as situated knowledge. I felt this approach resonated a lot with ecofeminist thought, with something activist and scholar Greta Gaard wrote:

“As the slogan goes, ‘I’ll be post-feminist in the post-patriarchy’—and when sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, classism, racism, speciesism, ableism, ageism, and the global inequalities produced and exacerbated by industrial capitalism and the legacies of colonialism cease to be a problem, then feminism will have accomplished its goals and outlived its usefulness.” --Greta Gaard, 20112.

Reni has been part of this longer history of feminist tech events, servers, and networks. She (among many other things) co-founded in 1998, was part of Gender Changers Academy, and Eclectic Tech Carnival, which was hosted by esc in 20053. After more than two decades of bringing people together over nice food and feminist tech, she explains why she has this huge patience for learning together:

"because this is what learning is. If we don't create these spaces where people can express 'I have never done this before', or 'I don't understand how that works,' or 'it’s not working on my system,' then we can't share it. If we want to share this other way of doing things, we also have to do it. Always. Networking takes time. It's not only the machines, it's also the people living a good life, and that means time and energy and everything that entails, with all our personalities."

She joined ATNOFS with esc because she felt that this is the next generation of people who do things. She wanted to bring everything that people already thought about and tried out and experimented with, so that there is an access to lived history, all the contradictions and the doubts, the good and the bad things, everything that already happened, because for the new generation it's something that can only be read about. Even though today things are created in a completely different setting, the questions remain the same: what is it that technology does to us and what could an active role in that look like? What could an infrastructure be that is reflecting our needs? She mentions how it is good to bridge this history while also being sensitive to what has changed. She sees this change most clearly in this real wish for collectivity in a way that makes space for others. It's not only a wish, it is really a practice. The Code of Conduct at Varia, for example, is really something that they live, part of how they do things and they have found ways to actually enact that. It's not an abstract verbalization of something they aim for, it's really part of how they do things. This is a huge change over the decades.

  1. esc medien kunst labor is an art initiative, a cultural organization, and exhibition space based in the city center of Graz, Austria. While its main task is the production of art, it also puts emphasis on the observation and capturing of artistic processes. The artistic activities of esc mkl are determined by the fact that art is understood as a subsystem of social and societal reality. As a hub for the exchange of ideas, esc mkl serves to network between artists, scientists, theorists, and many more while also providing infrastructure, technical support, and advice. Furthermore, exhibitions contribute to the public awareness of art and promote artists.
  2. Gaard, G. (2011) Ecofeminism Revisited: Rejecting Essentialism and Re-Placing Species in a Material Feminist Environmentalism, Feminist Formations, 23, pp. 26–53. DOI:10.1353/ff.2011.0017.
  3. The /etc development team (2005, May 22) (fwd) [GCA] Eclectic Tech Carnival 2005 Invitation. Available from: