Useful Fictions is a week-long symposium and a public participatory art project in Paris. It is a platform to embrace complex problems by modeling radical openness to research in which tools, laboratories, studios are shared between artists and scientists to expand concepts for ecological thinking. Useful Fictions proposes to see the calculation of a catastrophic future not as an inevitability but as an invitation to innovate and effect change. Bridging the divide between urgency and agency, the project gathers a coalition of artists, designers, humanists, and graduate students to work with globally acclaimed climate scientists in their laboratories to build future machines and write absurd fictions.

This project invites critique of the human-centered narrative that dominates and defines contemporary cultural consciousness. The issues we are faced with challenge us to reclaim knowledge creation by examining the idea of proxy and measurements in ways that will expand anthropocentric lenses. Through the use of both critical discourse and practice-based research in art, design, and science, as well as case studies in climate science and related contextual research, we will ask: “What controls the manufacturing of our systems of belief? What stories do we tell ourselves? Can we imagine differently?”

Chosen from a competitive selection process based on an International Open Call, graduate fellows will participate in the symposium and the Speed of Light Expedition. Each Graduate Fellow will receive one week of full room and board at École polytechnique, Paris, from September 9-13, 2019. All lab fees and material expenses are also covered under the Fellowship. We are pleased to see that the fellows are from a wide range of disciplines, including the arts, humanities, sciences, and engineering. 

Peter Hoffman
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, USA
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Considering the failures and limits of the documentary photograph in translating climate change narratives, Peter Gabriel Hoffman is informed by environmental communication theories and eco-critical texts that emphasize the necessity of collapsing the human/nature binary way of thinking. He is interested in how creating new representations of landscape and ecological systems may play a role in perpetuating this dialogue. He holds MFA in Studio Art from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MA in Documentary Photography from Ohio University’s School of Visual Communication. Hoffman lives in Durham, North Carolina with his wife Liz.

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