studio event
Mental Geology of Nuclear Threat & The Labor of Witnessing
Asia Bazdyrieva, Elena Vogman, Johannes Bruder, Olexii Kuchanskyi, Svitlana Matviyenko

August 25 | 18:00 (doors open 17:30)
transmediale studio
Free admission

Organised by Asia Bazdyrieva, transmediale's current artist-in-residence, this evening brought together writers and curators - Svitlana Matviyenko, Elena Vogman, Olexii Kuchanskyi, and Johannes Bruder - to engage in conversation about the production and dissemination of images and affects within the mediated contexts of climate change and war. The event comprised of two moderated conversations with a short break in between.

Mental Geology of Nuclear Threat

Elena Vogman and Olexii Kuchanskyi, moderated by Asia Bazdyrieva

The full-scale invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation majorly invested (and intensified) a catastrophic reaction towards the nuclear threat reminiscent of the Cold War parapolitics. This revitalized the Cold War imaginaries impacting decisions of the major geopolitical players. The latter have taken a preemptive semi-neutral position which left aside what this war is mainly operating with: the bodies as psychosomatic singularities and collectives in their intimate mental environments. In this way the war exceeds national borders by mass-mediatizing social affects and toxifying commonly shared existential territories. Drawing on Felix Guattari’s concept of 'mental ecology' Elena Vogman and Olexii Kuchanskyi propose to investigate 'mental geology' as a complex unconscious formation of the nuclear threat that navigates desire. Mental geology allows to address the multilayered temporality of this process. Focusing on cases of mediatization of the Chornobyl accident and the recent occupation of Energodar, the presentation reflects in recourse to Guattari’s ecosophical project on the current geopolitical, media, and social conditions.

The Labor of Witnessing

Asia Bazdyrieva and Svitlana Matviyenko, moderated by Johannes Bruder

Asia Bazdyrieva and Svitlana Matviyenko discuss the concept of 'labor of witnessing' to explore how individuals and non-human entities absorb, metabolize, and narrate complex realities of war amidst both slow and fast acts of violence. This labor is intricately tied to communication infrastructures within regimes of power, actively shaping terror environments and subjects through militarized communication techniques. Images are mobilized as instruments of formatting environments, territories, landscapes, subjectivities, and social relations, encompassing various acts of witnessing that a subject cannot escape. This labor runs in parallel with the production of data-subjects within digital infrastructures, which are instrumental in politics of terror and deterrence.


Olexii Kuchanskyi is an independent film programmer and researcher, whose main interests lie in the intersections of experimental moving images, situated geographies, and critical cultures of nature. Her/his essays and articles have been published in transversal, TransitoryWhite, e-flux Notes, Theory on Demand, figurationen, and others. S/he (co-)curated film programs and shows for Kyiv Biennial, Coalmine — Raum Für Fotografie (Winterthur, Switzerland), e-flux Film, among others.

Asia Bazdyrieva's work focuses on hybrid European-Soviet modernity and its ideological and material implications in spaces, bodies, and lands. Bazdyrieva co-authored Geocinema, a collaborative project exploring infrastructures of earth sensing as a form of cinema, which has been nominated for the Schering Stiftung Award for Artistic Research (2020) and the Golden Key Prize at the Kassel Dokfest (2021). She is currently a member of Critical Media Lab Basel and a resident of transmediale.

Johannes Bruder studies psychological categories, sociological models, artistic practices and speculative designs encoded in digital cultures. He is currently most interested in imaginaries of energy, the management of energies physical and affective, and tactics of disaffection. His most recent publications include "Optimal Brain Damage. Theorizing our Nervous Present (w/ Orit Halpern; culturemachine) and "AI as medium and message" (in: Queer Reflections on AI, ed. Michael Klipphahn-Karge, Ann-Kathrin Koster & Sara Morais dos Santos Bruss). Johannes heads the Critical Media Lab Basel.

Svitlana Matviyenko is Assistant Professor of Critical Media Analysis in the School of Communication and Associate Director of the Digital Democracies Institute at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. Her research and teaching are focused on information and cyberwar, the political economy of information, media, and environment, infrastructure studies, and nuclear heritage. She is co-author of Cyberwar and Revolution: Digital Subterfuge in Global Capitalism (Minnesota University Press, 2019), and a co-editor of Lacan and the Posthuman (Palgrave, 2018) and The Imaginary App (MIT Press, 2014).

Elena Vogman is a scholar of comparative literature and media. A Principal Investigator of the research project Madness, Media, Milieus: Reconfiguring the Humanities in Postwar Europe at Bauhaus University Weimar and Visiting Fellow at ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry, she is the author of Sinnliches Denken. Eisensteins exzentrische Methode (Sensuous Thinking. Eisenstein’s Eccentric Method, 2018) and Dance of Values: Sergei Eisenstein’s Capital Project (2019).

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