06 Jun 2023 · 7.30 pm

Always Near III: Empty Planets. On Uninhabitable Landscapes

Venue: diffrakt | zentrum für theoretische peripherie, Crellestraße 22, 10827 Berlin
Organized by Moritz Gansen, Hanna Hamel, Alexandra Heimes (all ZfL), Eva Stubenrauch (HU Berlin), Natalie Moser (University of Potsdam)

Empty Planets. On Uninhabitable Landscapes
Conversation with Theresia Enzensberger, Elvia Wilk, and Ben Woodard

The fantasy of the empty, uninhabited, or “perfectly natural” place has guided and justified colonial expansion for centuries. Today, outer space is often construed in similar terms: if there’s no one there, then it’s ours for the taking. “Ours,” of course, only refers to those who can afford to try to take it, and to take tends to mean to extract value—in the form of mining, for instance—or to make it habitable for (human) life. Meanwhile, planet Earth is becoming increasingly uninhabitable for both humans and other species, and the tactics and techniques designed to make faraway planets suitable for life as we know it are increasingly turned toward the ground beneath our feet.

In this conversation, Theresia Enzensberger, Elvia Wilk, and Ben Woodard will show representations of uninhabitable spaces in a variety of movies and expand into a discussion about the desires we project onto un/inhabitable landscapes.


Always Near. The near future in contemporary literature

Every present has its own future. The genre of science fiction is known for explicitly reflecting the transformation of literary imaginations and designing principles of the future. Whereas classical science fiction prefers to tell stories of far-away worlds and times to speculatively explore the unknown future (and the status quo of their own present), contemporary literature is increasingly interested in such fictions that confront their readers not with the radical strangeness of faraway worlds, but instead with conceptions of the future that closely resemble our current reality.

But how, precisely, do contemporary literature’s speculative futures look like? What forms of representation and styles of writing are being employed? How are authors modelling events, turning points, and temporal structures? And to what extent are established differentiations—between utopia and dystopia, between realism and speculation—being put to the test or even subverted?

The event series “Always Near” is a cooperation between the project Neighborhood in Contemporary Berlin Literature at the ZfL and the University of Potsdam starting in fall of 2022. The different formats (readings and talks, podium discussions, and the closing conference) explore the question of what kind of future the most recent works of contemporary literature present us with. They will take place across different locations in Berlin.


Fig. above: Julien Girard: Mars, 2099?, 2012, © ESO/J. Girard, License: CC BY 4.0.