Author:
Oscar Miyamoto

The exhibition "Poetics of Survival" brings us the Umwelten of animals

A multidisciplinary student exhibition emerged under the leadership of Timo Maran, Professor of Ecosemiotics and Environmental Humanities, as a result of an interdisciplinary research project and a semiotics master's course. The course combined semiotics, natural sciences, and methods of creative inquiry. The exhibition, opened on 9 May, presents the Umwelten of animals to the public. It is also part of the Prima Vista and the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 programmes and will remain open until 20 June.

The mass extinction of species is one of the most significant manifestations of the global environmental crisis. Often, we are unaware of these disappearing species because there are no cultural representations or expressions about them. Therefore, the environmental crisis is not only a topic for the natural sciences, but also a question of deep cultural patterns, texts, and interpretations necessary for understanding these changes in the nature.

The exhibition is the result of an interdisciplinary research project and a two-year master's course titled "Umwelt Analysis and Animal Representations". The course combined the Umwelt theory, known in semiotics, with scientific knowledge about other species, and methods of creative inquiry. Jakob von Uexküll's theory describes the subjective worlds or Umwelten of organisms, revealing the meaning(s) of the world through the perspectives of different living beings. Thus, the common goal of the artworks is to express the Umwelt of animals through cultural means. Viewers are presented with thirteen students’ works in different genres — poetry, paintings, artistic objects, sound, and video installations. The main organiser of the exhibition, Professor of Ecosemiotics and Environmental Humanities Timo Maran emphasises that "Our main aim is to show how combining science and creativity enables the transmission of skills that allow each of us to shape new and more sustainable cultural patterns." 

The exhibition was opened with an English-language panel discussion, focusing on the poetics of survival, endangered species, linking science and creative culture, and inclusive teaching methods. The discussion featured students Marta Kucza, Robertho Paredes and Oscar Miyamoto, as well as Professor Timo Maran and Jane Remm.

The project and exhibition "Poetics of Survival" are part of the international literature festival Prima Vista and the main programme of the European Capital of Culture, Tartu 2024. The development of the course methodology is part of the Estonian Research Council grant  "Meanings of endangered species in culture: ecology, semiotic modelling, and reception“ within which the conference "Traces of Extinction: Species Loss, Solastalgia, and Semiotics of Recovery" will take place on 5–7 June 2024. The conference focuses on the cultural, subjective, and semiotic aspects of extinction and is also part of the Nature Creativity Festival.

There is a detail of the artwork "Memory Catcher" by Oscar Miyamoto on the photo.

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