#rp20 Speaker Marisa Olson — The environmental and social impact of our “Upgrade Culture”

Photo Credit: Eva Neuzilova

Photo Credit: Eva Neuzilova

Marisa Olson describes herself as an interdisciplinary conceptual artist interested in the "cultural history of technology, the environmental impacts of constant upgrading and the politics of pop culture”. Being a former punk singer her first art projects have been music videos. Mixtapes and zines. She coined the term “Post-internet Art” in order to describe art forms that would not have been possible without the internet and that are dealing with cultural aspects of our connected world.

Her most recent projects deal with new inventions and technological accomplishments and the impact of connected devices on individuals and societies. Look for Marisa on Twitter or check out her Instagram profile.

ASAP—3 questions for … Marisa Olson

We asked Marisa about her keynote at #rp20, the most pressing issues for her at the moment and her recommended readings, music or movies.

What topic will you talk about re:publica?
"Upgrade Culture". A lot of my artwork and writing revolves around the cultural history of technology and the ways in which new inventions or technological objects both reflect and affect us, as I like to say. We're always coveting that harder, better, faster, stronger version of things that we can pull off the assembly line and make our own, having an intimate, productive relationship with until we throw it away and upgrade to the next one. I look at each of these objects like time capsules and ask what information they reveal about us, individually and collectively.

True to this year’s motto—what’s the most pressing issue for you personally at the moment?
What is this constant compulsion to upgrade doing to the environment? The problem is clearest in the consumer object cycle, but it's deeper in terms of our overall dependence on technology and "innovation", from medicine to military defense. Some of this is obviously less easy to let go of. Many people will simultaneously talk about internet access as a human right, fill their homes with the newest IoT objects, but then experience cognitive dissonance about the impacts of e-waste. I include myself in this. I am 100% addicted to the internet and related devices, for research, entertainment, and social connections, but I'm trying to think about my own culpability. We need to start thinking holistically about global health, the health of the planet, and the big picture of these development cycles.

What’s your reading, movie or music recommendation that everyone should check out ASAP?
I am a Donna Haraway superfan. She's best known for her “Cyborg Manifesto”, but her newest book, "Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene", raises a lot of poignant issues. Haraway is a multispecies feminist and approaches life on this damaged planet from a broader base than anthropocentric survival of the fittest. She's really working through a poetics for thinking about how to reframe our relationship to all living beings and how we can collectively (as kin) try to make a more livable future, rather than just setting the whole place on fire and flying to Mars (my words, not hers!).

We’re looking forward to seeing and hearing more from Marisa on stage at #rp20!