independent school for the city


The Independent School for the City is one of the contributors to the Vienna Biennale for Change 2021 themed ‘Planet Love. Climate Care in the Digital Age’. Building upon educational activities that we organized in collaboration with Dirk Sijmons and Herman Kossmann, we developed a 1,5×1,5m cube portraying four different views towards the Anthropocene.

If we agree on living in the ‘Anthropocene’, the age of mankind, how do we react to this novel condition? The answer depends greatly on how we see our planet and how we fathom the position of mankind. One extreme is to see the world as a passive backcloth for our actions; the other is to recognise the living planet as a fierce actor. Humankind can be seen as a modest, pointless species or – the other extreme – as an almost omnipotent geological force. Between these extremes, an infinite number of perspectives are possible, of course.

A typology can be constructed when one considers these two sets of extremes as the vertical and horizontal axes of a matrix with four quadrants, each representing a specific philosophical world view: Denialism, (Eco)modernism, Posthumanism, and Anthropocentrism 2.0. These axes expose the ideological fault lines of the environmental debates of the 21st century. All four positions are present in society, be it with wide-ranging representation.

On the left side of the matrix, some 90% of the environmental discourse can be placed. With denialism being an unsustainable position in the end and (eco)modernism increasingly failing to provide answers to the problems of the Anthropocene, our project wants to draw attention to the possible alternatives: Posthumanism and Anthropocentrism 2.0. This is all the more urgent because a large part of the design community still lingers on the (eco)modernist dream that economic growth can coexist with decreasing the ecological footprint and that most environmental problems can be solved with technical means. As a teaser, the black box to your right will offer a close encounter with these four worlds.

Citizens of the Anthropocene is the Biennal contribution of the Independent School for the City in Rotterdam, created in collaboration with Dirk Sijmons and Herman Kossmann. It is based on a book chapter by Dirk Sijmons (‘In the Anthropocene Site matters in four ways’ In: ‘Site Matters’ (2021, Routledge)) and is designed by Herman Kossmann, Dirk Sijmons & Léa Chénot. The concept was developed as part of the educational programme Dirty Old Town; Act Now! (by Michelle Provoost, Wouter Vanstiphout, and Mike Emmerik) that was carried out between February and April 2021.