The Powers That Be publication

The Powers That Be takes as its point of departure the knowledge of the body and the manifestations of physical energy.  Energy in this context is treated more as a prerequisite for life and for any human activity than as a commodity or resource. The Powers That Be does not so much use the act of destabilization as a method or analytical tool as it takes for granted that all we can rely on is change. Knowledge is always in the state of becoming: it is never ready and can never be fixed.


The publication, edited by Ilari Laamanen and designed by Johanna Lundberg, includes written work by cultural ecologist and geophilosopher David Abram, artist and researcher Vappu Jalonen and media theorist Jussi Parikka, and features artworks by Marcel Mariën, Erkki Pirtola, Mika Taanila and Danila Tkachenko. 


Futurologist Jim Dator points out that quite often the most important breakthroughs and progressive ideas emerge on the fringes of society and culture, or within cultures quite different to ours. Dator talks about the importance of trying to see things that are barely visible: information and ideas that are more often than not  in the recesses of the mind of a scientist or engineer or the concerns of an artist, poet or unpublished novelist. The Powers That Be taps on this kind of thinking that can not be always characterized as strictly scientific or valid according to the existing ways of categorizing and arranging information and knowledge, but that instead finds its strength from intuition and tends to cross boundaries of the more conventional and oftentimes rigid ways of thinking. 


The Powers That Be publication was produced on the occasion of the exhibition, The Powers That Be, curated by Ilari Laamanen, on view at the Station Independent Projects in New York City, July 17–August 9, 2015. The exhibition and publication were realized as part of the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York’s (FCINY) 25th Anniversary program focusing on the theme of Urban Nature. Kindly supported by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. Exhibition supported by Frame Visual Art Finland. 

More information about The Powers That Be exhibition here and here



The interesting and paradoxical term Urban Nature combines two traditionally opposite concepts of city and nature, and provides a fruitful tool for analyzing the local nature. Urban nature is generated by humans and nature together and therefore it can be understood as hybrid nature originating from the interaction between human and non-human factors. It helps noticing the presence and importance of nature in the urban environment and as a significant part of the inhabitants’ everyday lives. For the urban planning it provides a tool for creating and cherishing rich and multilayered spaces for urban living. 


Whereas The Powers That Be project focuses on the physical energy and direct connections to our habitat, be they natural, human made, speculative or virtual, The Urban Nature symposium  will explore themes of urban ecology, energy circulation, urban planning, and urban art dealing with nature through research and visual arts. The symposium will be organized in collaboration with FCINY and The Environmental Studies Program at The New School, and will take place during the month of architecture, Archtober, in New York, on the 17th of October, at New School’s Auditorium at 66 W 12th Street.


The significance of local nature for the citizens, and access to urban nature has been emphasized during recent years. This can be seen in both aesthetical, recreative and sanitarial aspects, as well as in the direct necessity to use the urban nature for controlling the urban space in the age of the climate change. Broader green spaces and urban forests are important for the biodiversity of nature, and at the same time adjacent, small-scale elements of nature such as balcony and window plantations and easily accessible public places are essential for citizens. The central role of parks and gardens connects many cities: The allotment gardens and urban farming in Helsinki differ from the community gardens and urban agriculture in New York, which have become highly popular during the 21st century. Signs of the latter are already appearing also in Helsinki. In the symposium, Finnish and American researchers will bring together their respective analyses of different aspects of nature encountered in urban environments. 


The symposium will also explore the relevance of site-specific artworks executed in the urban space and introduces Finnish and American contemporary artists’ relationship with the urban nature. The program combines presentations on research, art and design; the speakers are professionals from the multidisciplinary field of urban nature research from Finland and USA. 


The Urban Nature symposium will include a presentation of Smog Tasting, a project by Center for Genomic Gastronomy and Edible Geography. Smog Tasting is based on on the idea of making urban air quality tangible by harvesting air from highly polluted areas and serving it in meringue form. FCINY presented the project for the first time as part of their 25th anniversary program at the New Museum's IDEAS CITY Festival on May 30, 2015. 

More information about the Urban Nature symposium here

Images from Danila Tkachenko’s Escape series. The Powers That Be publication by FCINY

Excerpt from Vappu Jalonen’s Ether, Dirty. The Powers That Be publication by FCINY 

Excerpt from Jussi Parikka’s article DIY Duturology: Kurenniemi’s Signal Based Cosmology. The Powers That Be publication by FCINY

The Powers That Be publication by FCINY (editor Ilari Laamanen, designer Johanna Lundberg)