Nordic Techno-Ecologies (Research Project)



Techno-Ecologies Research Project was implemented successfully and accordingly to the project proposal. Various artistic research activities on social and ecological sustainability took place mainly in rural locations of Baltic-Nordic region, exploring our relations with environments (natural and technological) and the resources available there (energetic, biological, cultural).

I Background and overview of the main project activities

The idea and concept of Techno-Ecologies project initially was developed in Riga, Latvia. The main aim of this project was to initiate and implement different new collaborative production-based activities (that are exploring the idea of “techno-ecologies” from different perspectives) throughout the Baltic and Nordic region. At a later stage the project reached also European level, yet it facilitates its base in Baltic and Nordic countries.

In order to make better visibility of the Baltic / Nordic Techno-Ecologies research project activities, and to distinguish them from several other related and follow-up events, we made slight change in the project title, renaming it – Nordic Techno-Ecologies (Research Project).

The Nordic Techno-Ecologies research project consisted of 3 main activities:

Activity 1 – NORDIC TECHNO-ECOLOGIES WORKSHOPS and other production-based artistic research activities that were exploring “techno-ecological” ideas and approaches from three main perspectives: “renewable energy”, “cultural heritage”, “relational aesthetics”. Altogether 5 sub-activities – workshops and collaborative working sessions took place in both – urban and rural areas of Latvia, Finland and Norway.

Activity 2 – ART OF RESILIENCE CONFERENCE was organized with the intent to introduce the project and workshop results to broader public. The conference took place from October 4-6, 2012 in Riga. It was organized in collaboration with Art+Communication 2012 festival, that was featuring public workshops, performances and exhibition. This activity was also including public presentations of the workshop results in other Baltic, Nordic and European countries.


Scientific and artistic investigations on “techno-ecologies” were also made available through written texts that were selected and published in the 11th edition of “Acoustic Space” publication series. The publication with the title “Techno-Ecologies” came out in October 2012, edited by Rasa Smite, Eric Kluitenberg and Raitis Smits. It also reflected upon process and results of the project, thus disseminating and evaluating the project outcomes.

II Detailed description of the project process and results

Activity 1 – NORDIC TECHNO-ECOLOGIES WORKSHOPS and other production-based artistic research activities was the main activity of the project.

It was featuring a number of artistic research activities and collaborative workshops that specifically focused on scarcely populated, rural and remote areas of the Baltic-Nordic region, aiming to make a link between project participants and local communities.

The project aimed at creating a common ground for people with different background to work together – artists, theorists, designers, environmental scientists, technologists, responsible entrepreneurs and activists primarily from Nordic and Baltic countries –, who are engaged with social and ecological sustainability, renewable energy and rural communities, ecology and soviet military heritage, and other techno-ecologies related issues.

In total 5 subactivities (1 artistic research project, 2 symposiums, and 3 workshops) took place involving about 60 project participants and reaching about 500 people of on-site audience and more than 5000 through different media channels.

(Subactivity 1) November 2011 – September 2012 – Riga and Liepaja, Latvia / Helsinki, Finland: TALK TO ME artistic research project exploring the topic “human-nature dialogue” and “food as energy” topic.

Talk to Me is a plant communication project that encourages people to talk to plants. Scientists have nowadays performed various experiments in order to verify the old assumption that communicating with plants makes them grow better. RIXC artist team have developed a human-plant communication interface, through which people are invited to send encouraging messages to the plants, helping them to grow taller and more beautiful. Throughout the year 2012 live networked installations with growing been-plants, equipped with web-cam, wi-fi connection, loudspeakers and online interface, were set up and publicly presented in different locations, including Helsinki (Finland), Luneburg (Germany), Riga and Ventspils (Latvia), and Stavanger (Norway).

The research phase was carried out by RIXC in collaboration with biologists from Latvian University. Research team consisted of 8 people – artists (Rasa Smite, Raitis Smits, Martins Ratniks), technician (Davis Bojars), filmmaker (Kristine Briede), and producers (Andrew Paterson / Pixelache, Daina Silina, Agnese Baranova / RIXC).

The first public presentation of the project was organized in partnership with Pixelache Festival, taking place in May 2012 in Helsinki, where it was attended by 200 visitors. Public presentation in June in Luneburg reached 80 people, while a presentation in September in Stavanger – 30 people. Two live installations in Latvia during the time period from June to August were viewed by 1600 people – in Riga (Botanical Garden), and about 600 people – in Ventspils (Theater House Juras Varti).

Talk to Me in KUMU museum, Tallin, Estonia, 2011. Photo: Martins Ratniks

(Subactivity 2)  June 1-3, 2012 – Liepaja and Irbene, Latvia: UNKNOWN PLANET workshop was devoted to the theme of “invisible energy”, exploring relationship between information and energy, sound interpretations and visual perceptions.

During this workshop the participants investigated different types of modulation in sound and visualization of electromagnetic waves. The data that was sent and received by the Irbene antenna RT-32 was the main information on which the workshop was based, whereby participants get an immovable amount of material to work with. By transforming this data (both – live and pre-recorded, analog and digital) and exploring its physical properties (electromagnetic waves), participants collaboratively created new soundscapes and audiovisual performances.

The workshop was organized by partner MPLab (Art Research Lab of Liepaja University) and RIXC. It was conducted by Latvian artist Martins Ratniks and musicians Lauris Vorslavs and Girts Radzins from Clausthome collective. Participants included about 20 young artists and students from Baltic countries. At a close of the workshop, the collaborative performance took place, onsite at Irbene Radiotelescope, presented to 70 people audience.

Artist Martins Ratniks and Clausthome collective (Girts Radzins, Lauris Vorslavs) in Irbene, Latvia, 2012.
Unknown planet workshop results in Irbene, Latvia, June 2012. Photo: Martins Ratniks
“Unknown Planet”, presentation of workshop results. Photo: Martins Ratniks

(Subactivity 3) July 26-28, 2012 – Pedvale Open Air Museum and Salinas farm / Kurzeme region, Latvia: RENEWABLE LAB symposium was devoted to “renewable energy” and “rural communities” themes.

Renewable Lab was 3-day symposium that took place from July 26 to July 28 in ‘rural lab’ settings of North-East Latvia. The symposium aimed at exploring the potential of art and science collaboration in the quest for a sustainable future. The symposium gathered together 30 artists and scientists who introduced with their artistic explorations and scientific research in the field of renewable energy technologies. The participants discussed how these two perspectives (art+science) can be combined in order to develop new ideas for collaborative projects.

The event was organized by RIXC. Participants were selected by open call proposals. In total 25 artists, scientists and other activists from Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Belgium, and Serbia participated, including – artists: Rasa Smite (LV), Raitis Smits (LV), Mikko Laajola (FI), Voldemars Johansons (LV), Bartaku (BE), Mia Makela (FI), Christoph De Boeck (BE), Patricia Portela (BE), Aiste Goda Virsulyte (LT), Vytautas Kazimieras Juozenas (LT), Marija Maric (RS), Martins Ratniks (LV), Anna Trapenciere (LV), Maija Demitere (LV), Rihards Vītols (LV), Gatis Vaitovskis (LV); scientists: Dr. Janis Kleperis (LV), Vladimirs Nemcevs (LV), Arturs Gruduls (LV), Ilze Dimanta (LV), Zane Rutkovska (LV); filmmaker: Agnese Ivane (LV), managers: Daina Silina (LV), Agnese Baranova (LV), technician: Davis Bojars (LV).

The event was widely covered by Kurzeme regional press, local television and national radio, thus reaching media audiences of about 5 000 local inhabitants. Also, the video documentation was produced by RIXC and made available online here.

Bacteria battery workshop in Pedvale, Renewable Lab Symposium, July, 2012. Photo: Maija Demitere.
Testing of hydrogen car build by scientists from University of Latvia. Pedvale, Renewable Lab symposium, July 2012. Photo: Maija Demitere

(Subactivity 4) September 13-15, 2012 – Aizpute, Latvia: APPLETHINK symposium took place in cross-section of “renewable energy”, “cultural herritage” and “technology myth” explorations.

This 2-day event was organized by RIXC in collaboration with Pixelache (Finland) and associated partner Serde (Aizpute, Latvia).

The AppleThink – 3-day symposium and creative camp took place in Aizpute, small village of Latvia focusing on creative trans-disciplinary approaches to apples and their diverse use after harvest. The programme schedule included presentations and discussions by artists, curators, science researchers, and community activists who will be discussing different survival strategies ranging from the concepts of ‘downshifting’ and ‘withdrawal’, to the approach of ‘resilience’ and a ‘techno-ecologies’ perspective. The camp ended on the Saturday with a local outdoor market together with local farmers, where the artefacts created during the creative camp were put out for symbolic sale-exhibition. More info here.

Participants included 35 artists, theorists, curators and students from Finland, Norway, Latvia, Poland, Belgium and France: Andrew Paterson (FI), Lily Diaz-Kommonen (FI), Mari Keski-Korsu (FI), Geir Tore Holm (NO), Sossa Jorgensen (NO), Julita Wojcik (PL), Pascal Keiser, Mylene Lauzon (BE), Antoine Conjard, Eliane Sausse, Emilie Gindres (FR), Arturs Gruduls, Zane Rutkovska, Signe Pucena, Ugis Pucens, Rasa Smite, Raitis Smits, Inga Lace, Solvita Krese, Zane Datava, Elza Zida, Daina Silina, Agnese Baranova, Ilva Skulte, Normunds Kozlovs, Kristine Briede, and 6 new media art students from Liepaja University (LV).

The closing event – Apple Market was attended by 150 local inhabitants of Aizpute village and Kurzeme region. The event was also widely covered by local press and regional TV, reaching about 2000 people through these media.

The video-documentation by RIXC was produced and made available online here.

Making of bacteria battery from apple-waste. Aizpute, September 2012. Photo: Didzis Grodzs.
Bacteria battery from apple-waste. AppleThink Symposium, Aizpute, September 2012. Photo: Daina Silina
Andrew Paterson (FI) informs about AppleThink event. Aizpute, Latvia, September 2012. Photo: Daina Silina

(Subactivity 5) October 2012 – Stavanger, Norway: BIOTRICITY workshop, including RENEWABLE FUTURES lecture-presentation during Article Biennale 2012 was exploring both “renewable energy” and “nature-technologies dialogue” topics.

The “Biotricity” workshop aimed at investigating the relation between water treatment and green energy production. The participants of the workshop were introduced with the ‘next-generation’ biotechnology (called – microbial fuel cells / MFC) and how it can be approached and interpreted through artistic perspective and cultural innovation. During the workshop participants themselves were building cells from bacteria living in water, which together created small ‘bacteria-battery’ power-plant. After building the cells, the participants were experimenting with using different energy sources (soil, wastewater), as well as discussing and developing collaborative and conceptual ideas for “bacteria-battery” future design, tools for measuring and modulation that can be used for artistic interpretations, sonifications and visualizations.

The event was organized by iolab (Stavanger, Norway). The workshop was conducted by 3 Latvian artists and scientists – Arturs Gruduls, Raitis Smits and Rasa Smite. 10 workshop participants included Hege Tapio (NO) and 5 more artists and 3 scientists (biologists) from Norway and a researcher from The Netherlands.

Images from making of bacteria battery and resultes, Stavanger, Norway, 2012. Photos: Raitis Smits

Activity 2 – October 4-6, 2012, Riga, Latvia: ART OF RESILIENCE CONFERENCE was organized with the intent to introduce the Techno-Ecologies project and Nordic Techno-Ecologies workshop results to broader public.

The conference took place from October 4-6, 2012 in Riga, in the framework of the  Art+Communication 2012 festival. The conference included lectures and discussions by world renowned visionaries, artists, scientists, art curators and media theorists from Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Belgium, Austria, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, USA and UK, on scientific theories, artistic ideas and „techno-ecological” development scenarios regarding the future of our planet. The conference was complemented by 3 Techno-ecologies workshops for public, which were co-produced in collaboration with the project partners:

Workshop 1: “Edible-Sun-Electric Experiments with Aronia Power Plant” was conducted by Belgian artist Bart Vanderput, and it was produced in a result of Nordic Techno-ecologies workshops (Renewable Lab in Latvia and Pixelache festival in Helsinki).

Workshop 2: “Biotricity – How to generate energy from waste-water” also was a result of the Nordic Techno-ecologies research and workshop activities. It was led by Zane Rutkovska (University of Latvia, Faculty of Biology) and Raitis Smits (artist, RIXC).

Workshop 3: “Resilient dialogs with citizens and the city” was specially produced for this event. It was led by Lina Kusaite (Lithuania), Michel Bauwens (Belgium/Thailand) and Anna Trapenciere (Latvia).

The conference and its 3 workshops in Riga gathered together 80 participants, it reached about 500 people who were attending the conference, workshops and other related events (performances, exhibition), and many more – through publications in press and media.

The festival events, including conference and workshops, were videodocumented and made available online here.

“Art of Resilience” conference in kim? Contemporary Art Centre, October 2012. Photo: Didzis Grodzs
Opening of the “Art of Resilience” exhibition in RIXC Media Space, October 2012.


Scientific and artistic investigations on “techno-ecologies” were also made available through written texts that were selected and published in the 11th edition of “Acoustic Space” publication series. The publication with the title “Techno-Ecologies” which came out in October 2012, edited by Rasa Smite, Eric Kluitenberg and Raitis Smits.

This publication is structured around three thematic sections related to Guattari’s ecological registers, and a fourth that introduces emerging techno-ecological art practices (including reflections upon the process and results of Nordic Techno-Ecologies project activities). It brings together contributions by conference participants as well as other authors, engaging issues of social and ecological sustainability and a deeper understanding of technology as an extension of our techno-phantasmatic desires. Techno-Ecologies thus offers a perspective that can help us chart less hazardous routes into the future than the ones travelled currently.

The “Techno-Ecologies” publication features 15 articles written by 20 authors, and it introduces 6 “techno-ecological” art research projects.

Covers of “Techno-ecologies” volume, Acoustic Space No. 11, English and Latvian editions. Design: Martins Ratniks, publisher: RIXC, 2012.

III Results and follow-ups

In total the project for its 3 different activities (including 5 sub-activities) in 3 different Baltic and Nordic countries (Latvia, Norway, Finland) gathered together 197 participants, involved 3870 people (onsite audience) and reached about 7 000 people through press, TV and radio, and the internet.

Besides media coverage, also video documentations from more important events (Renewable Lab symposium, AppleThink symposium, Art of Resiliences conference and festival, Biotricity project) were produced by RIXC and made available online.

Dissemination of the project outcomes beside public events (Art of Resilience conference, public workshops and festivals) also included written texts, both – scientific research texts and artistic manifestos, that were published in Techno-Ecologies publication.

An other important result of the project includes also new connections that were established between Baltic and Nordic artists, as well as between artists and scientists, and between project participants and local communities. Based on those connections, also new co-projects have been initiated and will be co-produced in order to be showed next year in Riga – European Cultural Capital 2014 programme.

The results obtained during this project, will contribute to further strengthening of the newly established connections between Baltic/Nordic artist and scientist communities. These connctions contain a potential to faciliatate a base for carrying out future collaborative art-science research projects that we plan to co-produce and to show in the framework of the next year’s programme – “Riga – European Cultural Capital in 2014”.