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Do Humans Care for Algae?

The study of algae proves that their evolution is a complex history of intermingled relationships with other species. We might have not noticed them until now, but algae are companion speciesof humans, challenging our conventional understanding of evolution and biological identities. We need to explore notions of symbiosis, “overlapping bodies” (Bruno Latour) and interdependence if we want to place algae and humans in a new cartography of life. How is individuality defined in this context? Who should protect the other? Can we build a new algae mythology for humans?

Do humans care for algae?

While life is still a mystery in many ways, the search for its origin leads us back to the first single-celled blue-green algae that appeared in the oceans about 3,5 billion years ago. Algae developed photosynthesis. They use the energy of the sun to convert carbon dioxide into organic matter while releasing oxygen as a by-product. Thanks to the continuous activities of these first algae the atmosphere slowly enriched in oxygen and became favorable to the apparition of more complex forms of life. Multicellular organisms, plants, animals gradually conquered the oceans, the lands and the airs.

Algae are the real architects of life, currently responsible for more than 50% of the oxygen production on Earth and for a large part of carbon sequestration. They are at the basis of the food chain. Growing in all fresh and sea water as well as in the most peculiar and extreme places on Earth, they have developed fantastic symbiosis strategies to cohabit with other living species. 

Humans – and all living things – are obviously deeply depending on algae. Yet, humans still know so little about those fascinating organisms. While algae are more and more promoted by humans as one miraculous solution to solve the climate crisis, they will most probably outlive humanity… What can we learn from them while we still can? 

At a time when it becomes urgent to rethink how humans cohabit with other forms of life, this research projects intends to explore algae as an ambassador to reframe our understanding of the world.

Algae workshop series

This is the second workshop in a a series of 3 workshops, where we will explore the history and role of the algae on Earth, challenge our human perception of the world and investigate possible relationships with these organisms. In each session, a guest speaker will highlight a specific topic and inspire the participants to explore more-than-human worlds.

Workshop 1 – A History of the World by the Algae
04/09 - 10.00 - 16.00

Workshop 3 – Designing Algae Encounters
12/09 - 13.00 - 17.00

Johanna Weggelaar

Johanna Weggelaar studied general engineering and worked three years in wind and solar energy in France before turning to cultural history. With this double background, she now works on projects at the crossroad of disciplines, aiming at creating a dialogue between different expertise fields, cultures and practices. Since 2013, she is based in the Netherlands where she contributed to curate and produce various international exhibitions that hold a critical eye on technology, society and the environment. In 2017, Weggelaar joined Atelier Luma as project leader for the Algae Platform. In addition to the Atelier, she is researching how to build new narratives and alternative methodologies in a context of climate crisis.

Yogi Hale Hendlin

Dr. Yogi Hale Hendlin is assistant professor in theoretical philosophy at Erasmus School of Philosophy and a research associate in the Environmental Health Initiative at the University of California, San Francisco. Hendlin's research focuses on major questions in philosophy of biology, environmental philosophy, and political philosophy, inflected by public health issues. Hendlin earned a PhD in Environmental Philosophy (magna cum laude) at the University of Kiel, Germany in 2015.

15:00 – 19:00

Het Nieuwe Instituut
Museumpark 25
3015 CB Rotterdam


Free entrance, please RSVP