Futurological Congress - Energy: The Universal Currency
Energy connects us all. The 2nd Futurological Congress by the Center for Advanced Studies and Festival Transart allowed this to be experienced through scientific lectures, song and dance performances and video installations.
When the Polish author Stanisław Lem wrote his science fiction novel "The Futurological Congress" in 1970, he probably did not realise that decades later a format just like this would take place in the small Alpine city of Bolzano. "Energy: The Universal Currency" was the theme of the Futurological Congress on 16 and 17 September 2021 at the NOI Techpark. For the second time, the Center for Advanced Studies of Eurac Research and the Festival Transart invited to this special format, where research and art, technology and culture met. The previous year, the congress was dedicated to an equally relevant topic, that of humanity in the age of artificial intelligence.
For more than a generation, climatologists have known what we are facing. In order to prepare for this future, the cooperation and energy of all will be needed, said Roland Psenner, President of Eurac Research, emphasising the interdisciplinary orientation of the Futurological Congress. Indeed, in this edition, the Congress tried to touch on all facets of the topic of energy. In view of the threatening situation in which humanity and planet Earth find themselves, a lot of attention was given to physical energy, global energy consumption and our more than problematic way of economic life. Speakers included Graeme Maxton, environmental economist and former Secretary General of the Club of Rome, Harald Desing, environmental engineer at the Empa – Swiss Federal Laboratories for Material Science and Technology in St. Gallen, and Wolfram Sparber, head of the Institute for Renewable Energy at Eurac Research. They all emphasised that the switch to renewable energies is not a utopia of the future, but - for example, through the use of solar energy - is already possible and absolutely necessary today. The technologies are available, what is missing is the will of the big players in politics and business as well as the awareness in our individualised society.
The building industry and urban planning were the focus of Areti Markopoulou's presentation. Existing buildings are responsible for as much as 40 percent of energy consumption in the EU, the architect and urban technologist stressed. She presented various examples of how building and architecture can contribute to a climate-friendly future - among other things, by not only using nature as a model for design, but by planning design with nature.
For mountain guide Michaela Egarter, nature is her immediate workplace. The effects of our current way of life and climate change are clearly noticeable on the mountain, she described in conversation with Harald Pechlaner. The energy we draw from nature must be returned to it with respect, she said. Fabio Pacucci, astrophysicist at Harvard University, already looked beyond our terrestrial borders. He spoke about his research on black holes and their importance as the most efficient energy sources in the universe. In a distant future, they could enable humanity to live on other planets as well, to establish galactic trade and communication relations - provided, of course, that we don't blow ourselves out first.
Small herds of beach animals, so-called Strandbeests, could soon be on the move without any human assistance at all. At least if their creator Theo Jansen has his way. The Dutch artist combines evolutionary bionics and engineering sciences in his fascinating kinetic art objects. At the Futurological Congress, he not only presented his various herds, but also vividly demonstrated the ways in which they come to life.
Back in the here and now, Karin Frick, futurologist and trend researcher at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute, spoke about social energy as a driving force for innovation and sustainable development in regions. If our economic conditions are met, we make social decisions. People go where there is something going on, where they meet others who in turn stimulate them with their ideas and from whom they can learn. Frick emphasised that we need a change from competition to cooperation if we want to solve the problems of our time.
Sybille Trawöger, theologian and environmental technologist, also spoke of relationality as the key. People are always in energetic exchange with their environment. What is indispensable for dealing appropriately with the ecological crisis is to look at "intraaction", i.e. not to focus on the poles of subject and object, but on what happens between the poles, between people and people, people and the environment. One has to make the interconnectedness of the human being perceptible in order to be able to react to it.
Walter von Lucadou spoke about reactions and energies of a completely different kind. The physicist and psychologist is considered an expert in researching so-called extrasensory phenomena and deals with the psychological contexts and so-called embodiment disorders that can cause such alleged perceptions.
Artistic energy was unleashed by the dance company Liquid Loft with a performance that burst out of the audience and returned to it like an energetic wave, just like the American vocal artist Daisy Press, whose singing was first streamed live from the Marienberg monastery into the NOI Techpark, but who also performed directly on stage in Bolzano on the second day of the congress. Christoph Grund inspired on the piano. Similar to a silent film, he accompanied the film Mountain & Maiden by Shmuel Hoffman & Anton von Heiseler.
The Futurological Congress, in collaboration with the video artist Stefano Di Buduo and the Stadttheater Ingolstadt, set off an entire firework or light show at the church tower in Lake Reschen. The impressive light installation "Underwater" revived the ghosts of the past and made it clear how deeply this special culture of remembrance still moves the people of Vinschgau/Val Venosta today. The work of art was made possible with the help of the volunteer fire brigades of Graun/Curon Venosta and Reschen/Resia, the municipality of Graun/Curon Renosta, the Reschen/Resia Tourism Association and Oskar Light.
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