Tallinn Botanic Garden


Biotoopia 2023 will focus on the mystical underground networks that contain many edifying messages for society.

Biotoopia 2023 will focus on the mystical underground networks that contain many edifying messages for society.

On 11–13 May in Tallinn Botanic Garden, Biotoopia will introduce various new thought patterns inspired by the mystical underground networks and their edifying messages for society. The keynote speaker of the conference is the acclaimed biologist and bestselling author Merlin Sheldrake from Great Britain.

The main subject of Biotoopia this year is underground networks, but it is not limited to talks on soil as the most species-rich part of the biosphere. Biotoopia’s participants are all invited to actively join the discussions, and we ask some rather unusual questions, such as: how do mushrooms influence the behaviour of an ant through chemical compounds; is the human brain located solely in our skull; and whether the future is a fixed destination towards which we should march in blind determination?

Peeter Laurits, the curator of the conference suggests that the underground ecosphere is an ever-growing source of inspiration and wonder for both science and the human understanding of the environment, which challenges our beliefs about what it means to be alive and connected with nature. ‘The discussion topics proposed by imaginative scientists and artists that think outside the box assign a unified task for all of us — to find collaborative points of connection between nature and society, whose practical applications in various fields would help to bring about changes’, says Laurits.

A good example of that is the book Entangled Life by the conference keynote speaker Merlin Sheldrake (UK), where the author looks at the extremely diverse social processes of the world of mushrooms, and their peculiar, weird, incomprehensible and in many respects not yet studied actions that are inescapable for the functioning of comprehensive ecosystems. Merlin depicts science in such an eye-opening way that this international bestseller may well turn into a biology textbook of the new times. “ There are examples in Estonia, too, of increasing movement towards the systematic unification of natural sciences and education. For example, among the new concepts for state gymnasiums the sustainable models won out. Leading the way is Rakvere State Gymnasium and its head of studies, ecologist Mihkel Kangur, who will demonstrate to us at the conference how the integration of natural sciences into all school subjects can generate changes in our attitudes and viewpoints, and how only through that will it be possible to maintain a wholesome living environment in the future.

Sheldrake and Kangur will be complemented at the conference by philosopher and cognitive scientist Paco Calvo (Spain), and Nigerian writer, philosopher and psychologist Bayo Akomolafe, and professor of art and sustainability Jan van Boeckel (Holland). ‘Mycology and ecology are highly distinguished fields in Estonia and the discussion promises to be lively and exciting’, says Laurits. Additional Estonian experts at the conference are Maarja ÖpikAveliina HelmTimo Maran and Vaim Sarv.

The working language of the conference and its art programme is English; the conference programme and information about the speakers of Biotoopia 2023 can be found on our website www.biotoopia.ee.

Members of the Biotoopia Conference Advisory Board are biologist and semiotician Kalevi Kull (University of Tartu), art historian Sirje Helme (Art Museum of Estonia) and cultural historian Marek Tamm (Tallinn University). The roots of the Biotoopia Conference date back to 1995, when Sirje Helme, Eha Komissarov and Ando Keskküla curated the exhibition Biotoopia. Biology. Technology. Utopia. The conference is organised by the Estonian Anthropocene Center NPO.

Sponsors: Liivalill, Kuuldeaparaadid, Medivar.

Supporters:  Tallinn – European Green Capital 2023, Tallinn Botanic Garden, Estonian Cultural Endowment, Republic of Estonia Ministry of Culture, Republic of Estonia Ministry of Environment, Civil Society Foundation, Muulin, JANKEN WISESPACE.

Partners: Tallinn University, Tartu University, Event Media, Nagel Consulting, Citizen OS, Postimees, Krisostomus, Hop gallery, Hobusepea gallery, Kopli 93.

Biotoopia is organized by the Estonian Anthropocene Center NPO.