Tallinn Botanic Garden


The theme of Biotoopia’s 2023 conference and art program is underground networks

The theme of Biotoopia’s 2023 conference and art program is underground networks

Connecting art, natural sciences, and the environment, this year’s hybrid Biotoopia conference takes place on May 11-13 at the Tallinn Botanical Garden and the Maarjamäe Limestone Bank. Focusing on underground networks, the often unseen ecological assemblages of soil ecosystems and multispecies communities will be discussed by recognized scientists and artists from Estonia and abroad.

During these three days, the conference at the Tallinn Botanical Garden will open the eyes of the audience to the exciting world of underground networks.  “We are yet to realize that the wellbeing of humans is dependent on the wellbeing of other lifeforms and ecological communities. Sufficient living conditions for all are sustained by self-organized assemblages in the biosphere; ecosystems depend on the entangled relations of microbes, algae, fungi, plants, insects, and other lifeforms,” describes artist Peeter Laurits, curator of the conference. “Most of those relations are unmeasurable and unseen. Nevertheless, we are influenced by those underground networks quite directly. Biotopia will bring them to light.”

“The upcoming conference will gaze into the depths of the underground networks around us. By understanding the direct impact that these hidden processes have on humanity, it is possible to learn to cherish and sustain them. The conference is aimed at everyone who is interested in maintaining the diversity of the biosphere and working towards the empathetic coexistence of living and nonliving beings: creative practitioners, philosophers, anthropologists, natural scientists, teachers, pupils, entrepreneurs, as well as any citizen or youth,” Biotoopia organizer Kelli Turmann states.

This year, Biotoopia is honored to welcome the distinguished biologist Merlin Sheldrake, Cambridge University, PhD, as the main speaker of the conference. Sheldrake will dig into the complex life processes of fungi and describe how their lives are closely entangled with other critters. The rest of the program consists of 10 professionals from Estonia and abroad: plant behavior researcher Paco Calvo (Murcia University), ecologist Aveliina Helm (Tartu University), mycologist Maarja Öpik (Tartu University), ecologist Mihkel Kangur (Tallinn University), semiotician and poet Timo Maran (Tartu University) among others.

Whereas the first two days will be filled with presentations and discussions, the Biotoopia art program will take place on Saturday, May 13. Curated by artist and semiotician Anette Pärn and experimental musician Vaim Sarv, the art program invites the audience on a guided journey through the Loopealse Wasteland. This happening will be an interactive, experiential whole consisting of contemporary sound and performance art combined with ancient Finno-Ugric folk singing. On this wasteland on the coast of Tallinn, multiple perspectives will meet, collide, and melt into one another. Held by the force of ritual and oral tradition, we will resist the loneliness of individualism and human exceptionalism. Every act here will intertwine into a collective, relational network. Highlights of the art program include Young Boy Dancing Group, Krõõt Juurak, and a trio of folk singers composed of Janika Oras, Leanne Barbo, and Minni Oras.

The Biotoopia conference will be held in English. Early bird tickets are available until the end of February on the following link:  bit.ly/biotoopia. Program and presenters’ info will be soon displayed on the Biotoopia web page www.biotoopia.ee.

Biotoopia conference is organized by the Estonian Anthropocene Center NGO. The Biotoopia advisory board is composed of ecosemiotician Kalevi Kull (Tartu University), Estonian Art Museum director Sirje Helme, and cultural historian Marek Tamm (Tallinn University). The roots of Biotoopia grow back to the year 1995 when the idea of the groundbreaking exhibition “Biotoopia. Biology. Technology. Utopia” was brought to life by Sirje Helme, Eha Komissarov, and Ando Keskküla.

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.