Medien|Denken – Sam Nightingale – Attuning to the Politics and Poetics of Seaweed (Audio)

24.10.23 |SAM NIGHTINGALE (Royal College of Art, London / UK)

Attuning to the Politics and Poetics of Seaweed


In this talk, artist-researcher Sam Nightingale immerses us in the world of seaweeds – ancient algae that sense and store vast amounts of information about the changing environment in their flexible cells. With a billion-year-old history inscribed within their morphology, seaweeds function as a planetary archive, providing a critical biomarker of environmental and climate change. As we face continuing climate crises and excess carbon in the atmosphere, we find seaweeds’ ability for photosynthesis and carbon capture more crucial than ever. Yet, at the same time, seaweeds are being harvested at unprecedented scale for industrial and biotech use. Seaweeds’ capacity for sensing, storing and transforming light and carbon will allow Nightingale, in this talk, drawing on a growing body of environmental media theorists (Melody Jue (2021); John Durham Peters (2015)), to place seaweed and photography in the same media ecology. Showing images from recent fieldwork in the Scottish Hebrides, he will elaborate on the photochemical potential of seaweeds as a creative methodology to focus on climate change, biodiversity and sustainability in marine environments, one that entangles the politics and poetics of sensing with art-based research.

Biographical Note

Sam Nightingale is an artist-researcher working within environmental media. He works with creative methodologies to re-imagine and re-image the spectral-material complexities of settler colonialism, extractivism and their ongoing environmental, ethical, and political impact on human and more-than-human worlds. His practice uses experimental forms of photography and speculative fieldwork to explore the geopolitical interface between history, ecology and the image. Nightingale is the co-editor of the book Fieldwork for Future Ecologies: Radical Practice for Art and Art-based Research (Onomatopee, 2022). Invitations include ‘Sites of Scattering’ – Lüderitz, Namibia; Ecology of Senses – Bioart Society, Finland; California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles. Nightingale is a PhD candidate at Goldsmiths, University of London (Media, Communication & Cultural Studies & The Centre for Research Architecture). He is an Associate Lecturer at the Royal College of Art, School of Architecture, and involved in various interdisciplinary projects, including running field-labs with scientists, geographers and social scientists in Europe and Australia.

IfM - Institut für Medienwissenschaft
IfM – Institut für Medienwissenschaft
Medien|Denken – Sam Nightingale – Attuning to the Politics and Poetics of Seaweed

Natascha Frankenberg