Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Jonas Staal: 94 Million Years of Collectivism

13 March 2023, 6:00 pm–7:30 pm

Jonas Staal 94 Million Years of Collectivism

A guest lecture and screening of 94 Million Years of Collectivism by artist Jonas Staal for the first Research Week of the Socialist Anthropocene in the Visual Arts (SAVA), with responses by John Sabapathy (UCL History / UCL Anthropocene) and Anna Barcz (Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of History). Moderated by Maja and Reuben Fowkes (Postsocialist Art Centre UCL).

This event is free.

Event Information

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All | UCL staff | UCL students






Institute of Advanced Studies


IAS Common Ground
G11, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building
UCL, Gower Street, London
United Kingdom

94 Million Years of Collectivism centres on the geological period known as the Ediacaran. The Ediacaran spans 94 million years (from 635 million years to 541 million years ago), and precedes the Cambrian period, which for a long time was credited to be the era that birthed complex lifeforms. It was only in the mid-twentieth century that Ediacaran fossils were discovered and identified as possibly belonging to a geological time frame of its own, a fact that was finally recognized in 2004. While the Cambrian period is characterised by an explosive diversification of species with predation being the primary modus operandi, the Ediacaran constituted an interdependent non-predatory ecology. The current conditions of global capitalism are often naturalised through Neo-Darwinian narratives that uphold extractivist predation as the primal evolutionary drive. But the Ediacaran faces us with a fundamentally different collectivist ecology. Is it possible that in imagining more egalitarian forms of life, we simultaneously dream the Ediacaran?

Socialist Anthropocene in the Visual Arts (SAVA) sets out to radically transform current critical debates around the Anthropocene, addressing the major lacuna in existing accounts by establishing the Socialist Anthropocene as a conceptual framework that asserts the constitutive role of the environmental histories and potentialities of Socialism in the formation of the new geological age. The project is led by Dr. Maja Fowkes (UCL Institute of Advanced Studies) and funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) under the UK government’s Horizon Europe funding guarantee.

Image: Jonas Staal, 94 Million Years of Collectivism (2022). Courtesy the artist.

About the Speakers

Jonas Staal is a visual artist whose work deals with the relation between art, propaganda, and democracy. He is the founder of the artistic and political organization New World Summit (2012–ongoing). Together with Florian Malzacher he co-directs the training camp Training for the Future (2018-ongoing), and with human rights lawyer Jan Fermon he initiated the collective action lawsuit Collectivize Facebook (2020-ongoing). With writer and lawyer Radha D’Souza he founded the Court for Intergenerational Climate Crimes (2021-ongoing) and with Laure Prouvost he is co-administrator of the Obscure Union. His projects have been exhibited widely at venues such as the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, M_HKA in Antwerp, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Centre Pompidou-Metz and the Nam June Paik Art Center in Seoul, as well as the 7th Berlin Biennale, the 31st São Paulo Biennale and the 12th Taipei Biennale. Publications include Propaganda Art in the 21st Century (The MIT Press, 2019) and Training for the Future Handbook (With co-editor Florian Malzacher, Sternberg Press, 2021). Staal completed his PhD research on propaganda art at the PhDArts program of Leiden University, the Netherlands.

John Sabapathy is Professor of History and works on the comparative history of Europe/Christendom primarily in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. He also works on the Anthropocene (the proposed epoch in which humans became geological forces globally) and co-convenes UCL Anthropocene – a major initiative in this area. His monograph Officers and Accountability in Medieval England, 1170-1300, a study of English officers in a European context, won the Royal Historical Society's Whitfield Prize for 2015. An edited collection on Individuals and Institutions in Medieval Scholasticism was published in 2020. John is working on two projects. One is a wide-ranging study of thirteenth-century Europe for the new Oxford History of Medieval Europe series. The second explores the place and contribution of history in the Anthropocene. 

Dr hab. Anna Barcz is trained as a philosopher and literary scholar with long interests in geomethodologies and environmental humanities. She currently works as an Assistant Professor at the Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw (in the Department of Historical Atlas); she was the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow at the Trinity Long Room Hub (Trinity College Dublin), and Rachel Carson Centre Fellow (LMU, Munich). Her books include: Environmental Cultures in Soviet East Europe: Literature, History and Memory (Bloomsbury 2020); Animal Narratives and Culture: Vulnerable Realism (CSP 2017) and Ecorealism: From Ecocriticism to Zoocriticism in Polish Literature (in Polish, 2016). She has been serving as PI of a few research grants that reconceptualise human-nonhumans relations.