Travelling Exhibition
Critical Zones. In Search of a Common Ground

Critical Zones © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan

For a long time the reactions of Earth to our human actions remained unnoticed, and have now finally – not least due to recent international climate protests – moved into public consciousness. The exhibition project Critical Zones invites visitors to engage with the critical situation of the Earth in a novel and diverse way and to explore new modes of coexistence between all forms of life.

The Exhibition Tour

CZ_Kolkata_WT © Canva


Dates: Opening February 16th, 2023
On view till: April 6th, 2023

CZ_NewDelhi_WT © Canva

New Delhi

Touring in 2023

CZ_Bangalore_WT © Canva


Touring in 2023

Downloads and Publications

Critical Zones: Events In South-Asia

Participating Artists

Critical Zones - Ravi Agarwal
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Ravi Agarwal (b. 1958)
has an interdisciplinary practice as a photographer and artist, environmental campaigner, writer, and curator. His work has been shown widely including at the Biennials of Havana (2019), Yinchuan (2018), Kochi (2016), Sharjah (2013), Indian Highway (2009), and Documenta XI (2002). He has curated Indo-European public art projects (Yamuna-Elbe twin city project, 2011 and Embrace our Rivers, 2018), and was photography curator for the Serendipity Arts Festival (2018/19), New Natures: A Terrible Beauty is Born (Goethe-Institut Mumbai, 2022), and Imagined Documents (Les Recontres d’ Arles, 2022). In addition, Agarwal has also published photography books and artist diaries. He is the founding director of the environmental NGO Toxics Link ( and recipient of the UN-IFCS Award for Chemical Safety, and the Ashoka Fellowship.

Critical Zones - Alexandra Arenes & Soheil Hajmirbaba
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Alexandra Arènes
(b. 1984) and Soheil Hajmirbaba (b. 1968) are cofounders and members of Studio SOC. Alexandra holds a PhD in Architecture from the University of Manchester. She studies the Critical Zones as a new paradigm to understand landscapes and their mapping at the scale of the Earth’s cycles, which can be called a Gaia-graphy. Soheil is an architect and urban planner at Atelier Shaā. He advocates a vernacular production of architecture, from territory to building, inviting to consider architectural materialization as an outcome of field investigations and anthropological travels. Studio SOC focuses on long inquiries emerging from field practices and involving a network of actors from various disciplines. Currently, the three main inquiries Terra Forma, Où atterrir?, and CZO, Critical Zones, lead to the production of various multimedia outputs (books, workshops, installations, cartographies, etc.). SOC’s main objective is to contribute to fostering exchanges between arts, sciences, and architecture.

Critical Zones - Heinrich Karl Wilhelm Berghaus
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Heinrich Karl Wilhelm Berghaus
(1797 –1884) was a German geographer who founded the Geographische Kunstschule in Potsdam and trained several German geographers and cartographers who were pivotal for their discipline in the late 19th century. He was also an associate of Alexander von Humboldt, publishing some of Humboldt’s maps in his atlases. Berghaus’ production of those atlases was influential, especially the Physikalischer Atlas, published in multiple editions in the 1830s–1840s. Its thematic maps were pioneering, which provided information on flora, fauna, climate, geology, and many more factors.

Critical Zones - Sonia Mehra Chawla
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Sonia Mehra Chawla (b. 1977) is a multidisciplinary artist and researcher based in New Delhi. Working at the intersection of art and science, Chawla’s artistic practice explores notions of ecology, sustainability, and conservation through a multispecies lens. Chawla’s recent exhibitions include The Beauty of Early Life (ZKM | Karlsruhe, 2022), New Natures: A Terrible Beauty is Born (CSMVS Museum Mumbai in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Mumbai, 2022), Evolutionary Potential (Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, in collaboration with the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin, 2022), The Rooted Sea (Summerhall, part of Edinburgh Science Festival 2022), Entanglements of Time & Tide (Castle Mills, Edinburgh Printmakers, in collaboration with Marine Scotland, Creative Scotland, and ASCUS, 2021), Driving the Human, (Radialsystem, Berlin, 2021), Essl Collection (Albertina Modern, Vienna, 2020), Fragile Kinships (Embassy of Switzerland, New Delhi, 2019), The Undivided Mind (Khoj International Artists’ Association, Delhi, 2018), The World In The City (ifa-Galerie Stuttgart, 2017), and the Yinchuan Biennale 2016.

Critical Zones - Rohini Devasher
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Rohini Devasher
(b. 1978) trained as a painter and printmarker, works in a variety of media including video, prints, and site-specific drawings. Devasher’s films, prints, sounds, and drawings map the antagonism of time and space, walking the fine line between wonder and the uncanny, foregrounding the “strangeness” of encountering, observing, and recording both environment and experience. Her work has been shown internationally at various institutions like the Open Data Institute London (2022), the Rubin Museum New York (2021/22), the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts (2021), the Kaserne Basel (2019), the MACBA Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (2018), the Spencer Museum of Art USA (2016 and 2018), the MAAT Museum of Art and Technology Lisbon (2016), and the ZKM (2016). She was also represented at the 14th Sharjah Biennial Leaving the Echo Chamber (2019), the 7th Moscow Biennale (2017), the 5th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial (2014), and the 1st Kochi Biennale (2012).

Critical Zones - Martin Dornberg
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Martin Dornberg
MD, PhD, (b. 1959) is a German philosopher and medical practitioner in the field of psychosomatics and psychotherapy. Dornberg is interested in intercultural exchange on issues of care, migration, de/development and kinship with Gaia. In doing so, he addresses the question of how stories, philosophies, and different kinds of artworks and performances can create meaningful meshworks that help foster comprehensibility and manageability in different worlds. Since 1989 Dornberg is a lecturer in the Philosophy Department and at the Centre of Anthropology and Gender Studies (ZAG) of the Albert-Ludwigs-University, Freiburg im Breisgau. Since 1998 he has been the director of the Centre of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy at St. Josefs Hospital, Freiburg, and of the Consultation-Service for Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy of the St. Josefs and the Loretto Hospitals in Freiburg. In collaboration with Daniel Fetzner, Dornberg has created several artistic-philosophical works. He is also a founding member of the research group mbody for artistic research in media, somatics, dance, and philosophy.

Critical Zones - Daniel Fetzner
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Daniel Fetzner
(b. 1966) is a media studies scholar and media artist from Baden-Baden, Germany. He understands his artistic explorations as speculative search movements for the terrestrial in the sense of the French philosopher Bruno Latour. In his ongoing research cycle DE\GLOBALIZE, he uses situationist interventions as both a method and a tool for reflections on media. He holds a W3-Professorship at Offenburg University with a focus on arts-based research. He has been invited as a guest artist to the ZKM | Karlsruhe (2007 and 2021) and also to the Indian Institute of Science (2014 and 2018). Fetzner has many years of teaching experience in Egypt, India, and the United States. He was a lecturer in media ethnography at Freiburg University and is head of the Media Ecology Lab. Fetzner is also a founding member of the research group mbody for artistic research in media, somatics, dance, and philosophy.

Critical Zones - Forensic Architecture (FA)
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Forensic Architecture
(FA) (founded 2010) is a research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London, which investigates human rights violations including violence committed by states, police forces, militaries, and corporations. FA works in partnership with institutions across civil society –grassroots activists, legal teams, international NGOs, and media organizations – to carry out investigations with and on behalf of communities and individuals affected by conflict, police brutality, border regimes, and environmental violence.

Critical Zones - Pauline Julier
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Pauline Julier
(b. 1981) is an artist and filmmaker. In her works Julier explores the links that humans create with their environment through stories, rituals, knowledge, and images. Her films and installations are composed of elements of diverse origins (documentary, theoretical, fictional) to restitute the complexity of our relationship to the world. Her installations and films have been screened at contemporary art centers, institutions and festivals around the world, including the Centre Pompidou (Paris), Loop (Barcelona), Visions du Réel (Nyon), Tokyo Wonder Site (Tokyo), Museum of Modern Art in Tanzania, Geneva Art Center, Palazzo Grassi (Venice), New York, Madrid, Berlin, Zagreb, Cinémathèque de Toronto, and the Pera Museum in Istanbul. Julier had a solo exhibition at the Centre Culturel Suisse in Paris (CCS) in 2017. She completed a year-long residency in Rome in 2020 at the Instituto Svizzero.

Critical Zones - Sonia Levy
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Sonia Levy
(b. 1982) practice focuses on site-based cinematic inquiries and interdisciplinary collaborations, fostering multiple perspectives to consider new worlds. Her work queries Western expansionist and extractivist logics while tending toward critical forms of engagement with more-than-human worlds. She has exhibited in the UK and internationally, including shows and screenings at Centre Pompidou, Paris; ZKM | Karlsruhe; Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris; Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris; ICA, London; BALTIC, Gateshead; Obsidian Coast, Bradford-on-Avon; Goldsmiths, University of London; The Showroom, London; Pump House Gallery, London; Art Laboratory Berlin; HDKV, Heidelberg; Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA; Verksmiðjan á Hjalteyri, Iceland; and The Húsavík Whale Museum, Iceland. Her work has been published by MIT Press, Thames & Hudson, Antennae Journal, The Learned Pig, Billebaude, Verdure Engraved, and has appeared in NatureCulture and Parallax journals.

Critical Zones - Armin Linke
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Armin Linke
(b. 1966) is a photographer and filmmaker who combines a range of contemporary image processing technologies to blur the border between fiction and reality. Linke indagates the formation – the Gestaltung – of the natural, technological, and urban environment in which we live. His oeuvre – photographs and films – function as tools to promote awarenes of the different design strategies. Through working with his own archive, as well as with other media archives, Linke challenges the conventions of photographic practice, whereby the questions of how photography is installed and displayed become increasingly important. Linke was a research affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA, guest professor at the IUAV Venice, and a professor at the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe (HfG). He is currently a guest professor at ISIA Urbino, guest artist at Arts CERN, and artist in residence at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Firenze – Max-Planck-Institut. Linke’s works have been exhibited internationally.

Critical Zones - James E. Lovelock
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
James E. Lovelock
(1919–2022) trained in chemistry, medicine, and biophysics, and is the author of over 200 scientific papers, distributed almost equally among topics in medicine, biology, instrument and atmospheric science, and geophysiology. He applied for more than 40 patents, mostly for detectors for use in chemical analysis. Lovelock’s first interest was the life sciences, originally as medical research but towards the end of his life more and more in geophysiology, the systems science of the Earth. His second interest –instrument design and development –often interacted with his first interest, to the mutual benefit of both. After a career in academia, at age 45 he became an independent scientist, collaborating with many colleagues on topics of planetary research and environmental issues. His work for the NASA lead to the formulation of the Gaia hypothesis in the 1970s.

Critical Zones - Lynn Margulis
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Lynn Margulis
(1938–2011) was an American evolutionary biologist. She is best known for her serial endosymbiosis theory of the origin of eukaryotic cells, which posits that symbiosis is a driving force of the evolution of life. Although Margulis’ theory challenged (and continues to challenge) Neo-Darwinistic views and was rejected by the scientific establishment for a long time, it is now included in common biology textbooks. Born on the south side of Chicago, she was accepted into the University of Chicago at age 14. Margulis taught as a professor at Boston University and University of Massachusetts at Amherst, among others. She was the author of many books, including Origin of Eukaryotic Cells (1970), What Is Life? (1995), and Symbiotic Planet (1998). Together with James Lovelock, Margulis also developed and refined the Gaia hypothesis.

Anuradha Mathur (1960–2022) and Dilip da Cunha (b. 1958) are founders of the design platform Ocean of Wetness which is directed towards imaging and imagining habitation in ubiquitous wetness rather than on a land-water surface. The shift from surface to wetness has profound implications for design in the face of climate change. Their objective is to resituate not just the future but also our understanding of the past and experience of the present. Art is central to the platform. Mathur and da Cunha have won several awards in their careers. They are the authors of Mississippi Floods: Designing a Shifting Landscape (2001); Deccan Traverses: The Making of Bangalore’s Terrain (2006); Soak: Mumbai in an Estuary (2009), and coeditors of Design in the Terrain of Water (2014). These books accompanied major public exhibitions that form an intrinsic part of Mathur and da Cunha’s design practice.

Critical Zones - Edith Morales
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Edith Morales
(b. 1968) is an artist and activist who reflects on food sovereignty, economic policies of capitalism, and the violence implicit in them. Her work has been included in the Critical Zones exhibition at ZKM | Karlsruhe, Germany; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca MACO; Espacio Lalitho, Oaxaca; Washington & Lee University; Staniar Gallery; Lexington, VA, USA; San Diego Mesa College Art Gallery; San Diego California USA; Museo Internacional del Barroco, México; Manuel Álvarez Bravo Photographic Centre, Oaxaca; Lansing University Michigan, USA; Centro de Las Artes San Agustín, Oaxacan, among others. She is member of the Mexican Sistema Nacional de Creadores 2020.

Critical Zones - Uriel Orlow
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Uriel Orlow
(b. 1973) practice is research-based, process-oriented, and often in dialogue with other disciplines. His projects engage with residues of colonialism, spatial manifestations of memory, social and ecological justice, blind spots of representation, and plants as political actors. His multimedia installations focus on specific locations, micro-histories, and forms of haunting. Working across installation, photography, film, drawing, and sound his work brings different image regimes and narrative modes into correspondence. Orlow’s work has been presented at major survey exhibitions including the Berlin Biennale 2022, British Art Show 9, Kathmandu Triennale 2077, 14th Dakar Biennale, and previously at the 54th Venice Biennale, Manifesta 9 & 12 in Genk, and Palermo amongst others. Recent solo exhibitions include Casa da cerca (2022), Kunsthalle Nairs, Switzerland (2021), La Loge, Brussels (2020), State of Concept, Athens (2020), and Kunsthalle Mainz (2019–2020).

Critical Zones - Rasa Smite & Raitis Smits
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Rasa Smite (b. 1969)
and Raitis Smits (b. 1966) are Riga and Karlsruhe-based artists and researchers, working at the intersection of art, science, and technologies. They are cofounders of RIXC Center for New Media Culture in Riga, cocurators of RIXC Art and Science festivals, chief editors of Acoustic Space journal & book series, as well as cochairs of recently founded NAIA – Naturally Artificial Intelligence Art association in Karlsruhe. In their artistic practice, Smite and Smits work together as an artist duo creating visionary and networked artworks – from pioneering Internet radio experiments in 1990s, to artistic investigations of the electromagnetic spectrum and collaborations with radio astronomers, and more recent “techno-ecological” explorations. Their artworks haven been shown widely including at the Venice Architecture Biennale, Latvian National Museum of Arts, House of Electronic Arts in Basel, Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, and various other venues, exhibitions, and festivals in Europe, USA, Canada, and Asia.

Critical Zones - Cemelesai Dakivali
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Cemelesai Dakivali
(Arsai), born in Tavalan Community (Tashe Village), Sandimen Township, Pingtung County, Southern Taiwan. As he followed the local elders from a young age to hunt in the mountains, he has insightful observations on the color dynamic of the primeval forest. In his early career, he studied art with Sakuliu Pavavaljung, who broadened his horizon. In Cemelesai’s drawings, the plants, fungi, and other forms of vegetation are depicted with a great deal of precision and detail with their geometric and repetitive patterns. The artist recalls his memories of what their shape was because some of the species of plants that he used to see and observe as a child seem to have disappeared today. He therefore creates an inventory, which oscillates between the precision of his observation and the fantasy of what his memories allow him to recall. He recently exhibited in Distances Between Us and the Future, an exhibition of Taiwanese indigenous contemporary art (Taiwan, 2021), You and I Don’t Live on the Same Plane, Taipei Biennial (Taiwan, 2020), and Changing Faces: Traditional Totem of Paiwan, Exhibition Series of Activities (New Zealand, 2019).

Critical Zones - Stéphane Verlet-Bottéro
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Stéphane Verlet-Bottéro
(b. 1987) is an artist, ecologist, and curator. His work deals with experiencing, excentering, and unlearning. His practice extends durationally and socially, weaving shared becomings with people and places. It takes the shape of gatherings, performances, films, and multimedia installations. In 2018, he coinitiated The School of Mutants, a collaborative art and research platform in Dakar. His work has been exhibited at ZKM | Karlsruhe; Centre Pompidou Metz; 12th Berlin Biennale; 14th Dakar Biennale; RAW Material Company, Dakar; Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam; 12th Taipei Biennial; 7th Oslo Triennale; Le Lieu Unique, Nantes; CIAP Vassiviere; Science Museum, London. He collaborates regularly with the ZKM | Karlsruhe and has also had institutional collaborations with Taipei Fine Arts Museum, NA Project, Institut Kunst at FHNW Basel, and Documenta 13.


Peter Weibel © Christof Hierholzer

Peter Weibel

Peter Weibel (*1944) is the Chairman and CEO of ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, director of the Peter Weibel Research Institute for Digital Cultures and professor emeritus of media theory at the University of Applied Arts Vienna.

He is considered a central figure in European media art on account of his various activities as an artist, theoretician, and curator. He publishes widely in the intersecting fields of art and science.

His career took him from studying literature, medicine, logic, philosophy, and film in Paris and Vienna and working as an artist to head of the digital arts laboratory at the Media Department of New York University in Buffalo (1984 to 1989) and founding director of the Institute of New Media at the Städelschule in Frankfurt/Main (1989–1994). As artistic director he was in charge of Ars Electronica in Linz (1986–1995), Seville Biennial (BIACS3, 2008), and of Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2011). He commissioned the Austrian pavilions at Venice Biennale (1993–1999) and was chief curator of the Neue Galerie Graz (1993 to 1998).

Peter Weibel was granted honorary doctorates by the University of Art and Design Helsinki, in 2007 and by the University Pécs, Hungary, in 2013. In 2008, he was awarded with the French distinction “Officier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.” The following year he was appointed as full member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts Munich, and he was awarded the Europäischer Kultur-Projektpreis [European Cultural Project Award] of the European Foundation for Culture. In 2010, he was decorated with the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, First Class. In 2013 he was appointed an Active Member of the European Academy of Science and Arts in Salzburg. In 2014, he received the Oskar-Kokoschka-Preis [Oskar-Kokoschka-Prize], in 2017 the Österreichische Kunstpreis - Medienkunst [Austrian Art Prize - Media Art] and in 2020 the Lovis-Corinth-Prize and the TREBBIA-Prize. In 2015 Peter Weibel was appointed as Honorary Member of the Russian Academy of Arts in Moscow.

Bruno Latour © Fidelis Fuchs

Bruno Latour

Bruno Latour (1947 – 2022) was a professor at Sciences Po Paris and director of the TARDE program. In addition to work in philosophy, history, sociology, and anthropology of science, he has collaborated on many studies in science policy and research management.

From 1982 to 2006 he was a professor at the Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation (CSI) at the École Nationale supérieure des mines in Paris and, for various periods, visiting professor at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. Before "Critical Zones. Horizons of a New Earth Politics" in 2020, Bruno Latour curated three major international exhibitions at ZKM|Karlsruhe: "Iconoclash beyond the image wars in science, religion and art" in 2002, "Making Things Public. The atmospheres of democracy" in 2005 and "Reset Modernity!" in 2016. The three exhibition catalogues are with MIT Press.

While being at Sciences Po, he created the médialab to seize the chance offered to social theory by the spread of digital methods as well as, together with Valrie Pihet, a new experimental program in art and politics (SPEAP) now directed by Frédérique Ait-Touati.

In 2008 Bruno Latour received the Siegfried Unseld Prize, in 2010 the Nam June Paik Art Center Prize, in 2013 the International Holberg Memorial Prize, and in 2021 he was awarded the Kyoto Prize.


About the Project

Critical Zones. Observatories for Earthly Politics,  was conceived and exhibited at ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (2020–2022) based on a concept by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel. For the Goethe-Institut South Asia, a travelling adaption of Critical Zones titled Critical Zones. In Search of a Common Ground is co-produced by the ZKM | Karlsruhe, and the Goethe-Institut/ Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai. It shows a selection of artistic positions and is complemented by further works from Indian and Sri Lankan artists. Mira Hirtz and Daria Mille are the curators of the exhibition at Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai.

For a long time the reactions of Earth to our human actions remained unnoticed, and have now finally – not least due to recent international climate protests – moved into public consciousness. The exhibition project Critical Zones invites visitors to engage with the critical situation of the Earth in a novel and diverse way and to explore new modes of coexistence between all forms of life.

In order to remedy the generally prevailing disorientation and dissension in society, politics, and ecology with regard to the changing state of the planet, the exhibition project sets up an imaginary cartography, considering the Earth as a network of Critical Zones. The term Critical Zone is taken from the geosciences and describes the fragile layer of the Earth, its surface, which is only a few kilometres thin and on which life is created. In addition to emphasizing the vulnerability of this thin layer, the term also sheds light on the numerous controversies that have triggered new political attitudes towards it. Created by a wide variety of life forms over time, living organisms interact in these Critical Zones, but also earth, rock, water, and air. Those life forms had completely transformed the original geology of the Earth, before humanity transformed it yet again over the last centuries.

Over the years, scientists have dedicated their research to the Critical Zone. They have made us aware of the complex composition and extreme fragility of this thin layer of the Earth, in which all life forms, humans included, have to cohabit. Critical Zones explores the urgency of bringing together skills, knowledge, disciplines, and cultures to jointly create a cartography of the multitude of Earths and compose common ground. The exhibition simulates on a small scale the model of a new spatiality of the Earth and the diversity of relations between the life forms inhabiting it. The exhibition creates a landscape that makes the public understand the characteristics of the so-called New Climatic Regime, a term coined by Bruno Latour to describe the global situation affecting all living things. Not being limited to ecological crises, the term also includes questions of politics and cultural history as well as ethical and epistemological changes of perspective. In attempt to compose common ground between different disciplines, humans and non-humans, the exhibition aims to steer a debate towards new Earthly Politics.

This special combination of thought experiment and exhibition was developed by Peter Weibel and Bruno Latour in their previous collaborations at ZKM. Their intensive working relationship has spans now more than twenty years. Critical Zones is characterized by an extensive collaboration of artists, designers, scientists, and activists. Art, with all its imaginative, speculative and aesthetic power, takes up the important challenge of developing new forms of representation and options for action in an overall situation that has not yet been clarified.


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