Bruno Latour, philosopher who questioned division between culture and nature, 1947–2022

Bruno Latour. Courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum

Bruno Latour, the French philosopher, anthropologist and sociologist, has died. He was best known for his critique of the apparent division between nature and society within modernity, outlined in his 1991 book We Have Never Been Modern.

In one lecture, published in the 2017 collection, Facing Gaia, Latour explains, ‘We would have to be able to introduce an opposition, not between nature and culture this time (since the incessant vibrations between the two are what drives us crazy), but between Nature/Culture on the one side and, on the other, a term that would include each one of them in a particular case. I propose to use the term world, or “worlding”, for this more open concept, defining it… as that which opens to the multiplicity of existents, on the one hand, and to the multiplicity of ways they have of existing, on the other.’

In 2020 he curated the Taipei Biennial, (with Martin Guinard). Titled You and I Don’t Live on the Same Planet, the exhibition examined how political polarisation and the climate emergency intersect through a series of ‘planets’ inhabited by artists including Yao Jui-Chung, Cooking Sections and Pierre Huyghe.

Having retired from teaching, throughout the 2000s he curated four ‘thought exhibitions’ at Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM), alongside the artist Peter Weibel and others, which investigated the capacity of art to deal with critical issues like the climate crisis. Among these were Iconoclash: Beyond the Image-Wars in Science, Religion and Art in 2002; Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy in 2005; Reset Modernity! in 2016; and Critical Zones: Observatories for Earthly Politics in 2020.

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