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Lecture “Under Afghan Eyes: Stories of Plants and Paints”

Published: May 24, 2024; Author: Julia Sonrisa

 June 11, 2024    07:00 PM-08:00 PM EDT

Address: 172 Classon Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11205, United States

Lecture “Under Afghan Eyes: Stories of Plants and Paints”

In his lecture, Amir follows the mundane entanglements of two nonhuman entities from Afghanistan: a rock that forever changed Western art history (lapis lazuli), and a rather uncharismatic-looking plant (gandana) that continues to enrich the lives of ordinary Afghans. By interrelating materiality and metaphorology, Amir connects notions and histories of distance and proximity, minerals and myths, plants and paint, revolt, and hope.

Indeed, cultivating plants in itself is an exercise in hope; without the prospect of a real tomorrow cultivation today would make no sense. But while conventional representations of Afghanistan have long depicted its physical topology as arid and mountainous, and its social landscape necropolitically as a “graveyard of empires,” this lecture strives to break through the profound poverty of Western tropes that have monoculturally framed most perspectives on Afghan spatiality. Taking into account the eminent role that plant life has played in vernacular culture and imagination, and relating it to broader transcultural and countercultural currents between Afghanistan, Europe, and the Americas, Amir will trace the relations that unfolded, with utopian and sometimes dystopian perspectives, between plants and people at different points of time — before focusing on the local variety of the “taxonomically chaotic” branch of the leek family, special greenery that won’t allow itself to be separated from its relations of production.

Similarly, color is not zero meaning, it is the excess of meaning. Perhaps this is precisely why philosophy long distrusted the shimmer of colors. As the unsteady color of things that changed their appearance with the light. As mysterious pigments whose formulas were secret for a long time, whose origin from plants, animals, and minerals usually remained ambiguous, and which sometimes came from distant, nameless countries. As suspicious dyes were considered diabolical because mixing, stirring, and blending went against the divine order. After Newton demystified colors and, later, the petrochemical revolution that disciplined the unruliness of paints, today everything shimmers through our screens in a billion colors. But who dyed for us? And what histories have been left out?

We invite you to a gathering at e-flux that will approach “the posthuman” not as an external critique but as an immanent constitution, and understand Afghanistan as a paradigm of contemporary contradictions. We will ask: What is the place of nonhuman life in histories of transculturality? How are seeds, plants, and their cultivation related to violent histories of migration? How is the construction of Western subjectivities related to certain forms of understanding of non-Western plant life? How are animals and animality related to a material understanding of colors? What are the necessary conditions for the development of a noncolonial historicity of colors, paint, and dye?

Fahim Amir is a philosopher and author living in Vienna. His research focuses on topics of nature cultures, art, and urbanism; and questions of coloniality, transculturality, and cohabitation. He has co-edited Transcultural Modernisms(Sternberg Press, 2013) and wrote the afterword to the German edition of Donna Haraway’s Companion Species Manifesto (Merve, 2016). Amir’s study Schwein und Zeit (2018, engl. Being and Swine) was awarded numerous international prizes and has been translated into several languages. Recent publications include the Manifesto for Solidarity of Animals and Humans in Urban Space(ARCH+, 2021), and contributions to the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles, 2022), the 58th Carnegie International (Pittsburgh, 2022), the Mumok — Museum more modern Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (Vienna, 2022), and the Biennale Architettura (Venice, 2023).

For more information, contact [email protected].


  • Two flights of stairs lead up to the building’s front entrance at 172 Classon Avenue.
  • For elevator access, RSVP to [email protected]. The building has a freight elevator that leads into the e-flux office space. The entrance to the elevator is nearest to 180 Classon Ave (a garage door). We have a ramp for the steps within the space.
  • e-flux has an ADA-compliant bathroom. There are no steps between the event space and this bathroom.

Time: 7:00 pm EST



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