- Date: November 25, 2023
- Location: Auditorium, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, 798 Art Zone, Beijing
The Berggruen Research Center at Peking University, in partnership with the Ullens Center of Contemporary Art (UCCA), proudly presents the lecture series Rupture and Reconstruction, a complement to two large-scale exhibitions at UCCA focusing on modernism: Matisse by Matisse and Modern Time: Masterpieces from the Collection of Museum Berggruen / Nationalgalerie Berlin.
For the fourth lecture in this series, Dr. WU Guosheng of Tsinghua University and Dr. SUN Zhouxing of Zhejiang University will engage in a lively dialogue contemplating humanity’s relationship with its earthly home and the wider universe. Dr. WU will discuss the productive tension between two innate yet conflicting human desires—“setting out” to encounter the mysteries of the universe beyond our planet and “settling down” here on Earth—from the perspective of the history of science. Dr. SUN will draw from philosophies of technology to analyze the primal human impulse to “leave Earth and head towards the universe,” as well as humanity’s inevitable resistance to the limits that destiny would impose.
“Leave Earth, head towards the universe” is an inherent demand of modernism and a manifestation of the modern spirit, yet this idea is grounded within a homogenous view of the universe. The heterogeneous cosmology envisioned by the Greeks, i.e., the cosmos as a finite spherical, hierarchically differentiated whole, was used until the Renaissance. The Copernican revolution broke the cosmic order established by this heterogenous view of the universe, and further promoted the recognition of the infiniteness of the universe and its homogeneity. This dramatic conceptual shift planted the seeds for humankind’s development of modern aerospace technology.
Beginning with Descartes and extending to Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, philosophers have considered human will as forming the core of human subjectivity. Nietzsche called this subjectivity the “will to power” (der Wille zur Macht), a concept that captures the essence of modernity and functions as a driving force of modern science. While scientific progress has continued to develop and accelerate, technological innovation rooted in anthropocentrism has also led to profound crises, such as climate change and ecological collapse, sparking a new awareness of humanity’s existential entanglement with Earth and how our very survival depends on the health of our home planet. As a result, environmental consciousness has defined a new Zeitgeist and comprised a core theme of contemporary issues in international politics.