RADIUS
CCA  Center for Contemporary Art and Ecology 

24 February 2024 – 23 February 2025

Year Program 2024

THE LIMITS TO GROWTH

Book Tickets

In 2024, RADIUS presents the year program THE LIMITS TO GROWTH, exploring the relationship between economy and ecology. In five exhibitions, with a coinciding public and educational program, we aim to counterbalance the globalising and totalising effects of advanced capitalism as the prevailing economic system. Together with artists and other stakeholders, we intend to rethink and question notions such as value, desire, abundance and scarcity within our current world that is collapsing under anthropogenic climate change and ecological degradation. How can we resist the totalising effect of capitalism and prioritise well-being over the motive of profit (maximisation)?

THE LIMITS TO GROWTH year programme image by Lisa Rampilli.

AT RADIUS IN 2024

⌀ THE DESIRE FOR A DONUT(ECONOMY)
⌀ BECOMING OTHER
24 FEBRUARY — 5 MAY 2024

The exhibition THE DESIRE FOR A DONUT(ECONOMY) functions as the conversation starter for the 2024 year programme THE LIMITS TO GROWTH. Presenting the work of twelve artists, the exhibition explores a system in which economic and ecological well-being are viewed in conjunction with each other. How does such a more-than-human and climate-inclusive economy, which does justice to a broader definition of prosperity, look like? How do you distribute prosperity in a balanced manner, and what political policies do you implement in a donut economy so that companies actually adopt a regenerative approach? For students in primary education we present BECOMING OTHER, in collaboration with bambi van balen & Branco van Gelder from TOOLS FOR ACTION. Using costumes, extentions and various hands-on assignments, students attempt to embody the role of more-than-human life forms. What does the world look like through the eyes of a woodlouse, a lichen or a bat? In a performative, theatrical and interactive way, students investigate topics such as mass production, environmental pollution and plastic soup.

⌀ FROM RASTER TO VECTOR: THE NETHERLANDS AS PROFIT LANDSCAPE
⌀ PILAR MATA DUPONT & ERIKA ROUX: SCENES FROM THE POLDER WESTERN
18 MAY — 25 AUGUST 2024

The subsequent exhibition FROM RASTER TO VECTOR: THE NETHERLANDS AS PROFIT LANDSCAPE examines the malleability and constructed nature of the Dutch landscape. From the polders and the waterworks to the current nitrogen crisis, the exhibition demonstrates how the Dutch landscape has become entirely indexed on the vectors of advanced capitalism. Is the horizon of profit maximisation any longer sustainable in the Netherlands within the current climate regime? The artists in the exhibition offer a glimpse at the future of the Dutch landscape, in which its rasterised nature and grid-like appearance are subjected to conflicting interests on welfare, prosperity, economy, technology, innovation and ecology. Simultaneously we present SCENES FROM THE POLDER WESTERN, a new large-scale audiovisual installation by artists PILAR MATA DUPONT and ERIKA ROUX. In a series of vignettes, various characters are confronted with mysterious changes in the Dutch landscape, as en ever-expanding landmass that was claimed and taken from the hostile North Sea by humans over the course of centuries. 

⌀ FEMKE HERREGRAVEN: BREATHLESS
7 SEPTEMBER — 24 NOVEMBER 2024

At the start of the cultural season, RADIUS presents a large-scale solo exhibition by FEMKE HERREGRAVEN. In her work, Femke Herregraven investigates how materials, natural resources and geographical areas are incorporated within and subjected to financial value systems, technologies and infrastructures. With existing and newly commissioned work, this exhibition anticipates the future, focusing on the interconnectedness of climate and capital, financial speculation within the global economy and its impact on ecological networks.

⌀ PARADOXES OF PLENTY
7 DECEMBER 2024 — 23 FEBRUARY 2025

The year program concludes with the group exhibition PARADOXES OF PLENTY, which questions if there are alternatives to capitalism, a system that promotes structural inequality and capitalises exclusively on the idea of desire as an insatiable lack. How do you ensure that wealthy people take to heart a social and political message—of scarcity and (self)imposed restraint—that is deemed disagreable, whilst, simultaneously, the majority of the world's population can only dream of having a larger CO2 footprint? The artists in the exhibition PARADOXES OF PLENTY look at this complex social issue, with a critical view of the status quo, consumer activism, and a series of proposals around desire as form of plenitude.

THE LIMITS TO GROWTH YEAR PROGRAM

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The ‘World 3’-model was developed by Jay Forrester of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and represents a complex model of the planet as a single system interlinking the effects and impacts of human activity and material consumption.

“[…] The adventure of these last three centuries can be summed up by the story of a double displacement: from economy to ecology. Two forms of familiar habitats, oikos: we know that the first is uninhabitable and the second is not yet ready for us. The whole world has been forced to move into ‘The Economy,’ which we now know is only a utopia—or rather a dystopia, something like the opium of the people. We are now being asked to move suddenly with our baggage into the new dwelling place called ‘Ecology,’ which was sold to us as being more habitable and more sustainable but which for the moment has no more form or substance than The Economy, which we are in such a hurry to leave behind. […] We are travelers in transit, as displaced masses currently wandering between the dystopia of The Economy and the promise of ecology, in need of an urbanist who can design a shelter for us, show us drawings of a temporary living space on Earth.” — Bruno Latour

INTRODUCTION

In 1972, the now-famous report The Limits to Growth was published by the Club of Rome. Founded by a group of intellectuals and major industrialists, the club commissioned a team of MIT scientists, led by Donella and Dennis Meadows, to investigate the relationship between the exponential growth of our material consumption and its impact on Earth's climate and environment. The report, which was the first ever to use computer simulations, studied several scenarios set in the future, examining the future impact of resource and food consumption. The premise of the report: within a few decades, Earth's resources will deplete. At the time, the Club of Rome's report had a major impact in The Netherlands. To keep the Earth habitable, we need to control economic growth, proclaimed prominent politicians such as Joop den Uyl: “The unbridled operation of the profit motive has led to a parasitic upward production. We thought we were getting rich, but we became poor, poor in available living environment, in welfare”. Currently, fifty years later, the implementation of the report's core message has been relegated to the background. This is partly due to short-term thinking in politics concerning the government budget deficit and employment opportunities, the rise of the neoliberal doctrine proclaiming that everyone benefits from more growth through the trickle-down mechanism, and the lobbying of big companies who prioritise profit maximisation.

Different issues of The Limits to Growth publication.

Departing from the The Limits to Growth report, the 2024 year programma of RADIUS explores the relationships between economy and ecology. Through five exhibitions, a public and education programme, we aim to counterbalance the global and totalising effects of advanced capitalism as the prevailing economic system. By harnessing the propositional and imaginative capacities of artists and other stakeholders, this annual programme aims to re-evaluate notions such as value, desire, abundance and scarcity in the face of climate change and ecological degradation. How can we resist the totalising effect of capitalism and prioritise well-being over the profit motive?

CONTEXT

“The concept of progress is bankrupt. It is part of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment philosophy, which proclaimed that capitalist development would bring prosperity to the world. Behind the idea of progress there was the assumption that social life, beginning with economic activities, would be organised according to rational, scientific principles. The child of the scientific revolution was industry, which opened up immense resources and was supposed to improve all the tasks necessary for our reproduction. This involved a complete devaluation of the past. Improvement was conceived as only occurring in the future; past knowledges, customs were totally devalued.” — Silvia Federici

Current socio-economic and political paradigms within advanced capitalism are all unabatedly based on the underlying assumption that economic growth is necessary to maintain a certain degree of welfare and wellbeing. In that respect, economic growth means an increase in real production—which has a negative impact on society as a whole, as well as the environment and climate—because it implies that gross domestic product (GDP) as an economic indicator must increase exponentially, as otherwise we will enter a period of economic recession. Up until this moment, governments and companies are doing all they can to justify and encourage an increase in material wealth. Economic growth as the sole indicator of progress, development and social welfare, measured through an increase in the GDP, has thus become the obsession of governments, politicians and policymakers, informed by the idea that increasing economic growth creates the conditions for a better life, eradicates poverty and reduces unemployment. The fact that the GDP does not distinguish between good and bad economic activities and that a higher GDP directly correlates with higher carbon emissions is mostly ignored. As scientist and Green Growth advocate Sam Fankhauser argues, “GDP is a worthless measure of human flourishing: it is a measure of production, not a measure of human happiness. A car accident is good for GDP growth.” Additionally, governments, politicians and policymakers still define “health” in an economy as a stable and high growth rate. According to these paradigms, limits and deficiencies of energy and natural resources which impede growth, as well as “symptoms” such as climate change, will be overcome once we manage to transform them through innovation and the deployment of new technology. This way of thinking is often called ‘technological optimism’ or ‘resilience politics’: stabilising an exclusively human-centered system for the sake of maintaining the known level of welfare and comfort. Though the question remains: with technological innovation, are we not just stretching the limits of a system that is already overburdened, especially when it perpetuates the over-indebtedness to the fossil-fuel economy?

Contrary to the general framework of economic growth, new economic models have been developed in recent decades, the best-known examples being the circular economy, green growth and the donut economy. Put bluntly, advocates of the ‘circular economy’ would promote recycling without residues, where advocates of ‘green growth’ are convinced that there are always solutions to decouple economic growth from pollution and ecological destruction in some way. Despite the fact that these models do operate normatively, that is, within planetary boundaries, and effectuate a limit to growth and profit, whilst simultaneously encouraging sustainable forms of growth such as an increase in wages, it remains to be seen whether these models will enable us to meet the goals (within the limited time left) of the Paris Agreement.

The RADIUS 2024 year program aims to highlight the need for greater economic awareness of ecological impacts and dependencies and, vice versa, the need to make ecology more resilient to economic forces, incentives and constraints. Such an approach is vital in order to bring about a shift in consciousness on the apparent contradiction between caring for our environment and caring for ourselves. Within the social and political debate on the relationship between welfare, climate and economy, an apparent dichotomy is still present, between the need for systemic change on the one hand, and the importance of consumer activism on the other. With systemic change, priority is given to fixing socio-economic flaws within existing systems, overturning precisely those systems, and proposing alternatives to them: it is a range of proposals advocating for climate policies that do justice to ecological and social limits. In consumer activism, the responsibility for system change is instead attributed to consumers, in order to emancipate them and have them collectively combat the climate crisis and ecological degradation through individual impact (such as changes in their consumption patterns and lifestyle). In both attitudes, the person ultimately responsible differs: is the government or the consumer leading?

In 2024, RADIUS examines the field of tension surrounding systemic change and consumer activism and asks: How do you breach feelings of hopelessness and despair present among consumers and citizens? After all: How can one live sustainably in an unsustainable system, where the Dutch government, for example, already grants more than forty billion in fossil subsidies alone? On the other hand: How do you get affluent people to take to heart a political message—one of scarcity and (self-)imposed limit—that are deemed confronting and unwelcome, whilst the majority of the world's population can only dream of a larger carbon footprint? Is there an economy that can provide a society, in its broadest sense, with well-being, prosperity and abundance, albeit bound by ecological limits, or is such a system an illusion? How do we shift from (green) growth and profit maximisation to a more holistic economic system in which shareholders become stakeholders and consumers become citizens, thus mediating between ecological and economic interests in a reciprocal and altruistic manner?

  1. Quote from Jaap Tielbeke, We Waren Gewaarschuwd (Amsterdam: Das Mag), 2022, p. 27. 
  2. Quote from Sam Fankhauser from the panel discussion 'How to Save the Planet: Degrowth versus Green Growth?' (2022), with Jason Hickel and moderated by Kate Raworth. See video (link)
  3. Paraphrased from Lisa Doeland, ‘We waren gewaarschuwd, maar we hebben niet geluisterd’, Groene Amsterdammer, February 2022. 

THE LIMITS TO GROWTH year programme is curated by Niekolaas Johannes Lekkerkerk, with assistance from Sergi Pera Rusca.

THE LIMITS TO GROWTH year program has been made possible with the support of the Mondriaan Fund, Municipality of Delft, Gieskes-Strijbis Fonds, Het Cultuurfonds, Stichting Zabawas, Van der Mandele Stichting, Stichting Mr. August Fentener van Vlissingen Fonds. We thank them all kindly for their support!