ART SCIENCE dialogue | Oscar Santillán, Pepijn Brandon and Lisa Ausic, moderator: Katja Kwastek

February 28, 2024 | 4-6 PM

In collaboration with the Amsterdam Sustainability Institute and the Environmental Humanities Center Amsterdam, the VU ART SCIENCE gallery has invited scientists to take part in a moderated dialogue with the artists exhibited in Life of Plants. The ART SCIENCE dialogues explore the multifaceted relationship between humans and plants. The talks will investigate various dimensions of the plant world such as their therapeutic aspects, their role in shaping landscapes and identities, the impact of categorization and colonial exploitation, and the intersection of technology with the botanical world. As a whole, the dialogues investigate how we can create a more sustainable future, by gaining a deeper understanding of both our local environment and the life of plants.

In this ART SCIENCE dialogue Oscar Santillán, Lisa Ausic and Pepijn Brandon will examine the complexities of colonialism in relation to our experience of nature. The dispossession of land and botanical practices are part of the colonial legacy, but how are they connected? Santillán’s work, Forecast, (on display at the gallery) symbolizes the link between colonial botany and modern environmental destruction. Illustrating the continuity between historical botanical exploitation and the current deterioration of the planet, the metal structure holds six monitors and a ‘colonial garden’, featuring plants from European colonies.

Colonialism has left enduring imprints on our societies, cultures, and ecosystems, that still impact how we interact with and perceive nature. Addressing these impacts requires acknowledging that colonial powers exploited natural resources for economic gain. In addition, promoting sustainable practices, respecting diverse perspectives on nature would be steps forward to a more harmonious relationship with the natural world.

This discussion will be moderated by professor Katja Kwastek.

The event takes place in the VU ART SCIENCE gallery. Registration is not necessary, but appreciated. Sign up here

This event is part of a public programme of the exhibition Life of Plants.


Oscar Santillán, visual artist, employs a transdisciplinary approach connecting scientific fields, cosmologies, and non-human perspectives. Through his work he explores lost science episodes, suppressed colonial knowledge, indigenous wisdom, and non-Western sci-fi, fostering unconventional narratives. Santillán collaborates with scientists, programmers, indigenous thinkers, anthropologists, and biologists, shaping his practice to navigate the emerging future and understand the complex conflicts on our planet.


Prof. dr. Pepijn Brandon, professor of Global Economic and Social History at VU Amsterdam and senior researcher at the International Institute of Social History, is renowned for his work on the intertwined histories of capitalism and mass violence. He focuses on war, dispossession, and slavery. Currently, his research delves into the global comparative perspective of land dispossession in the Dutch Empire.


Lisa Ausic is a PhD candidate at the department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at VU Amsterdam. Her work deals with the poetics and politics of human-vegetal relations and multispecies intimacies in contexts of (post)colonial violence in the Peruvian Amazon. In her current doctoral research, she traces the processes that make Shipibo-Konibo herbalism into a mode of cosmopolitical negotiation and anti-colonialist resistance  in the context of an extractive-capitalist ayahuasca tourism industry.


Prof. dr. Katja Kwastek is a professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at VU Amsterdam. Her research focuses on processual, digital and post-digital art, media history, theory and aesthetics, and the digital and environmental humanities. She specializes in intersections of art, new media and technology.