Trace Carbon

What’s at stake

is the trace of perfume

that has been released.

— “Base Faith”, Harney & Moten


The phrase “trace element” refers to materials and chemicals with very low concentrations. Carbon is literally everywhere on earth — it is anything but “trace” as an element — and yet tracking its flows and tracing its usage has become a global fixation, through marketisation, logistification, footprinting and storytelling.


This traceability of materials — the ability to identify their history, distribution, location, and application — has become a main preoccupation of contemporary ecological, political, epidemiological, conspiratorial, and global supply chain practices (forming, for example, part of the ISO 9000 standard). A “trace amount” for the chemist is one whose average concentration is less than 100 atomic parts per million (ppm); for the biochemist it is a dietary element needed in extremely small quantities to sustain life; for the geochemist it is a quantity that makes 0.1% of a rock's composition.


The technologies we hope to account for, manage and engineer carbon (dioxide) are driven by the things that drive all human technological development — human impulses, desires, values, systems, institutions, economics, power equalities and inequalities. There are personal stories in the re-composition of carbon as a new kind of traceable currency, ambiguous stories of human attentions and passions, greed and interests, benevolence and care for the element number 6. If the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions, the very least we can do is pave them with carbon sequestering cement.


The workshop Trace Carbon is largely a discussion format, framed around the markets and techniques for carbon measurement and management currently proposed and underway in environmental, ecological, governmental, industrial and technological contexts. There will be a short assignment and AFK reflections / assignment done by the group during the approximately 3-hour session.


The workshop features presentations of ongoing related work, and a ‘reader’. The workshop itself will involve recordings of ‘carbon traces’ — stories by and with participants — to be published in some form through the Cycles of Circulation project, compiled and edited by Caroline Sinders.


Workshop length:
3 hour session (2 hours online, 1 hour research/assignment)


Workshop Materials can be found at AMRO20 Workshop Repository

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Workshop Materials can be found at AMRO20 Workshop Repository

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