In his late works Félix Guattari emphasizes the concept of ecology as tool for analysis and pragmatic proposition for contemporary societies. In The Three Ecologies he outlines three tendencies as mental, social and environmental ecologies. All three ecologies play a crucial role in what Guattari conceives as the nucleus for the transformation of society: the production of subjectivity. This article starts from Guattari's ecological conception of aesthetic practices, which he calls eco-art, to further investigate contemporary forms of activism and their techniques. Through a close reading of the ‘human microphone’ and early footage from Zuccotti Park, the Occupy movement provides the ground for a re-actualization of Guattari's ecological project. Asking how contemporary technologies integrate into the ecologically open production of subjectivity the authors develop an account of activist eco-art as part of a ‘post-media era’. They propose such a post-media era where technologies as ecological techniques for the production of subjectivity transform the political and social context in which we live.
Across disciplines, scholars are overturning objectivist approaches to the environment in favour of theorizing the agency and liveliness of matter. The ecological promise of these ‘new materialisms’ is to invite dialogue among a wider host of agents, raising the possibility of an ethics that binds humans to the material entities upon which our livelihoods depend. However, any vision of global environmental justice is incomplete without engaging longstanding indigenous philosophies of materiality. The authors devote the first portion of this essay to an analysis of why it has been difficult for the ‘new materialisms’ to incorporate indigenous intellectual traditions into discussions of non-human agency, focusing on contemporary arts discourse. They then turn to a discussion of recent works by Native North American artists Jimmie Durham, Rebecca Belmore, Will Wilson and Jolene Rickard, which incorporate indigenous understandings of material with an acute awareness of the contemporary, global challenges of co-habitation.
This text is an artwork meditation on the question of what constitutes ‘Indigenous People’ in a world defined by nations, nationalities and states. Across the media these appear to be ‘people who need help’, such as the Ainu in Japan, Aboriginals in Australia, Sami in Scandinavia, Negritos in the Philippines and so on. The author reports on his work in the 1970s at the Human Rights Commission of the UN headquarters in Geneva, where his brief was intended to be a twenty-year project investigating Europe's invasions and colonization of the peoples of North and South America. He concludes that the real ‘world problem’ is not indigenous people but boundaried nations, so often created against stateless peoples, and asks, what if we had a world law against the buying and selling of land; if the earth is the earth and not a commodity?
Can we establish public policies to ensure access to food? Deciding this basic moral question assumes that we have a proper understanding of the relationship between access to food and survival – a relationship made more complicated by the human-made, climate-ravaged Anthropocene age in which we now live. This article focuses on three stories of projects concerning access to food – two from the Arctic and one from the desert. These investigative projects attempt to build frameworks of resistance to habitat-loss and the revitalization of ‘land-as-home’ that can provide home and food to all the species with whom we share the earth.
The 1970 Bhola Cyclone in Bengal remains a paramount example of the entanglement between ecological violence and history of the state. This article claims the cyclone as an actor in the national liberation of Bangladesh. Continuing with the idea that nature has voice in political ecology, the aim of the article is to examine environmental activist practices in Bangladesh. Fields examined include cyclone shelters, the shipbreaking industry of Chittagong, where the object of capture is iron, and the deep sea gas blocks in the Bay of Bengal contested by India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, where the space of cyclone doubles as a resource for global capital. By recognizing the entanglement of objects such as cyclone, iron and gas in environmental activist practices the article attempts to bring the agency of nature to humanitarianism-led environmental politics in Bangladesh, and to a renewed political ecology of the global south.
As a rapidly developing Asian country, Turkey suffers from a lack of education about environmental issues and the absence of a widespread environmentalist movement that might exert pressure on the government to conserve its diminishing natural resources. Artists and cultural producers are trying to fill this gap by making works that speak to the issues threatening Turkey's environmental health. Rather than limiting environmental awareness to the country's educated urban elites, effective change can only be achieved at a mass level by involving the country's rural populations and recent urban immigrants, and by recognizing them as active agents in environmentalist struggles. An appeal to more far-reaching historical perspectives, traditional modes of knowledge and indigenous modes of subsistence may be required to build a coalition that can bridge ethnic, class and geographic divides. This article looks at the works of some Turkish contemporary artists and film-makers, including the xurban_collective, Halil Altındere, Rüya Koksal, Osman Sisman and Özlem Sarıyıldız, whose works engage such strategies.
The effects of oil exploration in the Niger Delta region in Nigeria have attracted serious concern on a global scale, largely thanks to the initiative of Ken Saro-Wiwa. In spite of the activities of environmental activists the region remains an epitome of environmental disaster. This has given rise to an impressive body of work by poets and visual artists enunciating the environmental challenges in this oil-rich region. The authors examine the common thread that is shared in this corpus within the larger context of education in eco-aesthetics and social responsibility, considering the relationship that currently exists between oil-producing communities and the multinational oil corporations. This position is anchored on the insights offered by current thought in eco-ethics and eco-aesthetics. Previous efforts to ameliorate these effects failed; what is now required is a strong synergy between aesthetic/environmental education and social function.
Supply Lines is an international media, art and research platform that investigates contemporary resource ecologies. The project brings artists, architects and photojournalists with substantial research experience on globalization together with theorists working in the areas of geography, art history and cultural theory. It aims to generate new audiovisual media, texts, and cartographies, as well as to debate this material in a series of symposia, exhibitions and publications, all of which will culminate in a web-based platform to be launched in spring 2013. The compilation of short texts and visuals for this special issue expands the notion of natural resources – or ‘commodities’ as traders call them – from hitherto geophysical and economic-industrial contexts toward the aesthetic-philosophical arena. The ambition of this collaborative effort is not to mimic a false mastery of the structure of contemporary resource ecologies but to instigate a rethinking of the interrelatedness of concerns, subjects and matters.
This article presents various tendencies in contemporary artistic practice in Asia that responds to the political implications of the ecological. It maps out certain co-ordinates of practice in the region that is invested in the problematic of ecology and the place of the aesthetic in that procedure. Such an effort proposes trajectories of intervention in the political gesture of the cultivation of land; the re-intuition of the city as an ethnoscape within a planet in peril; the conjuncture of the multispecies zone; the gathering of art in processual platforms not necessarily confined to the exhibitionary; and the potential of craft as a vector of the tropic and the social.
This meditation around the themes of Sand, Salt, Tears and Art draws on conversations in a graveyard of aeroplanes in the Mojave Desert, on the shores of the Dead Sea, and in the Baltic Archipelago Sea. It proposes that the interesting task is now for the human species and for art to think of ways out of lamentation. It is not a matter of protecting some people and attacking others, because epidemics, drought, storms, melting ice caps, floods and nuclear meltdowns do not choose to discriminate between their victims, even if the rich and powerful of today choose to fantasize that they do. The only way out lies in the human species (as a species) imagining infinitely different possibilities of how it might produce and exchange. The moment we enter the domain of desire and the imagination, we also simultaneously find ourselves in the realm of the aesthetic. What is art if it is not a tightrope strung between what exists and what we dream about?
Tue Greenfort has made several works dedicated or self-consciously indebted to other artists, but within this body of his work he has turned most frequently to Hans Haacke. This can be seen most explicitly in several works entitled ‘After Hans Haacke’; Greenfort's indebtedness to Haacke is also manifest in numerous other works. How should we understand Greenfort's rearticulation of Haacke's work? What does it mean to work ‘after’ Hans Haacke in this way? The extent and depth of Greenfort's engagement indicates that there is more at stake than polite homage or the artworld pressure to conform to patrilineal legitimation. Greenfort works in the space opened up by Haacke's particular form of conceptual art, but negatively, acknowledging that the historical position embodied by his source is no longer tenable. Greenfort goes beyond Haacke by drawing environmentalism into the immanent problematic of the institutionally critical artwork. As such Greenfort's work can be considered an example of eco-institutional critique.
Planetary dysphoria is the term coined by the author to capture the geopsychoanalytic state of the world at its most depressed and unruhig, awaiting the triumphant revenge of acid, oil and dust. The article considers practices giving expression to this emergent planetary aesthetic, informed by a newfound sensitivity to the real and imagined processes of the earth's destruction and the end of life as we know it. No single or simple politics corresponds to its various expressions; the author draws on examples ranging from W G Sebald's poem Nach der Natur to Lars von Trier's film Melancholia, and from Reza Negarestani's Cyclonopedia to Ray Brassier's Nihil Unbound.
The discourse of ecology and sustainability has gained critical traction in recent years. But how are these concepts framed within the space, language and idea of the exhibition? This panel discussion, moderated by Steven Lam and conducted by email in July 2012, sought to unpack the claims and limits of the ecological, looking specifically at various international case studies, within the practice of curatorial and exhibition studies. The discussion begins with a reflection on ‘DON'T/PANIC’ in Durban and ‘Rethink – Contemporary Art and Climate Change’ in Copenhagen, exhibitions that were organized in conjunction with the climate summits, and provides examples of various anti-oil sponsorship actions and interventions by artists and activists. Panellists include curators Gabi Ngcobo, Jack Persekian, Anne Sophie Witzke, Nato Thompson and the artist collective Liberate Tate.
This roundtable discussion with artist and activist Ravi Agarwal and film-maker and photographer Sanjay Kak, moderated by T J Demos, explores the politics of ecology in the Indian context. The conversation considers, among other works, Kak's film Words on Water (2002), which looks at the issue of big dams and their negative social-economic effects in the Narmada valley; and Agarwal's photographic installation Extinction, which examines the disappearance of vultures on the subcontinent owing to the development of animal pharmaceuticals used to maximize milk production. The conversation critically examines the introduction of neoliberalism in the Indian economy and political context, and the anti-democratic activity of multinational corporations, in relation to the destruction of the natural environment, the growth of economic inequality, and the dispossession of tribal peoples via the governmental-corporate development of mega-dams and industrial mining projects. The discussion revolves around the aesthetic approaches artists have used in addressing such ecological emergencies.
Mexican artists Minerva Cuevas and Eduardo Abaroa describe some of their artworks in a discussion ranging from social ecology and the role of human beings in the destruction of the natural environment, to the contrast between Mesoamerican and Western Civilizations and the development of science and industry. Cuevas opens with the provocative statement that life is overvalued and questions the concept of human civilization, prompting an exchange about the obsolescence and senselessness of the current capitalist system and its global consequences. She talks about her film Landings and her project Not Impressed by Civilization. Abaroa cites his works Destrucción Total del Museo de Antropología and Amphibian-Alphabetic and holds that the development of science is necessary to confront ecological crisis. Cuevas criticizes the current industrial processes and their global effects and proposes a more democratic option, one in which art is a catalyst for real social change.
Third Text is published in print and online by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.