Art and Ecology: Unified or Fragmentary?

Allora and Calzadilla, Returing a Sound, 2004

This review of the RSA’s first symposium on Ecology and Artistic Practice was published on Green Museum and provided a rare critical take on what would turn out to be a significant development in the spread of ecological concerns to mainstream contemporary art. What follows is a short extract, please follow the link below for the full version with illustrations.

The theoretical basis and ‘keynote paper’ to the symposium was provided by Gary Genosko, Research Chair in Technoculture Studies at Lakehead University, Canada, who spoke about Félix Guattari’s The Three Ecologies. His paper ranged from the distinction between inter- and trans-disciplinarity to Guattari’s notion of ecosophy, and the need to extend our understanding of ecology from the ‘environmental’ to include the ‘mental’ and ‘social’ worlds. A new subjectivity that could challenge the dominance of consumerism would he predicted be ‘marbled by eco-consciousness’ rather than a representing a ‘single-issue’ eco-logic or one that followed the ‘paper trail’ of the ‘techno-scientific elites.’

Questions and comments from the floor revealed some concern about the lack of urgency and relevance to ecological activism of Guattari’s ecosophy. A lively discussion broke out contrasting the ‘unified vision’ of deep ecology theorist Arne Naess and the ‘fragmented’ approach represented by Guattari. The speaker reiterated his view that ‘fundamental change in how we think’ is only possible through the emergence of ‘dissident subjectivities that become ecologically expressive.’ Simplistic and ‘single-issue’ theories, along with all attempts at a ‘technocratic solution’ to environmental problems are counter-productive, while long-term ecological solutions are to be found in the ‘paradigm of creativity.’

Art and Ecology: Unified or Fragmentary?