Goldsmiths - University of London

Ecocritical Art in Times of Climate Change: Tracing Ecological Relationships Between Humans and Nonhumans Through the Hyperextension of Objects

Martin, Julia. 2015. Ecocritical Art in Times of Climate Change: Tracing Ecological Relationships Between Humans and Nonhumans Through the Hyperextension of Objects. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

In recent years, climate change has expanded from a scientific to a broadly cultural concern,
fundamentally questioning ideas of nature, society, and ecology. This thesis looks at the contribution
of eco-art to the discussions, which seems to lag behind current discourses in ecocriticism. An
analysis of selected "climate change exhibitions" shows that, despite its intentions, much of eco-art
keeps recreating the modernist Nature-Society dualism which ecocriticism sees as the main obstacle
for ecological thinking. Meanwhile, ecology models developed in ecocriticism are also far from
resolved. A close look at Bruno Latour's Political Ecology and Timothy Morton's Ecological Thought
reveals for example a theoretical alignment of ecology and democracy, which misjudges the
behavioural capacities of ecological agents in practical ecology. The critique of eco-art and
ecocriticism leads to questions regarding their contradictory artistic and political agency in
environmental discourses. To address these uncertainties, an ecocritical art is proposed, investigating
the identified problems in eco-art: aesthetic distancing, unknown subject-object relationships, fixation
on local environments, and misreadings of practical ecology. Following Donella Meadows' "systems
thinking" approach, the thesis suggests focusing on the investigation of concrete ecological agents
and their systemic behaviour. Rather than theorising relationships between "closed" objects, it
introduces the idea of the "hyperextended object". Hyperextension describes the investigative
expansion of an object into an ecological agent, unfolding it contextually according to its social,
material, and energetic relationships. The practical part of the thesis develops an artistic
methodology, which traces and shapes hyperextended objects through long-term fieldwork,
participant observation, site-specific performative actions, various documentary approaches, and their
convergence in the exhibition. In two case studies exploring the (trans)regional infrastructures, sociopolitical
ontologies, and ecological effects of two hydroelectricity projects in Iceland and Scotland, the
process of hyperextension is shown to include the artist herself, as increasingly embedded ecological

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Additional Information:

Thesis originally submitted in 2014


art, eco-art, ecology, ecocriticism, ecological objects, hyperextension, hyperextended objects, environment, fieldwork, climate change, systemic thinking

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 March 2015

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

24 Apr 2015 13:53

Last Modified:

05 May 2016 15:28

URI: http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/11511

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