Experiments in Eco-poiesis: The Long-term Praxis of herman de vries

Roberdeau, Wood. 2019. 'Experiments in Eco-poiesis: The Long-term Praxis of herman de vries'. In: Experimental Engagements: Society for Literature, Science and the Arts 33rd Annual Conference. University of California Irvine, United States 7 - 9 November 2019. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

For decades, visual artist herman de vries has invested in a principle of reduction or what might be (mis)understood as an eco-mimetic worldview. Departing from his involvement with the neo-avant-garde ZERO group of the late 1950s and early 1960s, which focused on the ‘deconditioning’ of the viewer through the enhanced presentation of the ‘zero-point’, ‘open gate’, or ontological transparency of things, the former botanist turned to natural objects and materials and to phenomenological questions of perception, allowing him to explore alternative pathways to knowledge through a wide variety of gestures, assemblages, and installations. My paper explores this transition that occurred during the mid-1970s alongside shifts within environmental aesthetics and politics from then and now. Through a selection of works, I argue that de vries’s praxis establishes a tension with more recent critiques of ‘deep ecology’ and resonates with the materialist turn championed by Karen Barad and others. The intuitively experimental framings of ‘nature’ by the artist inhabit the same discourse of ‘reorientation’ shared by these theoretical positions. Accordingly, his oeuvre is analysed in relation to the nature/culture divide he strives to bridge by affirming its negation. While his adoption of a certain environmentalism engages the categories of ‘system’ and ‘field’ identified by Timothy Morton, it also connects with Maria Puig de la Bellacasa's interest in tactility and Frédéric Neyrat's articulation of wildness. I argue that the resulting objects and their exhibition histories also speak to what Diana Coole and Samantha Frost have identified as the first theme of New Materialism; namely, a post-humanism by which ‘matter itself’ is ‘a lively or exhibiting agency.’ The paper ultimately seeks to determine how de vries’s definition of ‘art’ continues to inform the challenges facing a human to non-human set of co-produced proximities and direct entanglements.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

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Visual Cultures


7 November 2019Completed

Event Location:

University of California Irvine, United States

Date range:

7 - 9 November 2019

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Date Deposited:

15 Mar 2024 15:48

Last Modified:

15 Mar 2024 15:48



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