Monochrome Green: On Eco-Aesthetics, Reductionism and Abstraction

Roberdeau, Wood. 2018. 'Monochrome Green: On Eco-Aesthetics, Reductionism and Abstraction'. In: Green, The European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts 12th Annual Conference. Copenhagen, Denmark 13 - 16 June 2018. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

The Deep Ecology movement and what is currently the Green Party were founded in the early 1970s; both have argued a return to environmental monism and their green banner was primarily flown against the newly visible prevalence of global pollution. Nicolás García Uriburu even employed a green monochrome, raising eco-critical awareness through artistic activism. This paper considers the Zeitgeist from an art-theoretical perspective, weighing the impact of selected works on current climate change discourse and remobilized ideologies of ‘greening’. In a re-reading of James Lovelock, Bruno Latour reminds us that the ‘Gaia Hypothesis’ in fact ‘unlocked the explanatory power of reductionism,’ demonstrating a multiplicitous world rather than a monistic ecosphere. In contemporary art, such a principle of reduction might be understood as an eco-mimetic principle, one that turns to natural phenomena and phenomenological questions of perception. I ask at what register do humans comprehend the elements and dimensions of the non-human world? How are such encounters comprehensible without reliance on the themes of repair and restoration? By exploring shifts within environmental aesthetics and politics, I argue that certain artworks establish a tension with Timothy Morton’s recent critiques of Deep Ecology and that they also resonate with the materialist turn championed by Diana Coole, Samantha Frost and Jane Bennett. The intuitively experimental framings of ‘nature’ in selected practices inhabit the same discourse of ‘reorientation’ shared by these theoretical positions. Accordingly, works are analysed in relation to the nature/culture divide they attempt to bridge; the adoption of a certain environmentalism approaches the categories of ‘system’ and ‘field’ identified by Morton as holistic models that delimit subjectivity and creative impact in the world through unintentional romanticism.

Nevertheless, I argue that objects and installations also speak to what Coole and Frost identify as the first theme of New Materialism; namely, a post-humanism by which ‘matter itself’ is ‘a lively or exhibiting agency.’ The paper ultimately determines how ‘eco-aesthetics’, akin to Deborah Bird Rose’s writing on ‘shimmer’ and Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s conceptualization of a prismatic rainbow, continues to inform the challenge of achieving materialist proximity, direct engagement, or what Bennett calls a ‘material vitalism’; one that includes subjects and nonhuman agents as co-producers or ‘materialists living as earth.’

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Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

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Visual Cultures


13 June 2018Completed

Event Location:

Copenhagen, Denmark

Date range:

13 - 16 June 2018

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Date Deposited:

15 Mar 2024 15:23

Last Modified:

15 Mar 2024 15:23


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