Toward an Ecological Critique in Art? On Art Criticism in Times of Ecological Crisis

On August 29th 2013, I presented a paper entitled “Toward an Ecological Critique in Art? On Art Criticism in Times of Ecological Crisis”, at the 11th conference of the ESA (European Sociological Association) in Turin, Italy. (The presentation shared some insights I gained thanks to a number of ecological art practitioners. I will soon work towards a publishable article/text on this topic, so that the insights from these artists, curators and critics/writers can be more widely shared.) I also chaired two sessions within the ‘Sociology of the Arts’ research network, which included some interesting presentations.

Lasting from August 28th to 31st and with 2500 participating sociologists around the theme of “Crisis, Critique and Change”, the conference included many interesting presentations from all areas of European sociology, including (but not limited to) the research networks and streams I could visit at the conference, i.e. sociology of the arts, cultural sociology, environment and society, sexuality, and also a research stream on post-growth transitions.

At the ‘business meeting’ of the ESA Research Network ‘Sociology of the Arts’, we gave the first edition of our PhD student paper Award, and I was re-elected for another two years as board member. The new chair of our board is Dan Eugen Ratiu and the new vice-chair is Ian Sutherland. Next year, in early September 2014, Dan Ratiu will be organizing the next ESA Arts conference, in Cluj, Romania! (The call for papers will be released in November… and announced also on the Cultura21 website.)

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4 responses to “Toward an Ecological Critique in Art? On Art Criticism in Times of Ecological Crisis

  1. Thanks Sacha,
    Would love to see your new paper, I’m finding so much in your books for my practice-these eco art forest project excellent, thanks for all your work

    • Thanks Cathy! The ‘paper’ is now just a series of powerpoint slides and handwritten notes… I still have to convert it into a readable text, and add more stuff into it to make it worth reading 🙂 I’ll try to work on it soon! (I’d like to also integrate your insights into this, if you have time. Sending you an email in a few minutes…)

  2. I am very interested in your ideas about how culture and complexity are merging (or need to merge). My perception is that classical, modernist linear reductionism has been a mode of mentality our western culture has been stuck in for several centuries. And I believe people are finding it difficult and confusing to “emerge” out of it.

    Technology seems to be one critical cultural driver. While many (and I too, sometimes) bemoan the pace that the computer/telecom era seems to be pushing us and the transaction of interpersonal communication becomes smaller and smaller, from personal letters, to emails, to instant messages, etc. This is just one example of the evolution in our culture from long, linear to short, chaotic transactions.

    Few seem to be aware that this change is happening and how we’ll need to adapt to where we are (it would appear) blindly heading. We are in a transition moving towards I do not know what.

    My field of interest is Big History. Big History is a muddle. The concept is good. Expand human history to a universal scientific meta-narrative which attempts to place human history in the context of the entire course of creation from the big bang to the present.

    The pedagogy is organized around thresholds of emergent complexity which describe important transitions from gas clouds to stars to planet formation to life to ecologies to humans to civilizations.

    As you can see, the “muddle,” as I see it, is this mixing of a linear sequence of evolution from stars to civilizations, step-by-step, with the idea of complexity and emergence. Can we really say that complexity contributes to this deterministic reduction? Are we correctly describing our universe and our cultures and civilizations and even ourselves by talking about a SEQUENCE in which chaos, complexity and emergence play supporting roles?

    I don’t know. I am hoping I might find some answers in your latest book or papers.

    Thanks for any suggestions.

    • Dear D Blake Ross, thank you very much for your comment. You may find chapters 2 and 3 in my book “Art and Sustainability” (2011, 2nd emended edition 2013) to be of interest related to the issues you raised. In short, I adhere to Edgar Morin’s arguments regarding these issues of ‘big history’: The cosmological and the Earthly evolution of complexity is complex, i.e. it is not a linear sequence towards ever more complexity. In this, I disagree with the integralist views of Ervin Laszlo (as I explained at the end of chapter 2 in my book). However, we see that complexity allows (in some regions of the universe, and in many places on Earth) the improbable to become probable (emergence), and chaos to play a constant genesic role at points of emergence.

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