Academic Session 2: RCA 2014

40th Anniversary Conference & Bookfair
Royal College of Art, London
10 - 12 April 2014

Art History and Ecology

Session Convenors:

Jennifer Walden University of Portsmouth
Andrew Patrizio Edinburgh College of Art

The discipline of art history has proved itself able to look various crises of culture in the face and open up the discipline to ideological struggles and debates. These debates have involved its own politics as a discipline in response to critical issues. Issues of gender, sexuality, race and social identity have strongly inflected the discipline and have importantly shaped its trajectories and characteristic preoccupations over a number of years, but what of the critical issue of our environment? There are some highly significant works which have discussed art’s and artists’ responses and interventions in the crucial area of ecology, but perhaps less talked about and made visible is art history's disciplinary response to crises in nature and the environment throughout its history as a discipline. The writings of historians and critics such as Focillon, Benthall, Krauss and Lippard play into this narrative but we might still ask "Where is our ecological art history"?

This session rises to the challenge of this question and notwithstanding these past narratives departs from them. The session both brings a new ecological art history to the fore where it exists and offers the opportunity to discuss whether art history’s status as a 'humanistic' discipline has hindered its concern for the natural world and the environment other than through strong human cultural paradigms. The session considers how the discipline has had to change and must continue to bring about an ecological transformation in the context of further interests in ‘eco-aesthetics’ and other inter-disciplinary approaches to the history of the environment and its critical future.

TJ Demos (University College London) Eco-Art History: From Missed Encounters to New Critical Engagements

Victoria Walters (Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton) Towards an Ecological Art History or an Activ(ist) Ecology of Art?

Maja Fowkes and Reuben Fowkes (Translocal Institute, Budapest) Planetary Awareness under State Socialism: The environmental art history of Eastern Europe

Wood Roberdeau (Goldsmiths, University of London) Sites of Vital Materiality: Art History’s Apiaries and Ecologies of Everyday Life

Majella Munro (Tate Research Centre: Asia-Pacific) Can Art History save the Planet? Discourses of protest, collaboration and citizenship in Japanese artistic practices post- Fukushima

Alistair Rider (University of St Andrews) Habit Formation and Creative Capacities: The challenge of ecological art discourse to anthropocentric assumptions about creativity


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