Art in the Anthropocene

International conference Art in the Anthropocene, Trinity College Dublin, 7-9 June 2019

OCA tutor Andy Hughes and Lizzie Perrotte (Christies Education) recently co-presented at the conference Art in the Anthropocene”
The conference was organised in collaboration with Trinity Centre for Environmental Humanities, and the Science Gallery’s exhibition on Plastic. Papers and presentations on visual and non-visual art, theatre, performance, film, and new media included such diverse connecting topics including artistic activism, artificial intelligence and art, art and ecology, bioart, microbial art and object-oriented art.
The word Anthropocene combines the root “anthropo”, meaning “human” with the root “-cene”, the standard suffix for “epoch” in geologic time. Whilst the term is widely used across many discourses it is important to recognise that the term has spread with great speed often dislodging familiar terms like nature and environment. The notion of the Anthropocene raises important questions that concern the sustainability of the planet to support human life.
In a spirit of resistance Hughes and Perrotte presented a paper called A Plastic Pilgrimage that was dialogic. The two speakers discussed two photographic art works; one by Hughes and one by the Japanese photographer Shomie Tomatsu. They explored and raised questions about the transmutations of waste matter, the significance of post-apocalyptic imaginings and the animism of waste. Their discussion ended with a conversation about Hughes’ wider holistic practice of making contemplative pilgrimages to experience and engender states of liminality.

To conclude, they showed a reel of clips from Hughes new film Plastic Scoop. This film is about to be released. It’s been co-developed with Dr Mandy Bloomfield and English students from the School of Humanities and Performing Arts and has been funded by the Sustainable Earth Institute at the University of Plymouth. The avant-garde nature of the film deals with contemporary narratives to express the ways in which our anxiety and fears about ocean pollution and global heating are presented. As seen in much of Hughes’ work, plastic pollution and associated matter often takes centre stage, this film explores the complex relationships between plastic, nature, the natural and the virtual. His film features gleaned archival material and cinema footage from early exploration, NASA archives and his own recorded and directed in-game machinima.
The session titled: A Plastic World was chaired by Cordula Scherer. Other presentations were by Katarzyna Proniewska-Mazurek from the Academy of Fine Art, Warsaw, Poland: How to talk about the Anthropocene: The Laboratory of Plant Bodies and Nicole Seymour from California State University, Fullerton, USA presented her paper titled: Plastic Ambivalence.

Notes and further research links:

Book of abstracts:

Attendee at the conference was supported by

Open College of Art / UAL
Truro-Penwith College
University of Plymouth


Featured: Author: Andy Hughes
Media: C-Type Digital Print
Title: Hermosa Beach 2004
Author: Shomei Tomatsu,
Title: Bottle Melted and Deformed by Atomic Bomb Heat, Radiation, and Fire, Nagasaki, 1961
Media:  Gelatin silver print, 13 15/16 x 12 15/16 in. (35.4 x 32.86 cm)

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