"Art After The Anthropocene" workshop with Simon Pope
This year we’ll find out whether the International Commission on Stratigraphy has ratified the use of the term ‘anthropocene’ to describe a new geological epoch ‘during which humans have a decisive influence on the state, dynamics and future of the Earth system’. Whatever the outcome, headlines such as “Rocks Made of Plastic Found on Hawaiian Beach” serve as reminders of the profound transformations that humans perform on those things that we once considered separate from us—whether a different animal species or type of material. Far from being inert matter or undifferentiated environment, we now admit to the complex and entangled relationships that these things have with humans and other beings: the worms ingested into our gut to exercise the human micro-biome, the mosquitos co-dependent on the improvised architecture in laboratories, the mercury washed from a paper mill, ingested by the fish which now rests on our plate. All things—human or otherwise—are agents, capable of entering mutually transformative relations with others.
Our training as creative practitioners is largely shaped by the legacy of the avant-garde and its antagonism towards its contemporary and historical Others. Through techniques of estrangement, inversion, destruction and distanciation we inherit the means to ensure art’s autonomy. But how appropriate are these “tricks of the trade” when we acknowledge our inevitable entanglement with others? Can we still appeal to art’s ‘aesthetic alibi’ when relating to others?
This three day workshop develops a narrative through which we will ask how art and other creative practices might engage with the world once we acknowledge that we are living in the Anthropocene. We will be accompanied by examples of artists’ practice which exemplify a range of dispositions towards this more-than-human, vibrantly material world. We will wonder at the hubris of ‘the moderns’, the audacity of the avant-garde and the sadness of the retreat into the imaginary. Our hopes will be raised by Donna Haraway, Felix Guattari, Bruno Latour, Jane Bennett, Timothy Morton, and others— those who acknowledge our inextricable entanglement with other things and who might best prepare us for art-making ‘after the Anthropocene’.
Simon Pope’s art practice is preoccupied with participatory art’s engagement with new materialism and concepts of the more-than-human. He was recently awarded a doctorate from the Ruskin School of Art at the University of Oxford (2012-15) for the practice-led project, Who Else Takes Part? Admitting the more-than-human into participatory art.
Formerly a member of the Net.Art group I/O/D – Webby award winners in 2000 – he also represented Wales at their first exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2003. Pope was a NESTA Fellowship awardee (2002-05), a Reader (tenured-Professor) in Fine Art (2005-10) and is currently an Associate Research Fellow of both Birkbeck and Queen Mary, University of London (2014-). He is available to supervise MFA and PhD students, and especially welcomes those with an interest in participation, dialogue, the more-than-human, the anthropocene, and ecological thinking, as they relate to contemporary art and creative practice more generally.
He is a UK citizen, and permanent resident of Canada.