Towards an Aesthetics of Geology in the Age of Anthropocene

Day: Saturday 7 April


Maud Maffei (Independent)
Riccardo Venturi (Gerda Henkel Stiftung)

Session Abstract

Geology has been a topic of interest and attraction for artists, at least since JMW Turner’s ‘geological sublime’, as it was famously put forward by John Ruskin. During the 1960s, a time of cybernetics, technological upheaval and subsequent reshaping of our relations to time and space, Robert Smithson suggested the notion of ‘abstract geology’, tracing connections between geological, body and mental processes.

In the 1960s and 1970s, what artists found particularly fascinating in the aesthetics of geology was the challenge of its double invisibility: on one side, the relation to ‘deep time’ threatened the three classical temporal dimensions within which we arrange our life experience, i.e., past, present and future; on the other the withdrawal of visibility made it a complex object to imagine and visualise. An Earth Science, with its unyielding remoteness and inert temporality, geology has become today a model for the material conditions of our contemporary life. In the digital and anthropocene era, and in the midst of an irresolute – and politically undermined – relation between Gaia and anthropos, natural history and human history, several artists deal with ‘geological imagination’.

Enhancing the still unexploited convergences between the history of contemporary art and the politics of ecology, between visual humanities and environmental humanities, the session aims to explore the multiple ways artistic projects, art historical research, exhibitions and curatorial practices focus on the challenges posed today by the geological turn beyond anthropocentric humanities.

Speakers & Papers

Geology as model

Esther Choi (History and Theory of Architecture, Princeton University) Against the Architectural Imagination: Sustainability’s image problem

Kyveli Mavrokordopoulou (EHESS, Paris – Centre Georg Simmel) Exploring the Implications of a Deep Geological Disposal through the Essay Film Containment (2015)

Geology as landscape

Gry Hedin (Faaborg Museum, Denmark) A Lost Coherence? Depicting the Anthropocene in Danish art today and in the 19th century

Agata Marzecova (Tallinn University, Estonia) The Vernacular Geology of the Baltics

Alexey Uldo (Independent Scholar) Geology as the History of Art: Contemporary esoteric perspective

Geology as medium

Corinna Kirsch (Stony Brook University, State University of New York) Natural Technologies: Les Levine’s environmental artworks, 1966–69

Laini Burton (Griffith University, Queensland Australia) Recovering a Geological Sublime: Cyborg Nest’s The North Sense

Francesco Spampinato (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3) Speculative Geology. Art faces the Anthropocene

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