‘The hierarchy of substances is abolished: a single one replaces them all: the whole world can be plasticized, and even life itself…’ (Roland Barthes, Plastic, 1957)
The lecture by Lizzie Perrotte, Programme Director, MSc Art, Law and Business, will explore a range of modern and contemporary art which has engaged critically with waste matter and environmental issues providing insight into the longevity of artists’ attention to issues of the 'Anthropocene'. As early as the 1920s the British artist, Paul Nash made work about relics of waste matter in landscapes of ruin. In the post-War period Land artists such as Robert Smithson, Agnes Denes and the German artist Joseph Beuys engaged directly with cultural anxieties about environmental destruction and environmental protest.
We will reflect on a selection of work of contemporary artists such as Edward Burtynsky, Sarah Sze, John Akomfrah as well as recent creative curatorial thinking on the Anthropocene at Documenta 14, 2017 and Manifesta, Palermo 2018. The lecture will also take a focused look at the practice of Andy Hughes, a contemporary British artist, surfer and environmental activist. Hughes has focused on the ubiquity of plastic waste in our environment since the 1980s. He conceives his work in photography, film, sculpture and installation, in a holistic way as a series of 'plastic pilgrimages' or contemplative journeys which disorientate habitual responses to waste material and environment through engendering states of liminality and meditation.
The lecture will consider the type of agency different approaches may have in providing fresh insights to changing our relationship with our environments.
Image credit: Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles, 2004. From the book Dominant Wave Theory, Pub. 2006.