Art, Theory, Anthropocene

Thursday, July 13, 2017
Turnbull Room (University of Glasgow)
Martha Schwendener , NYU
Does art need to propose solutions to specific environmental problems, or is raising awareness a sufficient goal? One of the benefits of art and theory is that it may be speculative – in fact, is candidly more speculative than science, although there are overlaps in methodology. I will look at some speculative art theory, starting with the Czech-Brazilian philosopher Vilém Flusser and his 1987 “para-biological” text Vampyroteuthis infernalis, which focused on the real-life, subaquatic “vampire squid” as a critique of science – and specifically, Darwin – and was accompanied by drawings by the artist Louis Bec. Flusser’s “Curie’s Children” column for Artforum (1986-1992), which tracked the rise of digital technology alongside biotechnology and genetic engineering, will also be mentioned. Many artists have engaged in similar or directly related critiques – Fischli & Weiss, Christopher Williams, Joan Fontcuberta, Lynn Hershman Leeson, John Russell, Pinar Yoldas, Jon Rafman, and others – and Flusser’s theories have many like-minded corollaries, such as Donna Haraway, Rosi Braidotti, and Reza Negarastani. In this brief presentation, I will suggest, using potent images and ideas drawn from these theories, how art and “science fiction philosophy,” as Flusser called it, might be more “solution oriented” than we imagine.