Art in the Anthropocene: The Digital Decay of Material Ecologies

Thursday, July 13, 2017
Turnbull Room (University of Glasgow)
Patrizia Costantin , Manchester School of Art
Artistic practices engaging with media technology and its obsolescence explore digital materials’ lifespan and their possible consequences on the environment. To fully unlock aspects of such practices is necessary to reconsider digital decay as one of the material forces at play in the interconnections between art, technology and nature. Digital decay is defined as a loss of specific elements of digital materiality in the interconnections between metals, ores and minerals and pixels, data and software. Instead of focusing on curatorial strategies aimed at preserving digital works, this paper argues that a curatorial reformulation of decay as a form of material agency is necessary when interpreting works of art that engage the materiality of the digital with environmental issues.

This paper brings together a group of artists that explore the double nature of digital (im-)materiality and puts forward the idea that the decay of such materials acts as a form of agency and contributes to shaping our current ecological condition. Works by Jonathan Kemp, Martin Howse, Garnet Hertz and the Harwood-Yokokoji-Wright Eco Media collaboration, for example, allow to explore the way in which the decaying process of the digital acts as a form of agency and contributes to shaping our current technological condition. The case-studies presented create a space for discussion around an informed notion of decay, deep-time, data loss and planned technological obsolescence, and show the limitations of digital technology as explored by Garnet Hertz in the idea of Zombie Media (2012).