The ‘Anthropocene’: what is it, and what has it got to do with Arts education?


Image from Paola Antonelli: Treating design as art http://www.ted.com

The ‘Anthropocene’— can be described as an era that we are currently experiencing, much as any other geological era such as the Pleistocene or Calabrian. This period is however not characterised by geological change, but seen as a period in which the impact of human activity on the planet will lead ultimately to its destruction. For artists, the Anthropocene is recognised by critical work that involves social practice, relational aspects of living, or environmental concerns seeing art as means to convey thinking that can awaken a realization of the ineviteablilty of earth’s demise, while pointing to ecological sustainability.


Chapter nine of ‘Art, Artists and Pedagogy’ written by jan jagodzinski embarks on a response to overt humanism that does not recognise the inherent problems facing the world today in this Anthropocenic era. With many references to Deleuze and Guattari, jagodzinski outlines the impact of the degradation of the world’s resources, climate change, and the attendant natural castrophes that have been wrought by capitalism.


In a plea to look no longer at fabled humanist solutions, jadogzinski undertakes an instructive text in how to re-fashion arguments in the face of technologies that threaten our survival as a race. Looking to Deleuze and Guattari and their characterisation of the avant garde, jagodzinski sees the ‘cosmic artist’ as working below the level of consciousness, disrupting our sense of orthodoxy and conventions in art.


Citing Paola Antonelli, the senior curator for the Museum of Modern Art in New York. jadogzinski links the hidden arguments in her exhibitions as mimicking nature, through use of nano-technological processes such as biodegradaeable materials, acting as a critique of current global abuses. Ending with his own position jadogzinski looks to the educator, to question the use of synthetics from new ‘materials and proto cells’, to embrace the difficult task of looking to a future with ‘little certainty beyond a felt conviction’.


'Art, Artists and Pedagogy' (Edited by Naughton, Biesta and Cole) is published by Routledge.

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